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London Bus Pub: A spot of subtle British charm

The London Bus Pub has a faux double decker on the side of the building. Even the headlights work. Inside, the neighborhood pub is well-worn and friendly.

Jay Cridlin/tbt*

The London Bus Pub has a faux double decker on the side of the building. Even the headlights work. Inside, the neighborhood pub is well-worn and friendly.

A reader recently sent me an e-mail about what makes a place a pub rather than a bar. One of the key points was whether a television was present — the idea is that a pub is a place where friends get together to converse and socialize, and that a TV in the room is not conducive to such an endeavor. While I don't think the issue is that black and white, I do feel that a pub is more satisfying when the focus is on conversation.

I rounded up friends and headed to the London Bus Pub, a cartoonish building standing apart from an otherwise drab stretch of Seminole Boulevard in Seminole. A sign next to the door proclaims it to be a "public house," the British term from which "pub" is derived, so I knew we had come to the right place.

The colorful, kitschy façade looks like the front of an old British pub, complete with painted shutters and bright red doors. The sign stating the pub's name in bold cartoon letters is accompanied by a monocled man sporting a bowler hat. And then there's the London Bus itself — a wooden cutout on the side of the building that looks as if a tiny London double-decker bus had pulled up alongside. The headlights even turn on.

Inside, the low ceilings and enclosed bar made it simultaneously cramped and comfortable; this place could be your living room. Liz the bartender introduced herself by name and shook hands.

All of the usual pub suspects were on tap — Newcastle, Harp, Bass, Guinness — but I was interested to see a couple of unusual additions, such as Harpoon Cider and Old Speckled Hen, a truly authentic touch for the British pub. I ordered a Harp and we ventured to the side room, where we found a gigantic projection television, but it was turned off. Our conversation was safe. There was another TV in the pub, but the volume was low. Most of the noise inside was simply a mix of patrons talking to each other. This is what a pub is supposed to be, right? In between conversation, we browsed through an enormous collection of old Trivial Pursuit cards.

We headed back into the main room of the pub to grab another round of pints and had a seat at one of the tables next to the bar. Smoking is permitted inside, which is evident by the shade of yellow that the British newspapers lining the ceiling have taken on. Although the pub itself was sufficiently clean, the whole place had clearly been thoroughly worn in — that kind of character can't be built into a pub. Despite the presence of more than one TV, I feel that the London Bus Pub definitely had what I was looking for in a pub. It's a simple, utilitarian pub — and that's just how I like them. —

London Bus Pub

5667 Seminole Blvd., Seminole; (727) 399-1122.

The vibe: A cozy, British-style pub with kitschy decor and friendly service.

Booze: Beer and wine only. Domestic bottles $2.75, import drafts $5. Wine (by the glass) $3.25.

Specialty: This is the kind of place where you want to sip a few pints while enjoying some company. The draft selection is authentic and above-average for a small pub.

Food: $5 fish and chips is available on Monday; similar pub fare is available on Friday; and during the busy season, a Sunday dinner is served (prices vary).

Hours: 10 a.m. to midnight Monday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday. The bar often stays open later than midnight, but call ahead if you're arriving late.

London Bus Pub: A spot of subtle British charm 11/04/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:15pm]
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