Describing itself as 'the small, cosy pub with a big personality,' this little Putney Bridge tavern might just have hit the nail on the head. The board outside also claims the place dates back to 1629, and the vibe certainly suggests as much, welcoming drinkers and diners with a community feel, chatty bar staff, upholstered pew-style seating and wood-panelling reminiscent of a simpler time.
Mere steps from Putney Bridge underground station, this teeny pub is a somewhat understated retreat from the bustle of commuters and suits. Inside, the walls are coated with newspaper cuttings, old photographs and hanging trinkets, with mismatched paraphernalia seemingly leaning towards a nautical and fishing theme. Yet you’ll still find bits and bobs referencing horseracing, football and other miscellaneous pastimes. With a bus station in its backyard, the pub is subject to the odd rumble of a passing double decker. However, this should only bother outside drinkers on one of five or six picnic benches – for those inside, it's merely a distant reminder of a world that’s carrying on beyond your beer.
Adapting seamlessly to a footfall of business drinkers, familiar faces or weekend revellers, this teeny tavern makes the most of its fairly limited space. The central bar has staff and pumps at the ready on three sides, while every seat in the house feels like a cosy, tucked away corner. It's popular with the locals, and bartenders greet many customers on first name terms, while new faces are welcomed with the same cheery demeanour and a bit of chat, too. The football's on in the corner, but without overwhelming sound, while a bizarre yet somehow fitting soundtrack features classic 80's belters and ballads alike.
Just a mile from Craven Cottage and en route from the tube, the pub can fill up with away fans on match days. This can change the atmosphere, be it warm-up tipples, commiserations or celebrations. However, from busy evenings to Sunday lunchtimes, the clientele tend to be placid and content, nattering among themselves as the grandfather clock gently 'dings' them into each new hour.
A chalkboard menu proffers classic pub grub, bar snacks and Sunday roasts, with beef, lamb and roast pork served until 9pm. Veggie options are thin on the ground, but other dishes are varied with ciabattas, steak and ale pie and bangers and mash up for grabs. Potentially, diners can get a decent main dish and a pint and be left with a bit of change from £10 – no mean feat for this part of town – while a roast will set guests back a mere £7.95. Even those feeling indulgent won’t have to dig too deep, with an array of classic and warming British puddings on the menu at £3 each.
Lagers are the order of the day here, with standard pumps for Becks, Stella, Fosters and more lining the bar, averaging at around £4 a pint and serving up fresh, cold and well-kept drinks. This is perhaps at the expense of the real ale selection, with only London Pride and a guest brew up for grabs. It's not exactly a haven for wine lovers either, sporting a fairly standard selection of bottles, and a house red coming in at £4.30. It’s not unusually expensive for around here, but the traditional country-style surrounds and food prices lead one to believe that the drinks menu may match, and these tipples can be found for less nearby, albeit in a setting no way near as atmospheric.
The Last Word
Let's be straight; this is not a hot spot for a mad night out, nor is it a real ale haven or fashionable sports bar. Yet, it's not pretending to be any of these things either. What the Eight Bells brings to the table is buckets of atmosphere, a decent range of drinks and a welcoming spot to spend a few hours with good friends, other halves and canine buddies, too. What it lacks in facilities, it makes up for with quirky decor and a shabby chic, cosy feel, not to mention the warm and fuzzy feeling that stays with you all the way home.