Tuesday, 22 February 2011

A glass of Cider at Knightshaye Court ...

Now, I'm not sure that this fits the criteria at all. But I'm including it to show that other types of cider are available other than Thatcher's Gold ...

It's Sunday, a visit to a National Trust property is on the cards.  But which one?  The decision is easy.  The only local one open this early in the year is Knightshaye Court in Devon.  We pile into the car and set off.

There was a time I would have laughed myself silly at the thought of ever being a paid-up member of the National Trust. But old age dulls the mind, and a love of mansions, ancient artefacts and (in the case of the twenty-ager) cream teas means I'm a regular visitor. And so after a stroll around the house we decide to try the cafe ... where I am delighted to discover that the National Trust have kept their word - "Many of the products we use are sourced locally and are regional specialities" - and on sale here they have bottles of Luscombe Devon cider.  Luscombe have been making cider for about 20 years, but now seem to be better known primarily as a soft-drink manufacturer - particularly organic apple juice. They've not lost their touch when it comes to cider though! It's dry, it's light and it's refreshing ... and full marks for the National Trust for managing something most pubs can't - serving a decent cider.

The George Hotel, Frome

The twenty-ager is home from Uni and she needs to be entertained ... I visited Frome for the first time in January following a recommendation from a friend and I have to say I wasn't disappointed - even though most of the rather wonderfully eclectic shops were shut for the month!  Frome seemed to be just the sort of place to take a discerning twenty-ager ...

The Farmers' Market had a lovely selection of  flavoured cheddar cheeses, some lovely smoked salmon  and a nice pot of Guernsey cream to tempt me.  And the cake shop offered an array of cakes suitable for afternoon tea. My mind was made up ... this evening I would prepare a selection of sandwiches (salmon and cream cheese, tuna and red onion, cucumber and egg mayonnaise) all with the crusts cut off, followed by cakes and cream!

So when it came to having a spot of lunch and knowing that the twenty-ager would want something reasonably "normal" (as opposed to some of the more fancier foods available in the more upmarket catering establishments in the town) the decision was taken to go into The George for a pub lunch.

The George is a Wadworths pub, so it offers an array of beer products ... but when it comes to cider ... Thatcher's Gold it is - despite peering over the bar I couldn't even see any bottled ciders to offer an alternative!

The food menu seemed to comprise of three separate menus, one detailing the "main menu", one for specials, and one for lunch ...however, it took a trip to three different tables to ensure we got one of each!  The lunch menu offered a tuna and red onion baguette, which I have to admit was very tempting,  but mindful of my afternoon tea plan I thought I'd give it a miss and have "Catch of the Day" instead. The order was taken at the table by a young lady who also took the next drinks order, and claimed to have changed the beer barrel - leading to us wondering if she was also doing the cooking or if there were other members of staff. On arrival "Catch of the Day" proved to be haddock, the food was hot, plentiful and filled a gap.

The George also offers accommodation  - it is a Hotel after all - but it knows its place, the menu isn't pretentious, the place is clean and the service is good - when you want a pint and a bite to eat as a break from shopping it does the job.  I imagine there are other pubs in Frome that offer the more genuine "real pub atmosphere", but I wasn't looking for that today, although to be fair we were seated in what was more of a dining area than the bar.

Cider - 2
Tuna - (0) but 3 for my meal
Atmosphere - 2 (more of an eatery than a pub)

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Lamb and Flag, Cribbs, Bristol.


It’s Tuesday. I’ve been shopping at The Mall. I’ve a couple of hours to waste before going to the 02 Academy. 

Pop in here and have a bite to eat and a drink maybe?

It looks like a pub … but it’s a Harvester.  Harvesters like to pass themselves off as pubs. But they’re not.  Not by any stretch of the imagination

For example … the only cider they offer is draught Strongbow or Blackthorn or perhaps a tempting bottle of Magners. Original or Pear.  Bleugh. Stop it now.

A gaggle of shop workers come and join me at the bar, this is obviously a regular stop off on the way home.  Poor dears.

