Britain’s best pubs: part 2
PUBS WITH ROOMS AWARD
With an increasing number of pubs wishing to promote their rooms above the bar – or in a converted barn, coach-house or stables across the way – our inspectors have visited more bedrooms than ever for this edition. Our eclectic bunch of inns-with-rooms get full page entries and include bedrooms that range from swish suites with plasma TVs to simple but good rooms overlooking the sea. Our winners are good ‘all rounders’, too, serving excellent food, beers and wines.
Lord Poulett Arms
Hinton St George, Somerset (01460 73149)
In a ravishing village, a ravishing inn, French at heart and quietly groovy. Part pub, part country house, with walls painted in reds and greens and old rugs covering flagged floors, it fuses classical design with earthy rusticity. A fire burns on both sides of the chimney in the dining room; on one side you can sink into leather armchairs, on the other you can eat under beams at antique oak tables while candles flicker. Take refuge with the daily papers on the sofa in the locals’ bar or head past a pile of logs at the back door and discover an informal French garden of box and bay trees, with a piste for boules, a creeper-shaded terrace, a hammock. Bedrooms upstairs come in funkycountry-house style, with fancy flock wallpaper, perhaps crushed velvet curtains, a small chandelier or a carved-wood bed. Two rooms have slipper baths behind screens in the room; two have claw-foot baths in bathrooms one step across the landing; Roberts radios add to the fun. Brilliant food includes summer barbecues, Sunday roasts and the full works at breakfast. Great value and friendly to all – dogs included.
The Crown at Woodbridge
Woodbridge, Suffolk (01394 384242)
Woodbridge’s long wait for a classy inn with great food, urbane bedrooms and a cosmopolitan air is over. The 400-year-old Crown emerged from the shadows in 2009 and it’s the talk of the town.
Everyone loves the new Crown, from its pastel façade to its cool laid- back interiors and humorous touches: beneath a glass roof a wooden skiff is suspended above a long granite-topped bar. In intimate dining rooms, chef-patron Stephen David’s menu trawls Europe for inspiration and draws on Suffolk’s natural larder. Look forward to hearty dishes full of flavour and some amazing taste combinations: Cromer crab cakes with pickled ginger; braised shin of beef in chocolate beer;
Brancaster mussels; blueberry and almond tart. Wash it all down with Adnams or Meantime beers or delve into the impressive list of wines. Cosseting bedrooms decorated in simple, Nantucket style and themed in white and grey are a further attraction. There are big beds, quirky touches and a host of extras, from fruit, fresh coffee and homemade shortbread to soft bathrobes and heated bathroom floors. A chic Suffolk bolthole – unmissable!
The Black Horse
Clifton, Brighouse, West Yorkshire (01484 713862)
The Snug Bar once doubled as the village lock-up and, if it weren’t for the electric lights and the cars outside, you’d be hard pushed to remember you were in the 21st century. With flagstones and dark moody wood, the main room bears the scuffs of centuries of drinking. Settles and old tables sit around the walls; cottage windows with wobbly shutters let a little of the outside in. The fire roars in its vast hearth beneath a fine set of antique guns – so pull off your muddy boots and settle in. Sepia prints of parish cricket teams and steam tractors clutter the walls and cask ales pour from the stone ledge behind the hatch bar. The food is unfancy bar fodder, with daily specials. Ale takes pride of place; beneath a chalkboard six jacketed casks squat above drip pans. There are fine wines too, and plenty of garden.
COMMUNITY PUB AWARD
Within these pages you will find some great little locals run by enterprising, hard-working landlords who have succeeded in making their pub the hub of the community. Our shining examples are:
The Three Tuns
Bishops Castle, Shropshire (01588 638392)
Beer deliveries are a cinch for the Three Tuns. There’s been a licensed brewery next door (in a listed Victorian tower) since 1642. Pub and brewery are now under separate ownership but the pub still exclusively sells four of their beers and very good they are too. The place has an unassuming air, like the rest of this time-warp town. The separate snug, public bar and lounge have been simply redecorated with pale green paintwork, scrubbed tables and no airs and graces. (In contrast to some impressive marble loos…) A more recent addition is the oak-framed, conservatory dining room where tasty dishes may feature some unusual touches, such as chargrilled tuna in red Thai curry sauce with fried noodles. A great mix of regulars, from suits to bohemians, a real fire in the stone fireplace, and live music at weekends.
The Hollist Arms
Lodsworth, Sussex (01798 861310)
Villager and proprietor George Bristow rescued this lovely pub a few years back, injecting it with a fresh enthusiasm and stuffing the menu with great ingredients. Venison casserole, Moroccan-style lamb shank, and sausages (local, of course) served with mash and onion gravy hit the mark. Villagers prop up the long narrow bar with a pint of King’s Horsham Best; old sofas by the big fire encourage others to linger. The smaller, more intimate rooms of this former smithy have been kept: one a cosy private dining room, another a snug with armchairs, blazing fire and tables spilled with magazines and games. From the hand-cut, local-farm potato chips to the striking pink walls, pretty feather-patterned curtains and the cheerful chatter, the Hollist oozes unpretentious charm. Don’t miss the village shop in the car park.
The Shoulder of Mutton
Kirby Hill, Richmond, North Yorkshire (01748 822772)
A few miles south of Harrogate, this handsome old inn has far-reaching views over the rolling hills towards the lovely Wharfe Valley; David and Kate having been here since 2004, and the pub is the hub of village life. Outside: a child-friendly garden and ancient trees for shade on a sunny day. Inside: a proper ‘pubby’ vibe, with oak floors and beams, wood-burning stoves and old prints on rough plaster walls. David’s passion for beer is evident; guest ales feature week by week.
There’s dedication in the kitchen too, with pub classics updated for modern times; homemade chicken liver pâté comes with warm soda bread and red onion chutney, and haunch of venison with celeriac dauphinoise and mixed berry jus. This enterprising couple have also opened a shop next door, selling store cupboard staples alongside their own produce, including scrumptious pies and cakes.
For more great British pubs from Alastair Sawday get hold of Alastair Sawday’s Special Places: Pubs and Inns of England and Wales (£14.99) available to buy in all good bookshops and online at http://www.sawdays.co.uk/bookshop