The Moon Under Water, Leicester Square

From: The Moon Under Water by George Orwell (Evening Standard, 9.2.46.):

“…They are particular about their drinking vessels at the Moon Under Water, and never, for example, make the mistake of serving a pint of beer in a handleless glass. Apart from glass and pewter mugs, they have some of those pleasant strawberry-pink china ones which are now seldom seen in London. China mugs went out about 30 years ago, because most people like their drink to be transparent, but in my opinion beer tastes better out of china.

The great surprise of the Moon Under Water is its garden. You go through a narrow passage leading out of the saloon, and find yourself in a fairly large garden with plane trees, under which there are little green tables with iron chairs round them. Up at one end of the garden there are swings and a chute for the children.

On summer evenings there are family parties, and you sit under the plane trees having beer or draught cider to the tune of delighted squeals from children going down the chute. The prams with the younger children are parked near the gate.

Many are the virtues of the Moon Under Water, I think that the garden is its best feature, because it allows whole families to go there instead of Mum having to stay at home and mind the baby while Dad goes out alone…”


“28 Leicester Square, West End, London, WC2H 7LE

The name of this Wetherspoon free house recalls the ideal pub described by George Orwell. The writer called his fictitious pub ‘Moon Under Water’. This famous square was laid out in 1670 by Lord Leicester. The first house on the site of this pub was occupied, in turn, by a Lord Chancellor, two princes and the famous Scottish surgeon John Hunter. ‘Hunter’s House’ was demolished in 1892 and replaced by the present building.”

Liam Barnes wrote on the BBC News website, on 7 February 2016:

“…On 9 February, 1946, Orwell wrote an article for the Evening Standard warmly describing his favourite pub, the Moon Under Water, a small backstreet establishment with no music, china pots with creamy stout and that crucial ingredient: a welcoming atmosphere.

The Moon Under Water may itself have been a fiction, a composite of Orwell’s favourite London pubs, but its importance as a symbol of the friendly local lives on.

DJ Taylor, who has written an acclaimed biography of the author, said the essay shows Orwell’s love of the pub as a traditional institution.

“The whole question about Orwell and pubs is very interesting,” he said.

“It was a symbol of working class life that he tended to sentimentalise.”

What constitutes the perfect pub was the topic of Orwell’s last essay for the Evening Standard, with previous articles covering other aspects of typical British life, such as how to make a good cup of tea.

And, despite never existing, Moon Under Water left a sizeable legacy.

Seventy years on the essay’s criteria for the perfect pub – which includes old-fashioned Victorian decorations, a snack counter, barmaids who know their customers and a garden – are still cited by ale aficionados looking for the ideal spot for a pint…

Seven decades on not all of Orwell’s ideas on pubs have endured: the smoking ban has done for the tobacco-stained roofs of old, few pubs sell aspirin behind the counter (though some double up as village shops), and boiled jam rolls have fallen out of culinary favour…

For DJ Taylor, Orwell’s attachment to his own era – not to mention a contrarian streak – makes it difficult to predict if we would have seen him in a micropub, a pink china mug of stout in hand.

“He was very much a traditionalist when it came to licensed premises,” he said.

“It’s hard to say what he would have thought about them, but he would have certainly taken a serious interest.”…”

From what

“The first West End Wetherspoon pub to open, in 1992, in a former steak bar, the Moon Under Water (taking its name from the now Montagu Pyke around the corner in Charing Cross Road), offers a reasonably-priced place to drink in the heart of the West End.

It’s a narrow-fronted pub with a small outside drinking/smoking area on Leicester Square. Inside, a long and busy bar area with a family area at the rear is home to a very cosmopolitan/tourist clientele. The eight handpumps often offer some interesting guest beers.”

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