But perhaps, despite the bar, it’s a pub-food serving restaurant?  Maybe.  But what’s all this about “as much salad as you can eat”?  What sort of respectable pub-goer wants to eat salad?

And there’s no jacket potatoes or sandwiches on the menu … it’s all steak, grills and combos.  It’s monstrous and I want to leave right now.

At the table behind me sit a couple of young men.  One of them asks the waiter if he can “Get a spit roast please” … and then he and his partner go back to discussing the benefits of cruising. It’s a few moments before I realise that they mean the high seas variety! But it’s sad that this was the highlight of my visit – and purely down to my childish sense of humour …

Cider 0
Food 0
Atmosphere 0

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Pyne’s Bar, The Bedford Hotel, Sidmouth


This year I won’t be staying at my usual hotel for Sidmouth for Folk Fest. Instead I’m going to save some money and have booked somewhere cheaper. However, being wary that the place might turn out to be not of my normal standard the decision was taken to go on a recce this weekend to check it out …

And so it is that I find myself getting blown along the Promenade at Sidmouth. Seriously, it’s incredibly windy, the waves are angry and I’m starting to get cold … Having reached the end of the Prom I’m really looking forward to the walk back, when the wind won’t be in my face!  After being forced up Jacob’s Ladder (a very high and open set of steps that lead me to whinge all the way up that I might get blown away) I manage to get out of the wind to admire the Connaught Gardens and then it’s back to the cold of the Prom again.  And now it’s also starting to rain … time to seek shelter.

Normally when I come to Sidmouth my pub of choice is The Ship in Old Fore Street – the food and choice of cider are excellent. But today I’m persuaded that a window seat in The Bedford Hotel with a view of the sea would be a perfect way to enjoy the town without getting cold and wet.

I’ve been to The Bedford before a few times, it’s a reasonable enough venue during Folk Fest – I’ve never had occasion to eat here though, eating is more of an afterthought when you are concentrating on the music and taking photographs of the sock and sandal combinations …

And so to the bar … I must admit that I usually frequent The Bedford later on in the evening when I visit Sidmouth, and by then I’ve already sampled a variety of ciders in the other establishments in town.  So it comes as a shock to discover that the only cider on offer is … Thatcher’s Gold.  I’m seriously starting to dislike the sight of that name on a pump now.  Gold seems to be taking over from Strongbow and Blackthorn as the must-have cider for Landlords. And whilst anything has to be better than the aforementioned fizzy rubbish it does seem to be at the expense of some of Thatcher’s other offerings – Katy for example. Why do so many pubs seem to think having a cider on draught and some bottles of Magners and Bulmers is enough to keep the cider drinkers happy? 

And breathe and relax, I take a seat by the window from where I can survey the weather buffeting the more hardier souls and consult the menu.  It’s a very posh menu – smoked haddock served on a bed of spinach, golden fried fish and chips with peas and tartare sauce or soup served with a cheese sandwich for the princely sum of £8.00.  There’s a selection of sandwiches too – but of course, we are now in Lyme Bay … so no Tuna on the menu.  Instead it’s crab.   It arrives promptly, with a nice dressed salad garnish and a handful of crisps. All jolly tasty, but not tuna … I do like my tuna.   Ah well ... roll on July when  I can get back to The Ship and decent cider!

Cider – 2 (I’m getting totally fed up of Gold) 
Tuna 0 – but (3) for my crab sandwich 
Atmosphere 2 – the pensioners seem to love it, but for me it’s not the same without the sound of flute, ukulele and bodhran.

Friday, 4 February 2011

My local ...

A chalkboard in the entrance to my local proudly boasts that they have nine ciders on sale. It's a Somerset pub in the heart of cider-producing territory so you would hope they have a decent offering. Let's take a closer look ...

On draught we have

1. Strongbow

2. Blackthorn

Both of which are mass-produced carbonated rubbish.

In bottles:-

3. Bulmers 

4. Magners (Irish cider ... Hmmph)

Another couple of mass-produced, over-carbonated pop masquerading as cider.

