Josh Barrie On the Sauce at the Black Dog, Vauxhall: the London pub made famous by Taylor Swift

Tortured pints department: the Vauxhall pub is as famous as any right now (Getty/AP)
Tortured pints department: the Vauxhall pub is as famous as any right now (Getty/AP)

The Black Dog in Vauxhall was, until the mighty Taylor Swift effect, a fairly average, albeit higher-end South London pub. It hasn’t been a boozer for some time: drinkers will find branded lager, local IPAs and bottles of Chablis; the food menu dips into pub classics but is more a haven to burrata (please take this off) and wild mushroom risotto.

Then the most famous pop star in the world named a song after the place and fans — sorry, “Swifties” — soon started to descend. They turned up to shoot TikTok videos in an unlikely pilgrimage. To tourists it might even be a little hard to find, tucked away behind Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens — it more often serves office workers and locals — and so the sudden deluge is all the more impressive.

Apparently Swift didn’t ever visit — pub staff say they scoured CCTV to see if they could spot her, to no avail — but her ex-boyfriend, London actor Joe Alwyn, supposedly did. The events and social media manager for the small hospitality group SC Soho, which owns the pub, pretty much confirmed his attendance to the media as interest piqued.

The pub is making stupendous use of the free PR. As traffic, later visitors surged, so came drinks deals, merch, Instagram posts and Swift lyrics on a blackboard in the window: “And so I watch you as you walk into some bar called the Black Dog”. The story goes that Alwyn forgot to turn off the location on his phone and Swift saw that he visited during a turbulent time in their relationship. Moving swiftly on.

Fans have been embraced, welcomed with open arms. I don’t think there’s room here for cynicism. Fair play, have fun with it. It’s all quite cute. To see an unassuming pub become the talk of the town is all power to hospitality, an industry in crisis. It’s also a nod to the force of celebrity — a tale as old as time in our game and more often than not a good one.

“It’s been quite a lot to process”, one bartender told the Standard’s Pippa Logan. The pub has had to order more glassware and at one point hired security to manage the deluge (but there was no bad blood).

The atmosphere has, I understand, been entirely positive. Fans have turned up, enjoyed a swift half and paid tribute to their hero. Visitors to London have scrambled down to Vauxhall before flying home to Vienna, Prague, wherever else. I can’t imagine it’ll be long before the Americans arrive.

I used to go every now and then after playing football and would get the Black Dog stout. The last time I visited was after recording a podcast. Christ. So then two worlds collide. And that is what pubs are for: they are for everyone. Where else would “footballers” and “tortured poets” meet?

Pints from £5.75. 112 Vauxhall Walk, SE11 5ER.