Surveyors seem to have a predilection for rather shiny watering holes in west(ish) London when Building Buys a Pint. The Portman, which has removed most of its old wooden interior in favour of cream walls and rack upon rack of immaculate glassware, is no exception
I get an insight into the reason for this surveying foible from James: “I think it might have been chosen because it was respectable. “We would have gone to the Three Tuns instead, but it’s a bit noisy and there would probably have been standing room only.”
But any concerns over the lack of grit disappear as the Portman’s kitchens produce superb chips while tales of international surveying adventures fly across the table.
“The most dangerous job we did was to value all of the British embassies across the world,” says Neal. “You’d get out of the plane, go with armed guards to the embassy, and get out of the country.”
Richard thinks surveyor survival rates are lower on housing estates closer to home. “No, the most dangerous job we did was in Swansea. It was stipulated that surveyors had to go round in pairs.”
Broken Britain also reared its head when Neal attempted to survey the dodgier parts of east London.
“In Whitechapel you put up razor wire to stop kids climbing on the scaffolding. You’d get there the next morning and find that someone had nicked the razor wire.”
It turns out that James grew up around Archway, which triggers a lively debate on the failings of post-war planning in London. We agree the brutalist tower block that looms over the underground station, looking like a less rounded version of the Death Star, was a bit of a mistake.
London is beginning to sound rather rough. But any Cluttons staff thinking of going abroad should remember not to make it too obvious around the office. One budding skier boasted so much about his upcoming trip to the slopes that all but one set of undergarments was pilfered from his case just before takeoff.
Meanwhile, the Portman’s bathroom mirror, which is covered in flattering prose, is creating a stir. “I saw the first line which said ’you’re gorgeous’, so I looked behind me,” James quips.
I am then thrown out of my depth by a seemingly well-worn debate over the relative merits of eighties TV shows Dempsey and Makepeace vs Cagney and Lacey. The former has the edge, propelled ahead by the attractive actress who played Makepeace. “I fancied her when I was 11,” says Stephen. “My standards haven’t changed since.”
We reach a highly respectable drinks total - mainly ale, although Simon controversially sneaked in a quiet shandy. Culture, compliments and chips: who needs the Three Tuns?
The Portman, near Marble Arch
Ambiance: ’Respectable’ refurbished West End pub
Topics: Extreme surveying, Broken Britain, mischief at Cluttons, Dempsey and Makepeace
29 London Pride, 1 shandy, 1 bowl excellent chips
Who was there?
James Gray head of project and building consultancy
Simon Le Marquand senior surveyor
Stephen Bradford building surveyor
Alan Bertram partner
Richard Lodge partner
Neal Andrews partner
David Matthews Building