London – Richmond upon Thames (Borough of) – Roebuck

This is the only Good Beer Guide listed pub in Richmond, worth the walk up the hill given the extensive views over the Terrace Gardens and beyond. It’s a Greene King operated pub and it has won a number of local CAMRA awards in local years, as well as attracting some rather influential customers. They certainly have an enviable location and there has been a pub here for over 200 years.

The real ale selection, which is better than I had anticipated for a Greene King pub. The service was, well, unusual. I don’t intend for this blog to ever be a platform to criticise bar staff, but I did find the environment really quite strange. Visitors, including myself, were welcomed with a slightly abrupt “do you want a table?” which is a question I’m still not sure I entirely understand. Everyone replied yes and I can only imagine that perhaps some customers perhaps want to take food or drink away because of the lovely views. I’d prefer a more gentle welcome. Anyway, my confusion put to one side, I noticed a table that looked handy for my needs.

I wasn’t given any of these nice tables (and nor the one that looked handy for my needs), I was given a table with no view that really wasn’t ideal. I found the situation quite humorous with how the staff member behind the bar told her colleague “give him table 3” rather than let him perhaps check if I had any aspirations to sit somewhere in particular in the nearly empty pub. Compare and contrast to the welcome at the pub I’d been to before…. I must admit that the staff member did provide me with quite a lot of entertainment, including her thoughts at times about other customers, colleagues and her housing situation. I’m not entirely sure significant chunks of that conversation were really for customers to hear, but I can’t deny that I like listening to gossip like that.

It’s not entirely clear, but the views from these tables is extensive and really beautiful. The pub was very quiet, but it was clean and comfortable throughout. It’s had something of a modernisation recently, but it’s sympathetic to the character of the building and it all felt in order.

The Citra from Oakham Ales, which was fine. Well kept, refreshing and as the name suggests, made with citra hops, which I’m rarely disappointed by. The server that I had was pleasant and helpful, he seemed keen to help and engage, with made things easier. The pricing was moderate, so that all really rather lovely.

I’ll missing some of the story out for fear of looking too critical, but the staff member completed her show by shouting “can I help you?” as I was walking to the toilets. I did hear her say this loudly the first time, but I tried my best to ignore the situation as it was already inappropriate and I dreaded to think how she was planning to assist. It then seemed clear to me that she had managed to forget that I was a customer and thought that I was someone who had walked in when she wasn’t looking. My walking merrily onwards towards the toilets wasn’t the clue she wanted and the request was repeated. I did feel the need to comment that I had actually been in the pub all the time, had ordered and was going to the toilet before leaving, and she mentioned she was only seeking to show me where the toilets were. Given that I was nearly at the toilets, I wasn’t entirely sure how she thought I was at that stage going to miss them.

There was nearly no-one in the pub, which struck me as fortunate because she had made quite clear to everyone that a customer was going to the toilet. I did note that at the previous pub the staff member saw I had a laptop and was keen to point me towards a table where I could plug it in. That’s the kind of pro-active service I’d rather have if I’m being honest.

Anyway, I don’t want to sound too harsh as I think that the staff member was over-enthusiastic and it would seem churlish and unkind to be too critical of that. But, it’s not a pub that I would come back to because the lack of professional discretion about other customers wasn’t really appropriate and I feel that it would be remiss of me not to mention that. However, judging from the positive reviews, it’s clear that my experience isn’t necessarily one that’s widely repeated and the view from the windows is excellent and the beer selection is perfectly reasonable given it’s a Greene King pub. It probably just needed a manager present to ensure everything flowed beautifully, as the pub is clearly usually operating to a high standard.