5. WKD Core

6. Brothers Strawberry

I don't know how they can call either of these cider.

7. Aspalls Draught

8. Aspalls Dry

Not Somerset produced, and not a traditional cloudy scrumpy, but in the absence of anything better I like a bottle of Aspalls, particularly the 7% dry. It's got quite a distinct apple taste - not too sharp and not too dry. And the best bit is ... I'm one of the few people trusted with the special Aspalls glass!    

9. Aspalls Blush

Although they don't actually have amy of this in at the moment, nor space on the shelves. Which doesn't bother me. The time I tried some it reminded me of being a teenager and drinking 'cider'n'black' on a nearby town's practically derelict pier and almost falling through the planking on the way home. Before being jolly ill.

Tonight the rugby is on, the place is packed, so far Enfland are winning. Everyone seems happy ... It's very noisy - the sort of cacophony you get when men get over-excited, but it's nice to see the place busy. 

Later I shall probably venture forth for a kebab. The chef here tries his best, there are ham or cheese rolls behind the bar and the specials board features lamb shank or grilled bacon and everything comes with chips.  But judging from the smell that emanates from the kitchen they don't seem to change the chip fat very often and that has always put me off grabbing a bite to eat here.  
  
Cider - 3.5 (that score is purely for the Aspalls but then this place is not a free house, so I suppose they are doing their best!)  Tuna - 0 (but the kebab is always good) Atmosphere - 5. It's my local after all.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The New Inn, Priddy


Ooh la la.  It’s Sunday and it’s busy - locals and outdoor loving geology student types, it’s a bit late for food – this was an afterthought after all, but the cider, ohhhhhhh … the cider.

How many varieties are there? Goodness ... six on draught, 10 in boxes and about another seven bottled. Every product produced by Bristol based Original Cider Company and Glastonbury based Orchard Pig is on sale here. So much choice – so little time and then there’s the driving home to consider …

I settle for a half of Bristol Port (rich, ruby and with the slight port taste that comes from standing in old port barrels for a while) and scan the bar area, to my left is the entrance to “The Cider Barn” – an area of the pub set aside for cider drinkers, complete with straw, barrels and decorated with shelf loads of empty cider bottles. Over the other side of the bar the geology students are finishing their lunch before embarking on another outdoor pursuit and behind me a bunch of locals are discussing their hangovers from the night before. 
The chap I assume to be the Landlord must have had a heavy week – he certainly seems to have had a sense of humour bypass and has the air of someone who can’t wait to close up for the day. Which is a shame, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt for today.

A glass of  InnCider next – well it seemed rude not to, after all this is a cider created especially for the New Inn by Orchard Pig. It’s not bad, but it soon becomes apparent that I’m really not going to be able to sample everything on the cider menu – the chauffeur is complaining that he hates being in a pub and not being able to drink …

Well, we could always return for The Priddy Folk Festival I suggest – except there is a slight snag with that idea. I don’t do camping. And I’m not allowed to buy the VW campervan that I covet … maybe if I bring him out here a few more times and he realises that he’s still not going to be able to sample all the ciders he might relent and the VW will be mine …

Score

Cider – 5  Tuna – (0) not sampled this time! Atmosphere – 1 (grumpy landlord today)

Well worthy of a second visit to up the score methinks …

The Bear Inn, Wiveliscombe

It's another cold January Saturday. I'm totally fed up of being indoors and so we decide that a car ride is in order.  It's my turn to choose the destination.  I think about local places I've never been to. And settle on Wellington. It's not far and it might be interesting ...

It's not. It reminds me of my home town, charity shops, cafes, supermarkets and boarded up town centre shops - although they do still have a couple of gift shops which is more than we do!  There is a lovely looking fish and game shop, but I'm not allowed to buy the Arbroath smokies because I won't have time to eat them in the morning.

We walk around the town centre, admiring some of the buildings and reading the plaques adorned to some of them detailing the history of the property.  However, when we seem to have seen everything it's still a bit early for lunch. We head back to the car and decide to drive to Wiveliscombe.

