I first visited a trio of British-style pubs last year (“Real Accents Matter,” May 17, 2017). For the most part, I found solid pubs soiled by cigarette smoke. As a result, I vowed to return only when the smoke cleared. Given the smoking ordinance came into effect in the Fort on March 12, I have been somewhat behind on my return, though I remedied this on a crisp pre-Christmas Thursday.
Let us go back a little. This is not my first smoking ban. When Britain went smoke-free in 2007, there was the attendant chorus of doom-saying that will be familiar to Fort Worthians.
Ye Olde Bull and Bush
2300 Montgomery St, FW. 817-731-9206.
The Royal Falcon
3803 Southwest Blvd, FW. 817 732 5999.
Imagine, then, my surprise to find Ye Olde Bull & Bush not shuttered among the apocalyptic roadscape of Montgomery Street. Far from being a derelict husk of a former Brit pub, I found the Bush thriving. The short L-shaped bar dripped with jolly regulars. Here, two giant dudes talking about 8-point stags. There, a lolloping twentysomething in a sweater vest and camo cap. The tricameral pub features a couple of tables close by the bar, then the main seating chamber that also houses the internet jukebox, and in back you’ll find two dartboards and a few tables. The feel of the place is legitimately that of a neighborhood pub back in Blighty. The dark wood furniture and strip-board floors are seasoned, the clientele pleasantly varied –– though beware, Fairmounters, I spied nary a huge beard nor a pair of oversized eyeglasses. Speaking of large glasses, all drafts are standard British pints, standing tall at 20 ounces a pop. This made my $6.25 Guinness an expertly poured steal given that it prorates to a little under $4.70 for a 16-ounce pint. Thursday night is $3.50 calls, and I took advantage with a warming Jameson’s on the rocks. A Harp lager that instantly recalled my nights at the students’ union spent reeling around dance floors completed the Celtic trinity. Staffers behind the bar insisted that they discerned no difference in the bar’s business or clientele since the smoking ban. What was really “kicking their ass,” one of them said, was the “crap out there” –– referring to the years-long road construction.
The long-overdue closure of the Baker Street pretend pub came to my attention in early 2018. Celebrating our emancipation from the need to revisit the Camp Bowie spot, my drinking partner and I made straight for The Royal Falcon –– well, not quite straight, considering we were forced to traverse the multi-lane crapshoot that is the traffic circle (of doom) at the intersection of Camp Bowie Boulevard and Alta Mere Drive.
The pub retains the faintest whiff of stale tobacco smoke though feels cleaner than before, with the booths and stools seemingly refreshed. The bar’s selection of beer and liquor is as thoughtful as I remembered. I opened with a solid Fireman’s 4 before jumping headlong into Martin House’s Cranberry Crush, a 4.2-percent-ABV flavorfest of sour that puckered my cheeks from the inside out. A frankly gigantic pour of Jameson’s finished the night. A couple things detracted from the experience at the Falcon: The lone barman was less than chatty and didn’t seem keen on eye contact –– a bad night perhaps? Also, there was a weird vibe at the bar that I can best describe as aggressive lasciviousness, with folks shouting drunken profundities in ham-fisted efforts at flirting. It felt … odd.
I can see the Bush becoming a place I will seek out in future. It has good beer, knowledgeable and friendly staff, and an interesting mix of people congregating in a clean-air environment. Thank you, Fort Worth smoking ordinance.