Compared to some pubs along the riverbank The Black Lion is positively landlocked, despite only being a few steps from the Thames. Its 'inland' position at the end of the natural pub-crawl that starts at The Blue Anchor ensures the lager-louts have flaked-out a few pubs earlier. Sadly this also means a lack of quality women; The Black Lion's clientele seem older and more mature than nearby pubs, but at least the Public-School element is lacking.
It would be cruel to suggest the lack of totty is a throwback to the pub's history. Built about 200 years ago on the site of a piggery by the pig-farmer who thought brewing might be preferable to spending all day in mud and pigshit. Like today's farmers who lack wives, if he changed vocation in the hope of attracting a partner because women were put-off by his eau de toilette porcine aroma, he might have found it easier to take a walk to The Rutland, where there's hundreds of women soaking up the rays.
When first entering The Black Lion a notice instructs to "please remember your table number". Why the table number needs to be remembered is a mystery, although I've forgotten it already. A further notice at the bar says "All hot drinks - £1.00" - my request for a pint of hot beer was met with a blank stare (apparently it only refers to tea and coffee).
A spacious, L-shaped pub with a lengthy, narrow room at the rear being The Black Lion's most unusual feature. Formerly a skittle alley, it now sits at the back of the pub like an appendage.
Two furnaces sit in the space that used to be a fireplace in the centre of the pub, and shelves on the wall contain the usual assortment of old Chinese plates, bottles and other junk. Church-pews and an excess of mirrors surround tables throughout the pub, and a wooden floor, carpeted floor and tiled floor are all evident within a few steps of each other. A handful of Lilliputian flyer-saucers appear to have landed on the ceiling and are disguised as smoke-alarms; the visitors from other worlds are here to marvel at the abundance of condiments on top of the cigarette machine.
Entertainment is provided by a fruit machine, a Golden Tee machine, a small, muted TV and a pub quiz every Wednesday. As the pub is infrequently heaving, the management evidently choose to ignore the obvious: turning the appendage back into it's former glory as a skittle alley will turn The Black Lion into one of Hammersmith's main attraction. No amount of pub quizzes can compare to the financial benefits of such a venture. Skittles is such an old-fashioned pastime, perhaps a 10-pin Bowling Alley would be up-to-date; or a shooting gallery; or a Go-Kart track; or a swimming pool.
The French-windows at the rear of the pub lead onto what's perhaps the largest beer garden in Hammersmith. What seems like hundreds of benches occupy the vast acreage with a large parasol, like King Kong's umbrella, offering protection from the sun's gaze. There's an old tree, a chestnut mooted to be older than the pub, and the windows of the appendage protrude to resemble either a mausoleum or a rabbit hutch. One expects to see Lenin laying in the window or the Watership Down Protagonists munching on a carrot.
Review by mr_psm