Friday, 10 April 2009

Pub Review: The Old Green Tree

The Old Green Tree
Green Street

They come from the bus tours, they come from the ghost walk, they come straight from central casting. Padded by Taco Bell, clad in velour and as cacophonous as a jet plane, they clog the narrow oak-panelled chambers of The Old Green Tree like chunky cholesterol. Roughly guided by The Lonely Planet and armed only with a lack of self or spatial awareness, these are they are Americans in search of a ‘genuine experience’ of a ‘genuine’ British pub.

It isn’t fair to criticise this Bath institution for the intermittent arrival of these stereotypical irritants, but it would be unfair not to warn you. For this superb pub, situated right in the heart of the centre, isn’t just on the tourist map of the Georgian city– it is one of the annotated highlights.

Part of the problem is that The Tree is small. Not that small though, not compared to the nearby Volunteer Riflemans Arms or the Cour de Lion - a pub whose floor plan is so diminutive that a recent lock-in had to be investigated by The Howard League for Penal Reform. But since The Old Green Tree has just two thin rooms and a bar area between them, you’d generally get more elbow room flying economy on Lilliputian Airways.

It is also quaint. Not that quaint through, because the dark wood panels on the walls and the antique fixtures and fittings are actually faux. In fact the single-roomed original pub was expanded and refitted in 1923 to appear Victorian – making it one of the first theme pubs around.

Despite this ersatz extension the Tree still retains a feeling of times past, not least because of the lack of natural light and the absence of music but also because of the unfailing obsequiousness of the landlord, Tim. In novelty ties and fixed grin, he bows and scrapes to all. And with our overseas guests he displays the kind of studied geniality unseen since P.G’s iconic manservant Jeeves, calmly explaining that drinks need to be ordered at the bar not from a sitting bellow.

Tim’s forelock also receive a extensive tugging behind the bar. For he and his staff are always happy to take you through the six real ales from a varied selection of mainly Somerset beers. The only fixtures being a light lunchtime standard from Blindman’s named Old Green Tree, RCH’s rebelliously zesty Pitchfork and one of Butcombe’s own bitters.

The cider is the flavoursome but bubbly Broadoak and the lagers are standard German and Czech numbers while a number of ineptly coloured posters highlight an extensive list of Belgian beers. Wine and whisky drinkers are also well served with a broad range of bottles and vintages.

The food is also very good. Not the ‘specials’ though, as they are merely nice. So while the blackboard’s offering are mostly experimental, opening the leather-bound menus reveals a range of rehearsed classics: mussels, duck, sandwiches and sausages. It’s all beautifully made in the tiny kitchen above but the rare roast beef salad is the standout option, primarily because these slices of cow-flesh radiate their vibrant pinkness like an autumnal sunset.

All in all The Old Green Tree is a hidden treasure. Not that well hidden though, thanks to Fodors, Footprint, Good Pub Guide, The Rough Guide, The Lonely Planet, The Good Beer Guide…

The Old Green Tree, 12 Green Street, Bath. 01225 448259.
Food served 12 - 3pm Monday to Saturday.

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Anonymous said...

A really enjoyable and accurate review. I have always enjoyed my visits to The Old Green Tree. Tourists must pose a real challenge for bar staff in Bath city centre. I recall a barman in The Raven saying how many times every day he had to explain enthusiastically what a "pie" was to visitors from overseas. Serves him right for serving Pieminister.

Cornubia said...

Just to correct, The Old Green Tree, is not owned by butcombe, it is a freehouse.