St Peter’s Ale House was nice while it lasted. While it was open, it had a very distinct feeling from all the other pubs in Bedford that I’m familiar with, at least. Tiny, light, quiet, and with an unusual selection of beers and ciders – well, unusual for the first visit. Trouble was, the selection didn’t tend to vary much, and it was always so quiet in there that I wondered how they kept trading. Well, I suppose time has answered that one.
So, farewell then, St Peter’s Ale House, and welcome, The Third Place. The frontage, previously painted white, with a bright red door, is now a dark shade of grey, with the name in a clear modern typeface. Inside, the new establishment of course continues to be just as tiny as its predecessor: the public space is an L-shape, spanning the width of the premises (about 20 foot?) and, on the left hand side, probably going back about 20 foot too.
We approach the bar, with its jar of tulips and a sign that clearly declares “CASH ONLY”. Whereas St Peters had its selection of ales and ciders on gravity – and not much else – The Third Place’s beer offering is now limited to no handles, a trio of taps by Meantime (London Pale Ale, London Lager, and Yakima Red), plus Black Sheep Ale and Shepherd Neame’s Whitstable Bay in bottles. There’s a more rounded selection on offer overall: spirits, wines, cocktails. But at £9.50 for a pint of the pale ale and one of the lager, this is definitely one of the most expensive rounds we’ve encountered so far.
Upbeat music plays quietly, from a pair of large black speakers on the floor, one in each of the two bay windows. Mostly it’s nothing we recognise – a light jazzy style. Later on, we recognise Jamiroquai, and Fun Lovin’ Criminals. On top of each of the speakers, a vase with some flowers.
The front face of this establishment is, as I said, black. There are slightly shiny black tiles underfoot. The ceiling is made of matte black tiles. The speakers are black. The tables are black. Black seems to be quite a thing here. But it’s not all gloom. The walls are covered in a textured wallpaper painted dark green, and then, it’s brighter news. The front is almost all glass, so it’s very light in here. There’s an umbrella stand next to the front door, containing a single brolly (it’s a lovely clear day outside, so I wonder how long it’s been there).
With the front door centrally placed, there are small seating areas both left and right, each of which features light-coloured low comfy chairs surrounding a low round table, with a candle; one of the low chairs includes a crocheted brightly-coloured cushion. The front of the bar is painted red, with a medium brown wooden top. There are half a dozen stools at the bar, and down the left hand side, three perching / standing -height tables, but only one nearby stool. There are also a couple of stacks of stools tucked away in corners, but there’s not exactly much free space to get them out and use them, so it’s unclear if they really have any purpose.
Two women serve at the bar, and a man and two women sit at the bar; there’s plenty of chat. Nobody here is staring into their phones (well, perhaps apart from me as I take these notes; needs must). It’s a Saturday afternoon, and while there are several people here already, I do wonder how many of those sitting at the bar aren’t customers, but actually work here – in that respect, it’s reminding me of The Auction Room. The man, and one of the women, leave; some more coming and going must have happened, because now there’s a man serving behind the bar, and two women sat there. A man and a woman in their 30s enter; he has a pint of the London Lager, she has a small wine glass with something pale and fizzy. Now, two men in their 40s; one Pale Ale, one Lager. And then, rather incongruously, in walks in a man in his 70s, wearing a bobble hat; he sits at the bar.
Time passes. It’s now getting on for 7pm, and quite busy (hence, I never got to take a photo of the inside. Also, even when it’s quiet here, the place is so tiny, it’s almost impossible to discreetly take a picture). The place is lively with chatter, but thankfully, there’s no sign of the music having been turned up. Next to the bar, on the right, is a set of DJ decks; almost directly above this, hung from the ceiling are four small mirrorballs surrounding one larger one. The decks and mirrorballs aren’t in use right now, but presumably they’re not just there for show, so I have to assume that there’s a fair chance they might be in use later this evening.
I’ve enjoyed our time here, but it’s time to drink up and move on. RealAleRocks is less convinced: for her, the comfy chairs do not offset the music choice (light jazz is not her thing), and expensive, insipid beer.
Image by GirlMeetsPint, CC BY 4.0