Wetherspoons may be retrenching a bit, but their new (March ’16) pub in Portishead is a reminder of their ability to deliver what people want.
Portishead is a smallish town in industrial, rather than beachy Somerset coast, and the development near the Marina is long overdue. Apart from our Premier Inn there’s a Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Subway, two Italian restaurants and the Posset Cup. No guesses which place was heaving.
It’s a new-build, box-like externally but with a genuinely dazzling interior. Particularly if you live in Portishead. My parents, perusing the calorie count centre right in the photo below, were blown away. This was number 2 of 3 Spoons they made me visit on our trip this week, for a dinner and a quieter breakfast.
My dad was surprised to learn many pubgoers criticise the similarity of Spoons, as he notices the differences more than I do. He doesn’t understand pub atmosphere, but he did observe the broad church of folk the Spoons was attracting.
Enough folk drinking the beer too, to ensure the Butcombe was a health NBSS 3.5, from a Beer Fest type range including Ascot’s Stout and Nelson’s Dark Mild. I always go for the local beer, unless the locals clearly know better.
The craft line-up is one of the most impressive I’ve seen in a Spoons, and heavily promoted throughout the pub. I’ve seen other West Country Spoons make an effort too, but I can’t say I see it flying off the taps.
The presence of interesting beers (even noticeable to an octogenarian teetotaller) probably gives a positive image of the pub, rather like proper coffee machines, but I’d be interested to know whether these are selling better than “This is Lager“.
Portishead is making a real effort to market itself, and re-energise some evening trade that would otherwise head east to Bristol. The Marina wasn’t yet at Hartlepool levels, but was very pleasant in the sunset. Whether the re-establishment of the railway line to Bristol will see any trade flow from that direction is a matter of debate.
It’s not a great drinking town to be honest. I did have an excellent Bass at the Beer Guide Windmill a few years back, but that has since drifted to Fullers ownership, and I wasn’t dragging my parents a mile uphill for a pint of Pride, however well it was drinking.
One word of advice. Thatchers is a decent cider, but should never be drunk on top of a pint of Butcombe, even if it is free with your meal.