Well, if there was ever a place that has been buggered royally and uncompromisingly with the thick end of the cruddy fashionista pole wielded by Peckham’s nouveau arrivistes, this is it. In fairness, there wasn’t much about the place before Foxton’s cold, dead shark eyes glanced upon this verdant triangle of south east London and broadened nearby East Dulwich’s catchment area. But the most hideous excesses of hip appeal have been visited on this prime pub location and wrenched out any remains of its self respect, turning it into a whore for the gentrified sybarite.
Doors marked ‘Narnia’ and ‘Middle Earth’ do little to help; neither do the utterly disinterested bar staff and numbered tables that shriek ‘we are really a restaurant’ louder than the bogglering juggernauts that thunder their way by on the main road to Upper Nunhead. External chalkboards advertise ‘ping pong’ and ‘petanque’ as if they are in some way inducements to enter what is, let’s remember, supposed to be a pub. Bare walls and a pitiful selection of homestore antiquities scrabble desperately to lend an aura of welcome, but fail, drearily and dismally detracting nothing from the overall aura of blandness. Of homogeneity. Of slow, inevitable death. Because surely this place will join the outdated, ornamental objects and become obsolete in next to no time.
That you have to go outside to find the single saving characteristic of The Rye is telling. A huge beer garden (closed on this visit) affords at least the illusion of escape for the determined drinker. But even that has been sanitised beyond charm, its branches trimmed and clipped and its only joy-bringing feature being the scruffy cat that sits proudly and grumpily on one of the overly solid trestle tables. You wonder whether it’s called Dorian and has had to sit there fielding the injurious blows while the pub’s soul has been sold off piecemeal with every passing vanity spruce-up. The poor, bedraggled creature looks thoroughly defeated.
An awful lot of money has been spent on this place, but for what reward? Very little save a rather fetching butterfly motif on one wall next to the sign-posted library (not sure why you’d need to label a shelf full of books thus, but there you go). There is a lot to sneer at here and little to raise the spirits. It is the pub equivalent of a tedious, chrematistic braggart who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. I look forward to seeing how it develops once the price of real estate in these parts reaches the kind of levels even builders cannot yet imagine. A small, tastefully appointed, unaffordable, ‘unique’ development of one and two bedroomed apartments is the only outcome.