Golden Ark’s laidback landlord meets Orwell’s demands

CROYDON PUB OF THE YEAR: Our man standing at the bar with a packet of pork scratchings nearby, a pint of pale ale in hand and a dog-eared paperback of Animal Farm poking out of his jacket pocket, KEN TOWL, discovers how an independent has managed to beat the chains

Golden couple: Maria and Matt Emmett keep winning awards for their micropub

Matt is one of those lucky people who does what he does because he enjoys it rather than because he has to. Matt Emmett, along with his wife, Maria, run the Golden Ark, a micropub on Addington Road, just around the corner from the 433/64 bus stop on Upper Selsdon Road.

The first pub you see on turning into Addington Road is, of course, The Julian Huxley, surely the only Wetherspoons pub to be named after a eugenicist. The only one in Croydon, at least. Walk past it. We are going somewhere much more interesting, a pub that, unlike any of the links in the Tim Martin chain, carried on working throughout the lockdowns and won recognition for doing so.

Thanks to Matt and Maria, the good people of Selsdon were able to avail themselves of fresh beer that they carried away in two-pint milk cartons. This public service was recognised by the local branch of the Campaign for Real Ale in the form of their Lockdown Heroes Award.

This week, The Golden Ark has won another coveted award, that of CAMRA’s Croydon Pub of the Year 2021. And it is a well-deserved award.

Certificate of success: the Golden Ark’s new prized possession

The pub is everything George Orwell described in The Moon Under Water, in his essay on his idea of the perfect English pub. It has atmosphere and it has great beer. It has regulars who appreciate what a gem they have on their doorstep. One of them told me that he used to go to the Wetherspoons but he has only been there a couple of times in the three years or so since the Golden Ark has been opened.

“Isn’t it cheaper in the Wetherspoons?” I asked.

“You get what you pay for,” he said.

Matt chipped in. “Anyway, nothing is over £4 a pint.”

Which is true. My pint of Solving the Problem, a hoppy American Pale Ale, was £3.80 and as good as any pint I have drunk in Croydon. There was a good, well-thought-out wine selection, too, prices starting at a very reasonable £5.20 for a 25cl glass. Oh yes, and several ciders and a fridge full of bottles and cans.

Matt is dog-friendly, and to prove it, he offers bone-shaped dog biscuits to clients with canines. He is also child friendly – they get lollipops. Essentially, Matt is friendly, but in a very laid-back, take it or leave it sort of way.

I asked him how worried he was during the lockdowns and he said, “Not worried at all,” and I believed him. Matt has the air of a man who really doesn’t worry about anything.

The pub closed, so instead he did takeaways. And anyway, he hinted, the pub is as much a hobby as a business. I hope Matt continues to enjoy doing what he is doing, because he does it very well, and Selsdon is a more interesting place thanks to the Golden Ark. That does not necessarily apply equally to the Sir Julian Huxley.

Matt confided that the atmosphere is occasionally enhanced by live music too. “What type?” I asked.

Modest exterior:  the award-winning pub defies first impressions

“All types,” said Matt. I could believe it; the piped music was an eclectic mix of excellent tunes from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s… you know, when music was good. Matt has a soft spot for SKA and rockabilly too, as any decent person should. I wonder what music Tim Martin likes.

They have quiz nights on Wednesdays, too (You don’t have to reserve a table but it’s a good idea, says Matt). Apparently, it’s very competitive, in a laid-back sort of way.

Just like in Orwell’s mythical Moon Under Water, there are bar snacks available to soak up the alcohol, simple fare such as a cheese toastie for £3, and a wide range of starchy, fatty, salty things in foil packets, and olives, too.

The Golden Ark is the real thing.

I think Orwell would have approved.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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1 Response to Golden Ark’s laidback landlord meets Orwell’s demands

  1. Ian Kierans says:

    And well worth a visit with or without the music.

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