What’s it named after? Just like The Moon and Stars in Penge, the Harvest Moon references George Orwell’s fictional perfect pub, The Moon Under Water. “[It] is only two minutes from a bus stop, but it is on a side-street, and drunks and rowdies never seem to find their way there.” The Harvest Moon opened in December 1994.
What’s the carpet like?
London feels a long way away. We’re still in zone 6, but we can see fields and woods from the bus before it dives beneath an unnervingly low bridge near the station.
We get to Orpington just after 4pm on Sunday, and most of the town centre has shut up shop for the day, including a shop which seems to be offering you the chance to dress your baby like Prince George.
Wander up the high street and you’ll find The Harvest Moon opposite Poundstretcher. There are a couple of intimidating blokes stood outside smoking, just next to the sign thanking customers for not smoking.
There’s an older crowd in here – most are over 50. A few shoppers coming in to rest their feet, a couple of families in for something to eat. But on the whole, people look like they’ve been in all day, with tipsy laughter echoing around the pub. We wonder how many people will be heading home soon to nod off in front of Antiques Roadshow.
The smokers from outside are hovering around by the door, but otherwise, it feels welcoming enough. The beer is lovely – we come during the real ale festival (“only British hops!”) – and the service is quick and friendly: we order food and it comes with a couple of minutes.
Sky News is on the two TVs, and heads crane around whenever the football scores come on. “Watford won today,” a woman with a cat carrying case tells her pal. The wind gets up outside, and it’s a bit draughty, though maybe only we notice, as there are glows of boozy contentment everywhere.
There’s a little-used “community noticeboard” that’s home to a bus map, two warnings about dodgy minicabs and a poster advertising a 60s revival tour starring Herman’s Hermits that isn’t even in Orpington. (It was in Bromley and you’ve missed it, but don’t worry, it says “the tour never ends” – Ed.) Another board advertises what’s on at the local cinema. There’s a dartboard, but it’s obscured by a fruit machine.
We’d take a photo of the lovingly-put together craft beer display, but we don’t want to annoy the people sitting in front of it. Meantime’s London Lager, brewed in Greenwich, is “a straightforward, clean, long matured unpasteurised lager from London”. Like we said, the capital feels a long way away. The local history board celebrates the life of Charles Darwin, who lived a few miles away at Down House.
There are loads of cosy alcoves, all full, and we wonder if the couple we saw turfing someone out of one in the Moon & Stars in Penge would try doing the same in here. Probably not, we think. Over the other side, the smokers are launching into a series of smutty jokes.
Before we go, someone clears up an empty glass and plate from our table. It’s not a member of staff. “The bar staff aren’t doing their job so I’ll make the point to them,” a man grumbles before dumping the empties on the bar. We look around and the staff are rushed off their feet.
When people sneer at Wetherspoons, they’ve probably got somewhere like the Harvest Moon in mind. Granted, we aren’t visiting on a Saturday night. But the pub rings with laughter at teatime on Sunday, has outlived most of the other high street pubs and brings a bit of much-needed life to a dead shopping street. In Orpington, you can’t ask for much more than that.