A short time later we park the car and wander up the hill to what I assume must be the centre. There's a co-op, a library with empty book shelves, an antiques shop, a butchers, a gun shop and The Old Courthouse - a small three storey department store which looks both outside and inside like a mini version of Liberty.  It seems an odd combination of shops, but then this is Somerset and when I think about it all needs are covered!

Wiveliscombe is home to two breweries - Cotleigh and Exmoor and it was once able to boast that it had 28 pubs.  Some of the previous 28 sites form The Brewery Plaque Trail, and these premises are marked with ceramic and glass tiles to denote their previous existence as a pub - The Anchor is depicted by a fish, The Bristol by the SS Great Britain and so on. Spotting the plaques makes for a great game!  But the wind chill is getting up and it's time to decide which of the three pubs to visit.

The Old Court House has a cellar bar, The White Hart is big and ... white and The Bear Inn looks to have a higgledy-piggledy feel to it. The Bear it is then! Locals are sat playing crib, reading papers, chatting and availing themselves of the cheap-to-pensioners lunches. It's really busy in here and so nice to see people partaking of the old-fashioned form of entertainment. I try to remember how to play cribbage, I used to play with my Grandfather when I was younger, but the rules and aims of the game have sadly completely slipped from my memory.

As befits a freehouse set twixt two breweries they offer both Cotleigh and Exmoor Ales, but when it comes to cider it's Gold on offer.  Not to worry. One day I will find a pub with something different on sale.  The menu is proper pub food - ham, egg, and chips, steak and ale pie and proper steak and kidney pudding and the specials board includes pork and leek sausages with mash.  Amongst the jacket potatoes and sandwich filllings I spy tuna and mayonnaise and choose to have it in a granary baguette.

It arrives with a very small salad garnish and I commence cutting it into manageable pieces.  The bread is delicious, the filling less so - the tuna has not been drained fully and there's not enough mayo to disguise the brine.  I set to work with cucumber and salad cream to try to take away some of the salty taste. It works!  I save half for later and have a chat with the pensioners to my left about the fact that due to Somerset County Council's threat to close of the library (in common with several libaries in the county) the residents have checked all the books out, hence the empty shelves!

This is the sort of place that I'd like to return to on a warmer day, to spend longer strolling around the street admiring the buildings, if I run out of places to visit I'll be back.

Score:- Cider - 2   Baguette -  2 Atmosphere - 4

George Inn, Nettlebridge

It’s Sunday again.  Time for a walk … And this week it’s off to Nettlebridge for a stroll through the forest and surrounding countryside before popping into a nearby pub for lunch!

The walk through Harridge Woods follows a stream which flows past caves, ruined water mills, cottages and dormouse conservation areas. I love the sound of running water and also exploring old ruins so I was in my element. After two hours we were back at the car and ready for the short drive to The George. 

The George was until recently known as The Nettlebridge Inn.  It’s been rebranded and the menu offers fare akin to a Harvester – “All meals include free salad” pronounced a chalk board at the entrance to the car park.

As I approach the bar my eyes scan the pumps – Thatcher’s Gold? Check. Oooh Rich’s on draught too!  And what’s this? Lilley & Sons Apples and Pears? I’ve never heard of that one before. And that’s not a cider-making name I’ve come across either.  I’m not really an apple and pear lover though, so I decide to order the Rich’s.  “Are you sure?” says the barman, “I saw you looking at the Apples & Pears – would you like to try a bit?” Now I’m not one to turn down a free sample, so I acquiesce.  It’s a different taste – reminds me a bit of nail varnish (not that I’ve ever partaken of nail varnish, what I mean is, it tastes of the smell of nail varnish) but it slips down easily and I’m thirsty! The barman tells me that it is produced “down the road” and I make a note to check it out later. 

