The blend of old and new at The Tankard has been done so well that it is easy to imagine a young Charlie Chaplin peering in from the street outside to see his father propping up the bar.

The boy who would grow up to become one of the highest paid and most celebrated Hollywood stars of his day had a tough start to life in London's Lambeth.

Both his parents were music hall performers and some of Chaplin's earliest memories were of seeing his dad in pubs such as The Tankard and the nearby Three Stags.

In the century or so since Chaplin left, the pub has changed drastically. It used to gaze over the nearby Bedlam asylum in St George's Fields before that was moved from the area and replaced by the Imperial War Museum.

More recently it was a Grand Union site before that London-based operator was bought by another, Draft House. The new owners have brought back the original name and nodded to the pub's past while providing a contemporary offer for its clientele.



General manager Rachel Thomas (above) says: "We have delved into the history quite a lot and made it what it used to be. It has a story and it is not just another pub on the corner.

"A lot of Chaplin's acts came from watching people in the pubs back then — the drunk, the tramp. He got those characters from his dad drinking in the pub."

Artwork on the walls include several Chaplin movie posters. The stripped-back décor also gives the impression that you could be sitting in a pub at any point over the last 100 years.

Upstairs is its Victorian terrace — the place from where drinkers would gawp over at the Bedlam mental asylum — and a bar that has been designed with the music hall in mind.

Rachel continues: "We have festoon lighting and it all feels quite dinky, like a theatre bar. The inspiration for the artwork up there has come from the music hall posters.

"It was a conscious decision to reflect the past without being gimmicky about it."

The pub, as with the Draft House group more widely, offers a varied beer selection alongside a menu featuring classics and trendier items. The company's stated aim is "to do for beer what our culture has done for food and wine over the last 20 years".

It strives to achieve this by marrying tradition with the contemporary pub scene.



Cast of characters

Rachel says that it is also important that each Draft House is different from the next. There are currently 11 sites, with five more on the way as part of the Grand Union deal.

"Each site has its own identity. This one feels more pubby, others are more student-led or family-orientated," she says.

This is achieved through the décor, staff, and the beers on tap.

"The sites all have similarities but there are different beers on in all of them. We choose what we think will work well,"she continues.

And all Draft House staff are given plenty of training to help them make those choices and advise customers as to what they might enjoy.

"The team all get great ongoing training so they are confident about making recommendations," says Rachel.

"We all go to Beer School in house with our head of beer, learning about history, beer styles, the brewing process and experiencing tastings. In that group environment, you can learn from each other.

"Tastings are ongoing because you have got to know what you are selling."

And it doesn't stop with the beer, with similar lessons given in cider, wine and the menu. The five other new Draft House sites are due to be open before winter descends. So far trade has been going well since The Tankard reopened at the end of July.

"We have invited people down to try things. The Sunday roast has been very popular. It's a mix and match of people and we have had some lovely customers come through the doors," says Rachel.

In these days of family-friendly pubs, perhaps there could even be a young child watching from the inside and taking inspiration from the characters who gather at The Tankard, more than 100 years since Charlie Chaplin walked this way.


The Tankard, Kennington

Staff: 16
Wet/dry: 70/30
Beer sales as percentage of drinks volume: 75%
Best sellers: Camden beers, roast dinners