Pubspy: The Moon Under Water, Balham
Wetherspoon pubs: Home to drunk 60-somethings, a relentless stream of Sky Sports News and toilets which require a three-hour trek to get to from the bar.
It’s the same wherever you go and, if there's a major high street in this country without a branch of the pub chain goliath sitting on it, I'll be amazed.
But as anyone who's ever been to a Wetherspoon knows, the secret to the success is simple and obvious: cheap booze. And the Moon Under Water is no different.
Although Amstel at £3.05 and Heineken at £3.20 a pint isn't as cheap as beer has been, my pint of Abbott Ale comes in at £1.99 – it’ll be tricky to find cheaper anywhere in London.
On top of that, the lack of music in the chain brings in punters who like nothing more than the lost art of conversation, not needing to strain your ears to listen to your friends’ witterings.
And so, even at 4pm when Pubspy wanders in through the doors, there’s a steady atmosphere of the chattering of pensioners and assorted types you'd usually find at a Status Quo gig.
There’s a whole army of them too – it’s been a while since I've come into a pub during the day and found it difficult to find a seat. Here they were all taken up by those who have felt excluded from Balham’s increasing trend towards gastropubs.
The decor is fairly standard Wetherspoon fare; quite dark, but all pretty clean and well-maintained. It’s a pity about the service though – a barmaid continues to natter with her colleague for a couple of minutes instead of serving me, despite having looked straight at me, while I’m ignored altogether by another.
Thankfully, a young chap saves the day, coming back behind the bar with a tower of pint glasses to make sure I’m served.
There’s an argument to be had about Wetherspoon reducing the character and identity of a high street but, judging by the crowd, the cheap and somewhat cheerful Moon Under Water has done what every branch in the chain has done – found a winning formula.
The Moon Under Water, 194 Balham High Road, Balham
Decor: XXX Pretty standard Wetherspoon, rigid chairs, but well maintained.
Price: XXXXX I got a pint for two quid. Excellent value.
Drink: XXXX Pretty good for the price.
Atmosphere: XXX Depends on your point of view, but if you like having a relaxing chat in a busy venue, this is just the place.
Service: XX Ignored by two bar staff before a third came to the rescue.