After Hours: Chim-chim-cheerful pub
BURY ST. EDMUNDS — There are more than a few pubs out there that, at first glance, are difficult to articulate as in any way unique: the same staple of imported beers on tap, the same cloud of stale cigarette smoke, the same photo of the pub football club after last season’s signature win.
Halfway through a pint at The Black Boy, and it appeared this quaint public house fit that bill, complete with a sign advertising Sunday’s quiz night and a snooker table, to boot.
The Black Boy even had the obligatory gammon steak for 4.95 pounds ($9.90) and the unmistakable attempt to offer a diverse menu with its 4.25 pounds ($8.50) chili con carne. A few lines of Spanish and even chili can sound exotic — sure.
But there has to be something to separate this pub from the dozens of others that crowd Bury’s charming streets.
Then I asked what appeared to be the handful of regulars crowding the bar how it came by such an unusual name and all appearances of “just another pub” fell as flat as the Suffolk countryside.
Founded in 1683 as a horse stable that also served beer, the pub originally was known as A Black Boy, which the pub’s clientele acknowledged was a tad inappropriate for today’s politically correct age.
Sometime in the past several decades, the pub altered its name to The Black Boy and included a picture of a colorfully dressed youth covered in chimney soot.
In one small change of a name, the place transformed itself from perceived racist pub to charming watering hole where one likely could find a Dick Van Dyke’s Bert-like character of “Mary Poppins” fame relaxing his singing voice with a quick pint.
Public relations nightmare solved.
At more than 300 years old, the pub claims to be the second oldest watering hole in Bury St. Edmunds. I asked if there are any original pieces to the structure, and the patrons pointed to the wood beams supporting the ceiling.
Little did the building’s engineers know that hundreds of years after the central beams were installed, thirsty patrons from a country yet founded would appear to ask silly questions, such as, if there were any way to count the number of pints consumed in the pub since 1683.
Unlike McDonald’s, as I found, there is no tally. There are, however, plenty of local characters eager to share the pub’s, town’s and region’s singular history with any patron’s open ear.
See previous After Hours reviews here.
The Black Boy
Location: Guildhall Street in Bury St. Edmunds.
Entertainment: Locals spinning tales.
Drink: A familiar selection of European beers on tap.
Food: A menu chuck-full of familiar selections — hamburgers, sirloin steak and sandwiches.
Clientele: This place is as local as the nearby Abbey Gardens. Don’t expect any chatter over the lack of upsets in this season’s Final Four.
Hours: Opens at 11 a.m. and closes when the landlord feels it’s time to push the last drinker out the door.