Help us raise a glass to your most cher­ished pub

As we in­vite you to vote for your favourite, Keith Miller looks at what re­ally makes a great British boozer

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - FOOD DRINK -

Ever since I stum­bled on it around 18 months ago, my favourite pub has not boasted an ever-chang­ing ros­ter of craft beers from in­no­va­tive lo­cal brew­eries, or of­fered an eth­i­cally sourced small plates menu. It doesn’t have im­mac­u­lately re­stored shabby-chic pe­riod in­te­ri­ors (though it is done out very skil­fully, in a dis­tinc­tive cy­ber-rus­tic style). It doesn’t have a web­site, or a real fire, or I’ve never no­ticed one lit, and big-screen sport is sel­dom ab­sent from the tele­vi­sion. It boasts not one, but two dart­boards. It at­tracts a mot­ley crew: Sikhs, posties, plas­ter­ers, fans of Southamp­ton FC, tourists (I think there are Airbnb apart­ments nearby), young Pol­ish women dolled up like R&B stars. It’s not on a Na­tional Trail or pub­lic foot­path; it’s on a gruff stretch of road span­ning the two or three miles that sep­a­rate Southamp­ton Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal – where my mother, Wena, was ad­mit­ted af­ter suf­fer­ing a stroke in 2017 – from the train sta­tion and the city cen­tre.

But if you were to ask me to name my favourite pub in the land, this, the Pig ’N Whis­tle on Shirley Road, would be it. Oth­ers might not think it has award po­ten­tial, but it gets my vote.

The ques­tion is, what gets yours? For the first time, The Tele­graph is join­ing forces with the Saw­day’s guides to find the best pub in Eng­land, Wales and Scot­land, as voted for by the peo­ple who eat and drink in them. Saw­day’s al­ready awards an­nual pub prizes in sev­eral cat­e­gories (Best for Food, Au­then­tic Pub, Com­mu­nity Pub, Favourite New­comer, Best for Rooms and Best for Fam­i­lies) – and 2019 will see the first Peo­ple’s Choice award, in part­ner­ship with this news­pa­per.

So whether it’s great for thrice­cooked goose-fat chips or serves ex­cel­lent lo­cal bit­ter, or stands at the heart of its com­mu­nity, or has a par­tic­u­larly renowned col­lec­tion of horse brasses – you de­cide. The pubs that re­ceive the most votes (ask your fel­low reg­u­lars to vote, too!) will be whit­tled down by the hard­ened top­ers here at The Tele­graph to a short­list from which, af­ter ex­haus­tive field re­search, we will select the win­ner. This will take its place among the pan­theon of award-win­ners in the 2019 Saw­day’s Great British Pub Guide (pub­lished on June 1), a lav­ish re­boot of its long-run­ning “Inns of Eng­land and Wales” books.

As an added in­cen­tive, four ran­domly se­lected sub­mis­sions will net their senders £250 to spend on a stay at a Saw­day’s inn of their choos­ing.

But what makes a per­fect pub? Alas­tair Saw­day reck­ons it’s “all about at­mos­phere – and about lovely peo­ple who en­cour­age peo­ple to feel at home.

“I es­pe­cially en­joy pubs that are owned by the com­mu­nity; one can al­most smell the en­thu­si­asm and hu­man in­volve­ment,” he says.

For me, it’s more in­tan­gi­ble. What I like about the Pig ’N Whis­tle is partly prac­ti­cal, even an­i­mal­is­tic: it’s there, it keeps its beer well, it’s cheaper than Lon­don and bet­ter than other bars I’ve found lo­cally. But over the past sev­eral months vis­it­ing my mother, first in hos­pi­tal, now in a nurs­ing home nearby, I have no­ticed how well run it is. The flow­ers on the ta­bles are never dead. The sur­faces are spot­less. The staff are kind to the reg­u­lars and cour­te­ous to the oc­ca­sional in­ter­loper.

What is more, it’s helped me think about what a pub should be like. A small reg­u­lar plea­sure of my job is to edit the Pint to Pint col­umn, a lon­grun­ning weekly re­view of British pubs that ap­pears in our ‘Sun­day’ sec­tion. I am sure we’ve fea­tured some of the same pubs that have caught the eyes of Saw­day and his crack team of “en­thu­si­asts for place” over the past 15 years. Some of our reg­u­lars, to­gether with Tele­graph food writ­ers and ed­i­tors, have sup­plied their nom­i­na­tions (right) to set the ball rolling.

When a new Pint writer comes into the fold, they will of­ten ask about our cri­te­ria for in­clu­sion, given that the col­umn is de­voted to cel­e­brat­ing good pubs rather than mon­ster­ing bad ones, and I’ll mum­ble some­thing about open fires, her­itage, qual­ity of beer, at­mos­phere, com­mu­nity and so forth.

And then I will tell them that they can ig­nore all of that – even, within rea­son, the beer – if they have found some­where that just feels right. And I hope that’s what you’ll do when you send us your nom­i­na­tions for The Tele­graph Peo­ple’s Choice Pub of the Year. Go on, you know you want to.

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