Death of a Spoon - the Judgement (or Judgment)

Oh sacred memory. The Knights Templar in Chancery Lane. One of the Legal London pubs. And a Wetherspoons, but a better sort, don't you know.

After a day of training lawyers at the venerable institution with which I was happy to be connected in my second career, there would always be a few down at the KT Monday-Thursday from 4.30pm for a couple, to digest and deconstruct the day, Not the same folk every day, of course, because that would be the type of alcoholism that would be hard to explain away. 

Like fine West End performers we would bask in the adrenalin of our exploits. Whatever your role was in the institution, you were welcome, as long as you bought your drinks, so it was a problem for any colleague who would peek through the door of the entrance on the corner of Carey Street and then slip away if they assessed that the incumbents were likely to finger him for a trip to the bar.

Even after the teaching institution moved to a new location, the Manager could still remember faces, and in many cases names.

But no more. The Knights Templar has exited the Tim Martin departure lounge, and has been replaced by: 'The Last Judgment' [sic]. I had had wind of this, but thought best to investigate.

The first visit was a disappointment. Yes, there had been a serious decorative makeover, but the place oozed 'bar', if such nuance makes sense. I arrived late afternoon following taking round the legal sights a group of students from a law firm's graduate recruitment scheme. Here was a chance for a rest of the legs and a brief catch-up on emails before heading home.

I entered nervously, and was set upon by a server who ushered me to a table and presented a drinks list. I weakly protested that I just wanted to go to the bar and order a pint (in fairness the beer selection had stayed decent). He relented, although I think he was after table service (and a tip). There were comfortably more staff than punters in residence at this point.

The pub has a side entrance along Carey Street, convenient if all you need is a trip down the immediately adjacent stairs for the magnificent loos. But the route was quasi-cut off, a greeter person perched on a stool by the entrance, ready, I assumed, to ask if you had a reservation.

I sipped my pint, and watched for the workers (or at least those not WFH) to sidle in from about 5pm. There was a trickle - little more - although it might just have been a quiet day; my gut told me that a hospitality branding ace had sold a 'vision' of an establishment upmarket from Spoons, but management was now unsure whether the call had been right.

At least they had got the name correct, as in 'judgement' for the generic but 'judgment' for a court decision. The name is emblazoned over the bar, so thank goodness - anyone with a serious connection to legal practice is a de factor member of the Society of English Language Pedants.

I had observed the Knights Templar customers over a number of years as a matter of empirical study. They were a lovely bunch, from the retired lads nursing an afternoon pint or two, through the bevy after the office before going home crew, to the students (not yobby) who could afford Spoons prices where other places were out of reach. The atmosphere was lively and convivial, but never out of order. Women seemed as comfortable there as the blokes.The area is not exactly short of competition. It looked like folk had taken their custom elsewhere.

What had happened? With a sad shake of the head, I left.

Ah, but there is a happy ending! A few months later I returned. It had not taken much to right the ship. The cruising the floor staff seemed now to have been relocated to behind the bar. Or to be frank, faces looked different, and these were faces who understood the need for efficient service. By 5.30 there was a hum of conversation, and most tables were taken. The greeter had disappeared, presumably to be better stationed at an upper market restaurant entrance. I even had a bite to eat, as I was en route to an evening commitment nearby. No longer the War and Peace length Spoons menu, but sausage and mash still available at a realistic price.

Know your audience, the old saying goes. I do still lament the passing of the KT, but if you are in the area, don't be put off, and give the new gaff a try.


The author is a writer, speaker, historian, tour guide, and former Managing Partner of a City law firm.