A pub has re-opened near Goldsmiths. Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff went along to find out more.
Along with a couple of friends, yesterday I headed to the recently opened pub on 289 Queens Road Peckham, the Montague Arms, in the hope of finally finding the perfect Goldsmiths student establishment. As we all know, people get stabbed in the New Cross Inn, The Marquis of Granby has a bad layout, you might get jumped by Shia LeBeouf in The Hobgoblin, the Amersham Arms is only good for Whip It! and the New Cross House, although superior in many ways to the other New Cross establishments, is often crushingly busy and is overpriced for the student market.
The Montague Arms, however, despite being a little out of the way, looks promising from the outset. According to former students of the late noughties, it used to be a popular student pub, but it closed down a good few years ago after its manager died. I remember walking past it on my way to Peckham and thinking that someone could make a killing if they did it up nicely and catered to the Goldsmiths community.
The new owners haven’t done all that much to the outside, and it still looks a bit decrepit, albeit in an endearing way. When you walk in the front door, it also hasn’t quite lost its abandoned, musty smell. Nevertheless, it’s a large pub, with low, thickly plastered ceilings that make it look like a grotto, and a good space for live performances. The music is on quietly, and the wooden finishings are nice, as are the tables with large globes inset. The old-fashioned black beams that criss-cross above work to give the pub an authentic feel.
What my friends and I couldn’t quite get used to, however, was the taxidermy. There’s a couple of boars heads mounted on wooden plaques at the entrance, a stuffed ferret, at least three deer heads replete with horns, and plenty of other unnameable animals.
When I ask the barman about the taxidermy stuff, he answers in a thick accent, and tells me that the new private owners ‘stripped and auctioned everything off’ before refitting the place. They own another pub, the Brown Derby in Oval, that’s similarly outfitted. My friends and I agree that it’s weird – ‘I don’t like the glassy eyes,’ says one, while another notes that ‘they’re a bit scary, a bit too friendly,’ and the third decides that she doesn’t ‘like the way they stare at you’. But at least, along with all the other weird shit that the consciously ‘kooky’ pub has littered around (think masks, mannequins, diving helmets and a moped), they’re a talking point.
At the bar we order and my card is declined, which says just as much about their prices as it does about the state of my finances. £4.20 for a vodka soda lime means that they’re just as overpriced as the New Cross House (where a single and mixer is £4.10), although the barman is relatively liberal with his measurements, and a pint of Symmonds cider (the only cider they have on tap) is a more reasonable £3.80. The pub is known for supplying cask ales and beers that you can see listed on the sign below.
What I am most excited about are its possibilities as a live music venue. Goldsmiths music student John Dunk tells me how his ten-piece band, Max Maguire, will be playing a gig at the venue on the 1st of May. ‘It’s gonna be pretty cool. Our friend just sorted it out by getting in contact at the bar.’ The large stage is eerily lit with a purple-blue light which will no doubt soon be home to many exciting bands and unlike the New Cross Inn’s shoddy stage, this set up looks a bit more professional.
Anyway, after finishing my expensive drink, I decide that I quite like the Montague Arms despite the taxidermy and the overpriced spirit-mixers. According to the barman they’re currently in the process of applying for a later licence, because at the moment they shut at 11pm, which meant, for instance, that last night there was a flood of student clientele left loitering confusedly on the street after we were all ushered out, not quite ready to go home.
Another Goldsmiths student, Ben Hetherington, gives the pub a ‘7.7 out of 10, no more, no less’. Although it’s not perfect, I certainly wouldn’t turn down another escapade to the Montague Arms.