I’ve been away on holidays last week in the Sunny South (yes, really, apart from one day), dividing my time between quirky Thanet and comfortable West Sussex. As ever, I’m not into blow-by-blow descriptions, but these are a few observations.
|The Queen's Arms, Newton, Cambridgeshire|
Features in every edition of the Good Beer Guide
- The South seems to do both non-food-dominated rural and village pubs, and middle-class urban locals, better than the North. Possibly something to do with demography or settlement patterns, but still very noticeable. The Queen’s Head in Newton, Cambridgeshire, pictured above – one of only five pubs to have appeared in every Good Beer Guide – is an example of the former. You just don’t get pubs like that around here, more’s the pity.
- The line of blokes sitting at the bar seems to be a South-East speciality. In one pub there was a solid row of stools with backs, and the only way you could reach the bar was over their shoulders. This does, however, tend to promote a bit of banter. One dubious classic of political wisdom I overhead was “if we’d kept the closed shop we wouldn’t have all this trouble with immigration”.
- Beer prices in the small independent pubs in Thanet are often cheaper than round here, with £2.50 spotted a couple of times, and £3 being common.
- In one Good Beer Guide pub, I was served a pint of complete vinegar. It was changed without demur, and I was given back the price difference between it and the alternative beer, but even so that shouldn’t happen. It can’t have been much better twenty-four hours earlier. In another, the barmaid said “Let me know what that’s like, it’s getting near the end.” Given that it looked like soup, I immediately asked for a replacement, but she looked slightly put out that I had made no attempt to taste it.
- There’s a fine line in pubs between lived-in and just plain messy. Having artefacts cluttering up the seats is usually a sure sign of the latter, and you do wonder whether the cellar is the same. Martin Taylor knows which pub I’m referring to.
- We’ve been discussing recently the need to improve cask beer quality at the point of sale. Classic example, in a non-GBG pub that I had visited for food. Pint of Shepherd Neame Master Brew. £3.80, which is normal for that part of the world. Temperature fine, but very little condition and a slight haze. No discernible off-flavours, but little hint of on-flavours either. Not returnable in my book, but you can understand why many drinkers would go for the Carling tap as a default.
- The point can’t be reiterated too often that pubs in tourist areas with high pedestrian traffic really should display their menus outside, rather than just saying “Good food - see inside for full menu.”
|The Montefiore Arms, Ramsgate, a classic backstreet local,|
with classic early 60s Vauxhall Cresta
|Commemorative Kent coalfield plates,|
spotted in the King's Head, Deal
|An oldie but a goodie - the Ship, Itchenor, West Sussex|