Warm welcome amid chill A group of twelve or so men were hustling round a couple of tables laid out in the far corner of the bar room.
Despite the soft lighting some of the guys were wearing dark sunglasses and peaked hats. The tension between the men lingered over the tables like pre-ban cigarette smoke. Behind them a game of football was playing on the flat screen TVs dotted around the place. Some people were wallowing in sumptuous brown leather sofas like hippos in mud; others were sat around tables or perched on bar stools.The atmosphere was jolly and chatty – bursts of man banter punching through the football commentary.
The bar felt like an oversized living room, with regulars happy to welcome new patrons and faces.Away from the football a lone man was stood playing Deal or No Deal on the fruit machine.
Another was eyeing up the jukebox fastened to the wall but gave up when the crowd broke into cheer every time a player received a pass on the football. My friend Ali and I decided to take a seat in the restaurant area, just off from the main bar.
We found a table in the far corner and starting trying figure out why anyone would wear sunglasses in a pub late at night.
However, we were soon distracted by the smell of the food coming out of the kitchen – home-made burgers, pizza, lasagne, curry. It was like an edible version of the Generation Game.
All I could do to drown my growing appetite was to sink another pint of beer. Which, in the Winston, is a pleasant experience.
My pint of Fosters came glowing in all its amber glory – bubbles rising into the frothy head like an alien abduction. Ali’s house vodka was equally as potent and inebriating. As the bell rang for last orders we emptied our glasses and made our way back through the bar to the door. The place was still busy despite the match drawing to a close a couple of hours ago.
Everyone was laughing and joking, carry out their warmth and friendliness into the cold autumn night. On the way out I walked past the tables where the men had been sitting. There was a poster stuck to the wall behind them that read:‘The Winston Texas Hold’em Poker Tournament – every Tuesday night.’ I guess that explains the hats and sunglasses.
martyn hannah • The Winston Hotel, Archers Road, Southampton