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A Monday evening, just the quiet time for a presentation of Camra West London's award of Pub of the Year 2014 certificate? But this is the Harp, near Charing Cross and in the heart of central London. Here, few weekday evenings are anything other than packed with regulars four deep at the bar in one of the capital's smallest and thriving real ale pubs.
The already busy bar, with a full complement of staff (some working and on their day off), locals and office workers saw CAMRA members from a variety of branches gathering. As 8pm approached the anticipation grew. A call to order was followed by a short lull, and then the incomparable Binnie Walsh, licensee, appeared down the stairs and, stopping to chat to customers as she went, slowly made her way to the end of the bar.
In her typical understated fashion, Binnie tried to insist that it was only the staff, with Sarah, Karl, Sally and the others, who were the team underpinning everything that deserved the recognition. West London Branch Chairman, Les Maggs, said it all in a few words. A well-deserved award (and a joint first - without precedent in West London) of Pub of the Year 2014 raised a loud cheer, and an acknowledgment that it was Binnie's leadership, management style and approach in more than 45 years in the trade that put her stamp on her pubs, not least the last 20 years at the Harp.
As she proudly displayed the framed certificate to her customers and staff, they may have reflected that the Harp was both exceptional and unexceptional - each pub that Binnie has run has been individual, and all have reflected her ethos and concentration on quality, whether of keg or real beers, wines or food, staff and staff training, and exemplary service to customers.
A buffet of home-made pork treats from Pig and Hay (@Pig_and_Hay) awaited in the upstairs quieter room. Complemented by the excellent range of ales the whole company celebrated this further confirmation that people in London - local residents, workers, and visitors as well as the members of CAMRA - know and welcome the very best of traditional pubs. The Harp goes forward to be considered as Greater London Pub of the Year - with all our best wishes and support. In 2012, the Harp was judged CAMRA National Pub of the Year. Will history repeat itself?
A very good turnout of West London branch members and pub regulars gathered on 23 April to celebrate both St. George’s Day and, more importantly, the presentation to the Cleveland Arms of their branch Pub of the Year first-place-equal winner’s certificate. The photo shows landlord John King (left) receiving the certificate from branch chairman Les Maggs. This award was the culmination of many years hard work by John and his team to turn the pub into a real ale gem; previously the Cleveland had won runner-up certificates but never until now the first prize. Les also thanked John for his help to CAMRA over the years and in particular for allowing his pub to be used as our main London Drinker magazine depot. Sadly, this night also coincided with John’s last night as landlord after ten years at the pub, which is now closing for a period.
Awards to the other first-place winner (the Harp, Covent Garden) and to third-place winner the Cask Pub & Kitchen, Pimlico, will be made later this year.