It’s no exaggeration to say the right pub(s) can make or break a holiday – and I’m talking UK hols here. After a recent long weekend away in Sheringham, Norfolk here are my thoughts on what pubs can do to measure up to the holiday spirit.
I want local beer – and a variety of it. Only stocking best-sellers from big regional brewers that can also be found in every other pub throughout Britain doesn’t cut it. See my previous post about holidaying in Cornwall. Of course the beer-tie often puts pay to this as it shackles publicans in more ways than one.
I want to feel like it’s my local – but I appreciate there’s a balancing act between me and your regulars. I’d like to opportunity to get some grub no matter what time of day it is – and not just a packet of crisps. I’ll stick around if there’s something to keep Beer Husband and I amused – a pool table or a stack of board games offers a great way to pass a relaxing few hours.
With this in mind our pub of the weekend had to be The Village Inn, West Runton.
Although it doesn’t serve food all day (it serves at lunchtime and then again in the evening) the beer was marvellous, the service friendly and there were board games. We arrived at around half three and played Chess and Scrabble over pints of Grain Brewery’s Oak (3.8%), a flavour-packed hoppy session ale, and Beeston’s On the Huh (5%) a strong, dark bitter with a noticeable chocolatey flavour and munched on a packet of pork scratchings until evening food service started at 6pm. The pub is fab inside and out – owing to an impressive mock-Tudor building and a large garden with more than 70 tables. The food was top notch too.
Runners-up were The Lobster Inn, Sheringham – which had a decent selection of ales (but not much to mark it out from other local pubs), friendly staff, good food and a classic seaside pub interior with plenty of fishing memorabilia and pictures of the Sheringham Lifeboat – and The George Hotel, Cley which offered four cask ales including quite well-kept (it was somewhat too cool) Woodforde’s Wherry (3.8%) a golden ale, citrussy and refreshing with a dry finish great for a hot day and Yetman’s Beer (3.8%) a coppery, chestnut brown brew with pleasant marmaladey flavour. I found the atmosphere in The George a little lacking but spotting its bird-related decor and a huge tome called The Bird Bible in bird sightings may be recorded (Cley is a renowned birdwatching location) had me making plans to give it a second chance.
There were two ‘also rans’ of the weekend. Although we stayed at The Two Lifeboats, Sheringham, we were uninspired by its menu and even though there were two beers from Wolf Brewery on the bar (along with Wherry and Adnams Ghost Ship which we spotted in many if not most of the other local pubs) there was something missing which meant it was our last night before we had a drink here. It might be down to the fact that being a sea front pub it was inevitably a tourist trap – which makes me run a mile – or perhaps my great beery expectations are just too high. In its defence – it is in a FANTASTIC location, has friendly staff (especially the marvellous chap who carried my gigantic, heavy suitcase up and down the stairs for me when I arrived/departed) and there was plenty to choose from on the menu – it just wasn’t ‘our place’ on this trip.
The other also ran was The Windham Arms. Here I found a variety of interesting, well-kept cask beers (all local) – I opted for Humpty Dumpty’s tasty Broadland Sunrise (4.2%) while Beer Husband went for Moongazer’s Ruby Ale (4.5%) – and we also had a fantastic dinner, but first impressions last. With both of us at the bar we asked for tasters but one of us didn’t like our first choice so asked for a taste of something else. The surly barman gave me a look and said, “I normally only give two tasters,” before grudgingly handing over the third and saying, “but I’m feeling pretty generous.”
Maybe I’ve been spoiled by other pubs not minding if we taste a few beers in order to select the right one, but even so we didn’t return to this pub – for fear of being treated like the world’s biggest blaggers for asking for an eggcup’s worth of beer before committing to spending £3.55 on a pint. Had the bartender been more welcoming we’d have bought more than a few and I’d probably be writing it up as pub of the weekend…
● Many pubs with accommodation are listed on the Stay in a Pub website.