What’s it named after? Richmal Crompton was the creator of the Just William stories about schoolboy William Brown, which have been adapted for film and TV several times since the 1940s. She was a teacher at Bromley High School and lived off Bromley Common.
What’s the carpet like?
It’s half past six on the night before the night before Christmas. And there are LADS swaggering up the high street, pint glasses in hand, resting their lagers in an alley so they can nip into the Tesco Express by the station. A turquoise bus to Tunbridge Wells passes by – we must have been dropped into a distant market town, surely?
Nope, we’re back in Bromley, on what Geordies call Black Eye Friday – the last Friday night before Christmas Day. After wallowing in festive cheer up at the Greyhound, we’re off to Bromley’s original Spoons, the Richmal Crompton, to see how it compares.
The Richmal Crompton sits in a 1990s development that contains restaurants, bars, and the headquarters of Direct Line and Churchill insurance. Opened in August 1999, this used to be a Lloyds No 1 bar – a provincial Spoons variant that features music and lots of stand-up drinking, which has now largely disappeared from London. So we aren’t expecting very much.
And it’s rammed. The place is absolutely heaving. Some people look and sound like they’ve been here all afternoon. A few look like they’ve come from work, many more look like they’re getting an early start in. This is a younger crowd, full of LADS – but we note the ladies’ already looks like it’s taken a battering…
It feels cavernous in here. It’s actually not all that much bigger than the Greyhound, but the high ceilings and colour-changing lights – a legacy from its Lloyds days – make this feel like an industrial drinking barn. And we’ll be honest. It’s blimmin’ horrible tonight. This is still a Lloyds in all but name.
Some people are taking to it better than we are. There’s a chap at the non-service end of the bar, looking dapper in a scarf, patiently watching the throng while waiting for a pal. The older punters have mainly bagged all the best seats, there are little clusters of women and mixed groups with wine. A man in a white shirt and bright red tie – clearly straight from work in a financial services job – struts up to talk to a woman.
But it’s mostly LADS. Lads scheming, lads plotting, lads swaggering, lads turning round to look at a woman’s backside. And in the case of the solo bloke in the Stone Island jumper, lads losing on the fruit machines.
This should be chaos. But it isn’t. The boss – looking super-smart in a waistcoat – stresses briefly over some kitchen kerfuffle. But shortly after he’s stood on the raised section of the pub, chatting with punters and overseeing his empire. So far, so good.
For the heroes of the night are his staff. And there’s loads of them. Every few minutes , a brand new one comes by.
A few chosen ones have walkie-talkies on, like the three bouncers. It’d be easy to be overwhelmed in a place like this, but the service is quick and friendly. The beer – Portobello Brewing’s White City – is lovely, although the Merlot is distinctly average.
It’s probably alright here during the day. We chose to come in on the last Friday before Christmas, after all (and even the Greyhound up nearer Bromley North is packed). This pub used to have a horrible reputation. Efforts have been made to tone it down a bit over the years. The bookshelves at the back and the kids’ picture board – which looks hugely incongruous tonight – hint at quieter times.
While the north of Bromley is smartening up, the south end remains something else entirely. If you want to experience a night out in a dismal provincial town, head to the Richmal Crompton on a Friday. You could even head to the naff club next door after for the full experience.
We head off to toast the bar staff’s efforts – from the safety of the north end of town.
Address: 23 Westmoreland Place BR1 1DS
Buses: 61, 119, 126, 138, 146, 162, 208, 246, 261, 314, 320, 336, 352, 358, 367. (And the Arriva 402 to Tunbridge Wells.)
Train: Bromley South (Zone 5 – Southeastern, Thameslink)
Social media: The Richmal Crompton is on Twitter.