A pleasing number of new entries in industrial Derbyshire this year, and a rare visit to Ashby-de-la-Zouch, one of the great town names.
Ashby hasn’t had a Beer Guide entry in my beery lifetime, so I’m amazed they’ve allowed Smisby to claim the Smisby Tap. Despite the name, it’s closer to Ashby (if you walk the wrong way like I did, anyway). I bet Skelmersdale wouldn’t give up their entry to Lathom without a fight if the Railway Tavern ever gets in the Guide.
I spent half an hour looking round the attractive little village of Smisby (population: 75 octogenarians in an arboretum), bewildered by a pub called the Smisby Arms that I though might be the Tap, and what looked like a micropub but turned out to be a furnace
A mile south of the village, the Tap is a typical hard working dining pub and motel on the road out to Burton, and not far from this Art Deco classic;
It was pleasant in a way that would appeal more to the casual diner than the drinker, but good enough. The problem with pubs called “Tap” is that I feel obliged to try their own beers, particularly when they’re decked with awards. That’s a daft approach; I should have gone for the Pedigree, though the Ashby Pride was bargain and not bad (NBSS 3)
If, like me, you’re a big fan of Prosecco you’ll be impressed by the free bottle for Christmas bookings. Pubs with free Prosecco should really get a free pass into the Beer Guide in my view.
As usual I was the only customer, and had the piped Justin Bieber all to myself (I’m guessing, it could have been Lethal Bizzle). I’d have joined in a staff conversation about plans for a big trip to Portsmouth (one day Huddersfield, the next day Pompey), but that would have been a bit weird. Simon would have done that.
Ashby itself is an oddity. A largely scruffy town with a few reminders of its Spa past on a vast, featureless green. Towns that encourage you to imagine what empty spaces looked like before everything was demolished always impress me.
The castle was closed (not sure how as it had big holes in it). Not a patch on Caernarfon to be honest.
And the town had very little of enduring interest, though the culinary offer below was clearly aimed at a nighttime economy I just couldn’t envisage at lunchtime.
Ashby’s best chance of a return to the Beer Guide is via its new Spoons, which was heaving at lunchtime. Apart from the smart looking school children, the clue to Ashby’s residual poshness was the classy way that ladies dipped their chips in the ketchup.
And they make Space Raiders here. Where did I see them recently ?