Sunny and Share
There is nothing more quintessentially English than a village green with a pub and a duck pond. Here in Barnes, historically one of the market gardens of London and mentioned in the Domesday book by its Saxon name of Berne as far back as 1086, the pond has been the central focus of the village around which many of the 18th and 19th century houses and mansions are grouped. Until well into the 1900s, the pond was the local watering hole for live stock, though these days, it is purely recreational. Well populated by all manner of ducks and geese, it is inextricably woven into the fabric of every Barnes childhood.
The Sun Inn, set on the fringe of the pond, has offered shelter and sustenance to residents and visitors alike since the mid 18th century. In line with its picturesque location, it’s a pretty pub, cosy inside and with umbrella shaded tables at the front, from where, here almost in the centre of London, the olde worlde charm of village life can be observed and enjoyed over a bevvy or two.
Surprisingly, Barnes is not just a throw back to halcyon days but also, contrary to its cutesiepie rural image, it also has quite an impressive rock ‘n roll heritage. Composer Gustav Holst and prima ballerina Dame Ninette de Valois lived locally in the early 20th century, more classical than rock ‘n roll, but then, more latterly the Olympic recording studios (now a restaurant and cinema) attracted such musical grandees as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Queen and Madonna in the 60s, 70s and 80s. The site of Marc Bolan’s (T Rex) fatal car crash in 1977, a sycamore tree by Gypsy Lane, is still a mecca for fans and today, heartthrob actor Robert Pattinson of Twilight Saga fame roams the streets of his parental neighbourhood. And, of course, all of them, sooner or later, have been spotted chilling out at the Sun Inn. Fellow drinkers at the pub won’t as much as bat an eyelid at the famous faces; we’re used to them and pay them little attention. It’s an unpretentious place, attractive, for sure, but more of a proper local than a destination venue.
Much more exciting than its occasional celeb clientele, is the fact that over the last few years, the Sun Inn has increasingly developed a presentable menu, gradually moving away from conventional pub grub (chicken in the basket, anyone?) towards much more palatable food. It’s still, perhaps thankfully, a far cry from being a gastro pub, but the food is decent and agreeable, if you fancy a little something with your drink. Orders are placed at the bar and eaten at the pub tables, the cutlery and paper napkins unceremoniously plonked in front of you.
We had a little family outing there one Monday evening to catch up with our younger son, a vegetarian, and his brand-new fiancée and to discuss plans for their forthcoming wedding in France next spring. Between us, we ordered some nibbly starters to share: a fairly unexciting dish of spiced cauliflower, deliciously crunchy tomato and olive croquettes and perfectly acceptable stout cured salmon. As mains we had a kale, cauliflower and cheddar tart, which was really more of a fantastically gooey cheese pie, with nicely done sweet potato chips as a side order, a successful spiced spinach and lentil burger with avocado, some good pan fried salmon and a beef burger with cheddar, which went down very well. Our naughty sweet treat was a very yummy blood orange cheesecake with strawberry coulis, all of which was washed down with a bottle of Pinot Grigio, one Heineken and two ciders. The ambience was relaxed and easy going, the service pleasant. The final bill for the four of us came to £107.60, including two Americanos, various water and VAT but not service charge.
The Sun Inn prides itself on serving locally brewed real ale and Belgian beers, as well as its legendary Sunday roasts. Occasionally live bands perform, there is a members’ only bowling green behind the pub and one of the nicest flower stalls in all London right beside it. As pub meals go, here you get a very much better than average offering in a congenial environment.