I’ve really been noticing the welcome, or lack of it, in pubs recently. Pub Curmudgeon and Tandleman have both posted on this, and it’s pretty much the main thread through BRAPA. Welcomes, of course, come from both staff and other customers.
I’ve had good and bad this week. The bad experience, in a smart Wiltshire town, was clearly my fault because I speak Estuary/Fen, and failed to notice that everyone else was drinking pints of Courage before ordering my effete half of Butcombe Gold. If you can work out where I was there’s a pint of Thatchers Gold on the bar at the Vaults for you.
I found Andover very friendly earlier this year, and the village of Kimpton just to the west felt like a continuation in terms of feel if nothing else. The Welcome Stranger is the sort of farming village pub you occasionally find in East Yorkshire or rural Suffolk, but is actually on the edge of Kimpton Barracks, with the hills below Perham Down as a beautiful backdrop.
The Stranger advertises proper pub hours (12-4, 7-11), but looked decidedly closed when I tipped up at 2, with more activity from the adjacent farm than in a pub. The owners beckoned me in to their home, a pub with the atmosphere that places nowadays attempt but fail to replicate. The owners have been here 20 years +, which rather begged the question of how it’s been overlooked for so long.
I’m always over-impressed by pubs that use the old-style handpumps (particularly with Bass, Pedigree or London Pride on them), and the 6X pump in the side room is a gem.
The landlord was admirably performing childminding duties (i.e. he managed more than 2 minutes with the baby before handing over to the wife). I was delighted he didn’t feel the need to apologise that the pub did no food apart from some proper cobs/rolls/baps.
Despite the call of 6X, I can’t resist Otter at the moment, and this was further confirmation of the consistency of the Bitter when cared for properly (NBSS 3.5). I enjoyed it as much as anything all year, which was as much to do with the proper pub seating and the stillness of the rooms.
It was the unaffected welcome from the locals that stuck in the mind though. This is clearly a place the village comes to chat and drink, not to complain about condiments.
I don’t often volunteer the fact I’ve travelled specifically to a pub, but in a place like Kimpton you’d never stumble across it’s hard to avoid the question. For my hardship of a 5 minute detour off the A303, I was presented with a very useful pen, which I feel I ought to declare. Goodness know what Simon Everitt will blag off them, but I’m sure he’ll be impressed.