What’s it named after? Opened on Christmas Eve 1994, this is one of many Wetherspoons with “moon” in the name – all derived from George Orwell’s fictional perfect pub, the Moon Under Water. There’s another Moon and Stars in Romford.
What’s the carpet like?
People with no imagination – the kind of people who refuse to take National Rail trains to parties in South London – like taking the mickey out of Penge. In truth, it’s always been a bit of an oddity. Once annexed by Battersea (no, really), it used to be in Surrey, then was bundled into Kent. Now it’s an anomaly in the London Borough of Bromley.
But the good folk of SE20 don’t care. They’ve got a decent high street, Crystal Palace Park, a shop called Pretty Little Cupcakes, a fake Morley’s chicken shop, and even the Overground now. There’s even the Penge Tourist Board. Beat that, Blackheath. It all feels very homely.
As does The Moon and Stars when we visit. England have just played Malta, and there’s a hum of contentment after a 2-0 win shown on the TVs. Usually, Wetherspoons keep their TVs silent. An exception was made for the match, but the volume comes down before The X Factor starts. Thankfully.
The omens didn’t look good. A pissed bloke shouting into his phone outside the pub made it look a bit dicey.
But inside, all was friendly. The regulars and staff know each other, and the service is great. It’s a mixed crowd of fortysomethings and upwards and feels like a proper local. When friendly barman Rhys bangs his head on the bell – twice – nobody laughs at him. They laugh with him. Honest.
There are lots of little alcoves to hide away in, and a big raised eating area at the back. There’s also a bloody great lion at the front of the bar – what on earth is that doing there? Apparently, this used to be the site of a cinema, and the last film shown was the Wizard of Oz. We have no idea if this is true, but it’s a good enough story. (The cinema bit is certainly true – the Penge Odeon shut in 1976 before seeing out its remaining 14 years as a bingo hall.)
If the lion gets lonely – or hungry – there’s also an inflatable parrot behind the bar. Fairy lights decorate the entrance to the quieter area at the back, where the customers are older.
A sign above the bar promotes Heineken as a “world beer” – there’s Brexit Britain for you. Another, one, more homemade, reminds us that Wetherspoon’s beer festival is coming up – and next Friday you can sample all 30 beers if you visit this pub along with The Postal Order at Crystal Palace and The Flora Sandes in Thornton Heath. Good luck with that. (Sadly, this was a few weeks ago – you’ll have to wait until next spring to try this – Ed.)
It feels like the Moon and Stars is run with love, with loads of staff buzzing around. There are couples starting their night out, blokes discussing the match (“I didn’t see any of your boys score!,” brags a Spurs fan) and a couple having a low-level tiff. All Penge life is here. It gets a bit more blokey after 8pm. One man at the bar tells another he visited the nearby Antic pub, the Goldsmiths Arms, and it was “fucking horrible” (it’s not, it’s terrific).
There’s also a bloke on a laptop in one of those alcoves, quietly working. A couple come in and start eyeing up his seat. The woman is happy to leave him be, but her rotund husband is insistent. “‘Scuse mate, are you going to be in here much longer?”
Laptop man lets them take his spot, quietly moving some empty glasses so he can move into another, gloomier alcove. The husband then busies himself rearranging the furniture, placing seats so they form a barrier between him, his wife and the rest of the pub. He then sits back with his glass of rose, hands behind his head, belly poking out. Job done. They probably come from Beckenham.
There’s a sign in another pub around the corner declaring “Penge rocks”. And the Moon and Stars is great, too. Pop in and say hello. And tell Rhys to mind his head.
Address: 164-166 High Street SE20 7QS
Buses: 75, 176, 194, 197, 227, 356, 358
Train: Kent House (Zone 4 – Southeastern), Penge West (Zone 4 – Overground/ Southern)
Social media: The Moon & Stars is on Twitter.