Now we come to the ever popular Food and Drink section of the awards. And we’ll start with Pubs. We may well have awards for best pub meal and best pint later!
Just occasionally on our cruises we visit a public house. All in the spirit of supporting local business you understand. This year we seem to have supported quite a few of them and while some were better than others we do have a few we can recommend. In fact we have a longer than usual shortlist. But which did we like most?
We’ll present them in chronological order of our first visit- all this year of course. At most of them I was too much of a hurry to get in to stop to take a photo!
1. The Folly Inn at Napton
With his handlebar moustache and occasional bowler hat (or even a pith helmet!) the new landlord has wrought a welcome change in this well situated pub. It’s cosy, friendly, unpretentious, full of interesting nick nacks, and they try hard to please the customer. The beer is excellent ( Hook Norton) and the food tasty and reasonably priced. Following our original visit, when we stayed an extra day because it was so good, we’ve been back twice. Good moorings a short walk round the corner.
2. The Greyhound at Hawkesbury Junction
People told us we should stop there and they were right. Immediately alongside the junction bridge, you can sit outside pint in hand and watch the longer boats fail to make the turn in one go. Splendid entertainment. Inside it gets better. Bags of character, an unusual and impressive menu and staff who all seem to be able to describe the character of the ales on offer. The beer itself is kept to perfection and features the best of local brews. Just down the canal bank there is a good visitor mooring area.
3. The Foxton Locks Inn
This made the shortlist on a number of accounts although at first glance it’s not our sort of pub. Right alongside the bottom of the famous locks, this is a big pub catering for tourists. We decide to eat there and apart from the good beer (with a discount for card carrying CAMRA members), the food service was excellent despite it being very busy. Afterwards we sat in comfy sofas for another pint, and Kath managed to lose her mobile phone. On reporting this the staff took great concern and made huge efforts to try and find it. Phoning it was no good as the signal there is terrible. Kath called in next day and they had found it for her underneath the sofa! Nice to find a big busy pub with such friendly and personal service.
4. The Blue Bell Cider House on the Stratford Canal north of Lapworth.
This large and somewhat plain pub was extra friendly and so helpful in helping us get fed when we arrived after the kitchen closed. They ordered a Chinese takeaway for us and supplied the plates and cutlery when it came. The locals were very friendly and the real draft cider scrump(y)tious. They have their own small landing stage and more mooring opposite over the adjacent bridge.
5. The Tom o’ the Wood – Rowington Grand Union Canal (north of Hatton)
Sadly we only popped in for a quickie at lunchtime as we passed, but we really want to go back. Only recently reopened, this pub is smarter than the average, a bit up market, but didn’t turn a hair at our less than sartorial appearance. Comfy armchairs, very friendly and helpful staff and Old Rosie cider. The menu looked very inviting. Visitor moorings opposite.
Honourable mentions for foody pubs go to a couple of Otters, both from the Vintage Inns chain – the Otter in Kegworth on the River Soar where we moored two feet from the door, and the Tame Otter canalside in Hopwas on the Birmingham and Fazeley not far from Lichfield. Both eateries really and not very pubby but they sell good beer too. Rather too much of it at the Tame Otter where we were led astray by the Indigo Dreamers! Lastly the Beehive in Curdworth on the B&F, too far from the canal to qualify but good food, beer and service at low low prices.
We did visit a fair few more and the standard these days is often better than of yore, although we didn’t hit upon a proper little local boozer to recommend. I’m sure we missed a few. The only place to really disappoint us was a very well known canalside pub in, of all places, Braunston. I know we’re not the only ones in this respect.