I order a pint and consult the menu. The chauffeur laughs, and tells me that he knows what I'm going to have. I huffily tell him that I have to have the thing he knows I'm going to have because I'm doing research for the book I'm writing "I'll have a pint of cider and a tuna baguette please". I explain (or make up on the spot) that this is the reason we have been visiting so many pubs and I have been mainly choosing the tuna baguette for lunch ... it hasn't been, it's just I think I'm addicted to tuna baguettes, but I like the idea. And so here we are ...

No baguettes on offer here though, but I can have a tuna and mayonnaise sandwich on granary bread.  And so I do! I take a seat at a table and wonder if “All meals” includes sandwiches.  The place is reminiscent of a Harvester inside as well - it’s packed with people having lunch and seems very popular.  But it’s not really a pub anymore. I wonder if there is another bar elsewhere, but a quick look seems to indicate not.

My sandwich arrives, thick bread and served on a bed of tortilla chips (bleugh).  I take a mouthful and decide that what this sandwich really needs is some red onion.  I sneak to the salad bar!  Putting a few bits of red onion, cucumber and sweetcorn on a plate I return to my chair and set about customising my sandwich. Delicious. (Although half goes into the handbag for later!)

When I get a phone signal I google Lilley & Son. Hmmph. They are actually the distributor for The Original Cider Company range (Broadoak, Bristol Port etc.) and Apples & Pears is made for them by The OCC. I feel a little cheated, because I thought I’d found a new cider farm to visit …

Cider – 3   Tuna Baguette – 3 (in original form, 4 after I’d souped it up!) Atmosphere - 1

The Chapel, Cotford St Luke

For those that don’t know it Cotford St Luke is a relatively new village built on the site of the former Tone Vale Hospital. Some people must still feel that there is some sort of stigma attached to the name “Tone Vale” (it was the Somerset County Asylum) for the new development has been renamed “Cotford St Luke”. I’m not sure where the Cotford bit comes from, but the hospital chapel in the grounds was known as the “Church of St Luke”. 

The hospital was built in about 1895 and closed its doors 100 years later; remaining empty for a few years (if like me you have an attachment to wrecks, ruins and relics you can still find some fascinating photos taken whilst it was empty on sites such as www.whateversleft.co.uk and www.urbexforums.co.uk) until building work started around it. The hospital itself has now been (and in parts is still being) renovated and remodelled as apartments as have many of the other original buildings, plenty of modern estate houses have sprung up in and around the site and after driving around for a bit we reach our destination - The Chapel itself.  Now transformed into a pub/restaurant and surrounded by little boxes it makes a change from the normal “XXth Century Coaching Inn”.

It’s 2.00pm on a Saturday. Outside the place is a little untidy but inside The Chapel is huge – and practically empty. A family of five (including granddad and grandma) are finishing a meal, and there’s one other person at the bar.  The place has been tastefully modernised, a mezzanine dining level has been put in and there must be seating for about 100 people both up there and down in the bar area. I sneak a look at the evening menu (no tuna baguette here – the kitchen is now shut), it’s all chicken stuffed with brie, slow roasted belly pork, lamb shank, grilled sea bass and three different types of steak - the sort of thing that seems to depressingly be becoming standard evening "gastro" pub fare nowadays.

All is not lost. The Chapel prides itself on being a CAMRA pub and offers a selection of beers and ciders from the Cotleigh Brewery.  Sadly the beers may be real, but the cider offering is dire – Swedish (what on earth do Swedes know about making cider?) – two different fruit flavours or an alcohol free (?!?!) variety … But good old Gold is also on offer, so I settle for a half.

After having a really good look around, trying to work out which of the interior fittings are original (the tiles) and which have been reclaimed from elsewhere (practically everything else!) I take a seat in the squishy, comfy chairs near the fireplace and avail myself of the pile of magazines on a nearby coffee table.  The place is eerily quiet – but then most of the local residents are probably out shopping and I would imagine that this place really wants to be a restaurant rather than a pub.

Seems a bit unfair to give it a score since it was standard Thatcher’s cider, I didn’t sample any food and there was no atmosphere because it was empty!  Maybe I should return for an evening meal – although to be honest the idea depresses me.

