Recently opened on my high street is a dog groomer, a hardware store and a vape shop that has been met by the quasi-village community as an affront to the charming aesthetic of our neighbourhood. Further along the street in both directions are pubs. Several pubs. In fact, one of the reasons we loved the area and decided to move here in the first place was the plethora of mostly decent and respectable public houses that were warm and inviting community hubs.
However, I’d always felt that we needed something a little more sophisticated. We have a branded coffee shop, local cafes and a banging curry house but there was nowhere that offered a decent place to drink of an evening without the blare of loud music and the cacophony of drunken voices that usually accompany a Saturday night out.
So I was very pleased when a few weeks ago a new wine shop and bar opened up. Small, simply decorated and overflowing with beautifully labelled wine bottles it was just the kind of space I had envisaged. Of course, since we moved in over six years ago my drinking habits have changed a great deal, but as I’ve said before (and I’ll say it again) I still love a good pub/bar and the social experience that goes with them.
Corks N Keg opened one sunny afternoon and like a nosy neighbour, I was one of the first through the door to go and have a good look around. The proprietor was warm and welcoming (his partner less so but as she didn’t speak at all it was easy to ignore her) and although they’d not even got signage up streetside yet, there was no mistaking the vibe of the venue with it’s large central rustic wooden table, love-seat sofa at the front and semi-private seating at the back.
“This is lovely!” I exclaimed to the owner “But, here’s the question… Do you have any alcohol-free wines?” He looked at me perplexed for a beat, and in that brief moment, I could tell he was wondering if my question was genuine. It was. He didn’t. “Ah, that’s a shame,” I replied, “My husband and friends still drink but I don’t and I would have loved to bring them here.” “Sorry,” he said. And with that, the conversation was over.
That was a few weeks ago. But last night things were different. A few friends and I had planned a long-awaited night out. The stars had aligned and the care for our 10 collective children was safely in the hands of their fathers. The girls planned the night and before dinner at the local theatre bar we were to meet at Corks N Keg for a drink, and that’s where something wonderful happened.
As I walked in to meet the girls (late as usual) and took my seat the owner gave me a nod of recognition. He left me a few moments to say my hellos and then as I went to call him over and ask the question I was certain I already knew the answer to, he bent down to the bottom shelf (I know, I know but one battle at a time) and presented me with not one but two bottles of alcohol-free wine he’d got in just for me – or at least that’s how it felt.
“I got these after you last came in, he told me. “I hope you like them!”
I cannot tell you how impactful that moment was. But if you’re reading this then you can likely appreciate the sentiment more than others.
The only thing that made the experience better was when he came back to me a little while later to enquire with genuine interest “Excuse me, but can I ask how is that wine? Is it ok?” and listened intently as I gave my honest opinion (it was pretty average) and took mental note of my personal recommendations.
I have spent decades in the hospitality industry and good service is essential for me to be able to enjoy my night out and this to me, was the epitome of good service. He had no way of knowing if I would ever come back to his shop, he didn’t stand on the street and pounce to drag me back in, but he recognised a need, he acknowledged a deficit in his offering and he immediately did something about it. He cared.
So if you’re ever in my tiny part of Carshalton Village go check out Corks N Keg and tell them I sent you to try their alcohol-free red and sparkling wines. After all, he’s done his part by providing the drinks, now it’s our turn to reward venues like this with our custom and show them the value and the power of the low/no pound!
Corks N Keg is at 16 High St, Carshalton SM5 3AG
Let’s spread the word and support more local independents. Share your recommendations in the comments and you never know, someone local to you may see your post and help support your local low/no retailer.