The Willoughby Arms - A Brilliant Pub!
By ChrisWriter | Saturday, February 13, 2010, 12:28
The Willoughby Arms,
47 Willoughby Road, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey KT2 6LN
What makes a good Community Pub?
The Willoughby Arms is my “local”. My kids would tell me it is only an ”old man’s pub” - but is it? True it is an old, Victorian red-brick building at the street corner. And it has dingy bars. and it sells that wet stuff in pint glasses. And some of the customers are near the age of retirement - some above it and some below it! But this pub is much mre than a place where a few old chaps with long faces sip their drink in solitary silence or play dominoes!
Rick - Richard Robinson it says over the door [actually that's an error - Rick tells me the law doesnt require this any more, and I never looked, being too keen avoid tripping over the dorstep!] - the landlord, tells me he can have at least 6 different sporting events on screens – some very large – at any one time. And on some Saturdays, many of them seem to be in use, with lots of audience participation, as customers of all ages cheer on their team - or horse - or jeer at the referee. It can get quite loud in the Sports Lounge, although from the Saloon Bar side it is less so, and any shouting from the upstairs Function Room is inaudible.
So you might be forgive for thinking this is a lager lout’s domain, and a no-go area for non-sports fans. And it is true, Rick does have several Ts for serving lagers, cider and that black stuff.
Lots of Real Ale
But how then do you explain all the hand-pumps on the bar?
He has five – all dispensing different real ales. Although some are “national brands” like Fuller’s London Pride, others will change quite frequently. Rick supports the Campaign for Real Ale’s [CAMRA] LocAle environmental initiative and has one or more beers from a local brewery, defined by the local CAMRA branch as being brewed not more than 30 miles away, by road. So for example he will offer beers from Sambrook’s in Battersea, Twickenham Fine Ales, and the Surrey Hills Brewery in Shere. And the products of other breweries appear quite frequently. A beer drinker's delight!
For his efforts in caring for his real ale-drinking customers – of whom there must be many, to consume all those beers – the Willoughby Arms was recently voted the Kingston and Leatherhead CAMRA Branch’s London Pub of the Year.
Branch members have also regulalry voted to include the pub in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide.
Apart from looking after the beer and his sports fans, Rick organises entertainment – brings in customers but also offers something to those who don’t want to stay indoors of an evening, but do not wish to venture into the town centre.
The upstairs function room is used frequently for Comedy nights, with a line-up of hilarious folk, Sunday evening is Quiz night, and the function room is hired out for groups to meet in.
He recently celebrated Burns night – complete with haggis – and the pub was crowded with local people, many of them not regulars, but out for a special evening.
Oh, and there is free wi-fi access for those who can't leave home without the lap-top!
Rick runs three Beer Festivals each year – lots of casks of real ales and ciders on sale over a few days.
This week, from Thursday 11th. 'till Sunday 14th February is his Valentine’s Beer Festival for Lovers of Dark Winter Beers – which promises to be a treat – maybe 9 different dark beers plus some lighter ones as well. And with live music on Friday and Saturday evenings.
With all this going on, the pub must truly be a Community Pub, and I wish Rick every success in keeping it going, not least because it is a great place to enjoy the beer!
Check Rick’s website for even more information, pictures of the pub, some of the events and up-to-date Diary info – here http://www.thewilloughbyarms.com