As I leave I take a quick look around the outside.  The building really is beautiful but its new setting amongst all these identikit boxes make me feel quite sorry for it and the depressed feeling increases ... maybe it's actually quite apt given the location.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

The Red Tile, Cossington

It’s mid-week again and I’m struck down by another bout of “Can cook, but won’t cook”-itis. I suggest a trip out for a meal and am asked to choose a pub.  The outlying villages in this part of the world all boast a decent pub with decent food – it’s just the town that doesn’t! Axbridge, Bleadon, Burtle, Cross … and that’s just villages starting with the  first three letters of the alphabet … I choose Cossington.  It’s a while since I’ve been there and the last time I went I had the most delicious Lemon Sole.

The Red Tile is a popular pub with foodies and locals alike.  Many of the tables are already reserved when we get there, but we squeeze in on the remaining one in the small dining area (there’s a larger area too, but it’s a bit more out of the way).  From my seat I can see through into the ordinary bar where the local skittles team are gathered. It’s a busy night.  And it’s going to get busier … my eye is drawn to a sign telling me that tonight is “Acoustic Night” – I love a bit of music.

Now … this is where I deviate from my quest slightly … I’ve not been feeling well for some time – a general lack of energy, tiredness and some other symptoms we won’t go into! A friend suggests I try cutting out the carbs in my diet for a while and to see how I get on.  I've tried it for a time at the weekend and felt better, so I thought I'd really try and stick to it for a couple of weeks. Trouble is, no carbs means … no bread … and no cider.  And so tonight I’m going to have to order a glass of dry white wine instead (compared to cider wine is practically carb-free!). And due to the no bread rule I won’t be able to have a tuna baguette either … Please don’t be too disappointed dear reader … I can still give you a feel for the place!

So to go with my white wine I order a bacon-wrapped chicken breast and salad.  The chicken breast is HUGE, quite the biggest I’ve ever seen – they must breed massive chickens out here on the Somerset levels - much like us girls when it comes to breasts.   The salad offers more than the average "garnish" – mixed leaf, peppers, cucumber, tomato, beetroot and a splodge of coleslaw.  The menu here is large and varied – the specials board actually runs to six boards – including one for starters, one for fish, one detailing the two pies of the day  and one for puddings! A large menu tends to worry me – how much of it can really be “freshly prepared”? But despite my misgivings, I have to say I’ve never had a bad meal at The Red Tile.

As I finish my meal the band (The Polden Ridge Mountain Boys) strike up a rousing version of “The Gypsy Rover” and I join in … well, by now my glass of wine has turned into a bottle and a glass … Forty-five minutes later the chauffeur practically has to drag me out to the car.

So how to score The Red Tile? Since I can’t give my usual mark out of five for the cider availability, another mark out of five for the tuna baguette, and a further mark out of five for the general atmosphere of the pub ... I shall have to put the marks for wine and food in brackets instead …

So The Red Tile scores ... 0 (3) – 0 (4) - 4

The Carew Arms, Crowcombe

Now this is what I call a pub!  The sort that some people whould say needs of a good lick of paint – both inside and outside! The only problem is we are now on the way home after having lunch at The Ball Ball Inn … not to worry, we can sample a drink and the atmosphere surely?

There’s one space left in the car park … always a sign of a popular pub – but is it popular for the right reason? We walk around to the front and head towards the door, passing a room set out as a “tea room” complete with tables, chairs, and plastic teacloths. Quaint … but at the same time rather ominous. I don’t think I’ve ever come across a pub with a tearoom attached!

We bypass the tearoom and now face a choice of two doors.  I select the left hand one, tentatively push it open and enter the bar.  It’s immediately obvious that this is where the locals gather – and there’s quite a crowd of them.  The serving area here is more of a hatch which was almost impossible to get to, given that two large locals are stood in front of it!  But we manage.  I daren’t ask for a glass of wine, it really doesn’t seem to be that sort of place, so I ask for a half of cider instead. Sadly I couldn’t see what sort of cider it was, because I couldn’t really see the pumps … but it tasted good, which is what counts! 

