It may surprise you, dear reader, that we don’t go in every pub we pass on Herbie, even when we know some of them to be good ones! However there are certain pubs that are difficult not to visit when in the vicinity and some of the ones we have visited this year find their way on to our Best Pub 2016 shortlist. Bear in mind that this year our cruising pattern has been a bit restricted so we’re basically talking about the canal between Paddington and Oxford via Braunston.
What makes a Good Pub? Well for this Award were judging them on the basis of ambience, friendliness, how well they keep and serve their booze. Our winner would have to be somewhere we could happily spend an evening with or without friends, in comfort, and with good company from the locals.
We hear a lot about pub closures and landlords struggling under the burdens imposed by the PubCos. Whilst all that is true, our shortlist shows that a good pub, properly run can be very successful. So here we go. We’ve whittled it down to three lovely pubs that have a great atmosphere and a strong following. Follow the red links to their web sites.
We’ve already mentioned the Warwick Castle in Little Venice in respect of their food, but it’s here now because of the atmosphere. It’s a proper pub where and wherever you look, people are enjoying being there. The beer is well kept and the staff are efficient and friendly. Also, it has a bit of character with its Victorian fittings. Lots of boaters love it, partly because the beer is about a pound cheaper than the Bridge House across the canal.. In the summer people like to sit outside in the little narrow street.
Much further up the GU, we come to the Rising Sun at Berkhamsted, or should we say The Riser at Berko. I recall one visit a few years back when we were disappointed, but on this year’s visit it was well back on form. It’s small, it’s crowded, the hubub of conversation can be noisy, but that’s ‘cos it’s very popular. People go there for the beer, which is varied and always good, and the atmosphere. Don’t dress up and don’t expect to lounge in an easy chair. Don’t expect fancy period features, or nasty modern ones either. It’s a good old fashioned local, although frequented largely, I suppose, by people of age thirty plus. A proper pub, right on the canal side, where you can sit out in summer.
Well, I suppose we have to include Ye Olde Reine Deer in Banbury, even though it’s a five minute walk from the canal. It’s a lovely old building where the staff are particularly good and the beer is very well kept. It gets busy, but not over full and there are some lovely nooks and crannies to sit in. It’s cosy in the winter, or there’s a nice old courtyard for summer nights. I suppose they ought to be good at it by now, having first opened in 1560 something.
If you were taking an overseas friend to have their first experience of a proper English pub, all of these would do very nicely. I also think I’m right in saying they all do quiz nights if, like us, you enjoy them.
May I also give a special mention to the Old Bookbinders in Oxford. The only reason we haven’t short listed them is that we have only been there once, and then only for a quick meal. I strongly suspect that had we spent more time there and sat in the bar, it would have been a very strong contender.
I think this will be a tough one to pick. The results show is tomorrow. Then maybe we’ll have a little break with a photo quiz.