We took a seat at a rustic table and I surveyed my surroundings.  I love a pub that looks as if it hasn’t been decorated in decades, the paint here is that lovely shade of creamy yellow which you don’t often see now that the smoking ban has been in force for a few years. As befits a pub on Exmoor the d├ęcor would offend animal-rights campaigners – plenty of reminders of hunts gone by.  A huge inglenook fireplace complete with roaring fire kept the room warm and the highlight of my visit was discovering that they sold Double Diamond – a real blast from the past!  The locals were trying to recall the date that a photograph had been taken, based on the fact that they were watching a television in the bar – it had to have been brought in for a special occasion, maybe the Royal Wedding? What year as that?  In the quest for an answer they even included us in the discussion, which was lovely, too often you feel a sense of them and us when you visit pubs other than your local!

The smells wafting from the large dining room to the rear of the pub were good – probably a roast was being served, but since we eaten we couldn’t indulge!  I would imagine that this is another pub popular with walkers and cyclists, but hopefully I’ll get a chance to return here to sample the cuisine another day. 

Cider 3,  Tuna Baguette 0 – already eaten,  Atmosphere - 5

The Blue Ball Inn, Triscombe

It’s Sunday.  I fancy a nice walk in the countryside followed by lunch in a pub …

And so we set off for the Quantocks. As we near our destination the weather starts to close in, and by the time we get to Dead Woman’s Ditch it’s misty and raining and I haven’t brought my walking boots or a waterproof coat, so I’m not really dressed for this sort of weather.  Looks like the walk is cancelled … but that doesn’t rule out the pub lunch does it?!

And so we drive around for a bit admiring Quantock villages and houses and eventually find ourselves at The Blue Ball Inn.  This place features in the Good Pub Guide and from the outside it is a lovely old thatched barn (I’ve heard a story that says the place was rolled down the hill to its present location – not sure if that is true or not!) and inside it is all wooden ceilings and stairs. You go up a staircase to get to the dining area and up another staircase to reach the bar. Rows of long benches and narrow tables fill the bar area, and today there’s a dog flaked out in front of a wood burner at one end of the room.  It’s a popular pub with walkers and cyclists, but today there aren’t many of either and instead it’s full of three generation families eating their Sunday roast. Unfortunately the bar area also seems to be populated by some of those over-eager-parents and their offspring – you know, the ones who call their children “darling” and give in to their every demand – the ones I want to give a good clip around the ear … and not just the children. However, I glare at any that think they might like to sit next to me and manage to spend an agreeable hour reading the paper, drinking and eating without having to sit on my hands!

Once again Thatcher’s Gold is on offer (does no one else make a draught cider?).  No, we haven’t booked a table we tell the barman. We can look at the menu but … the place is due to change hands tomorrow and so food stocks have been run right down  … if we’d like to place an order they will check with chef on availability. 

I settle for a cheese/ham ploughmans – unsure if that’s a choice that I haven’t made or if I am going to get both cheese and ham.  And, phew, chef can oblige! And thank goodness for that, when it arrives it looks lovely – a chunk of cheddar, two thick slices of delicious ham, two pickled onions, a small salad, hunk of bread (which I drool at but which has to remain untouched!), two types of chutney and a dollop of onion marmalade! Scrumptious!!  The chauffeur has chosen a beef sandwich – one and a half rounds of doorstep bread with thick chunks of beef  betwixt – luckily for me tuna mayonnaise sandwiches weren’t on the menu, otherwise I think the new regime may just have been given the boot a week early!

The plan is to return here another day to maybe sample the smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwich (which wasn’t available today) the nearest thing to Tuna and Mayo on offer here – that’s how posh this place is!

Since I can’t give my usual mark out of five for the cider availability, another mark out of five for the tuna baguette, and a further mark out of five for the general atmosphere of the pub ... I shall have to put the marks for the food in brackets instead … 

Cider - 2  Tuna Baguette 0 – not available so (3) for the food.  Atmosphere - 1