Nowhere on our sceptred isle is without charm, of course, but I’ll confess my heart sinks a bit as I hit the M3 roadworks for a third time in a month, en-route for the new GBG joys of Basingstoke.
Actually, I started in Silchester, a few miles north, and I doubt folk there see themselves as Basingstokians (?) any more than Knebworth sees itself a suburb of Stevenage. Tough, you are.
You can see Silchester’s main draw in the photo above, a goal (with rock to hold goalies gloves behind) left by the Romans at Calleva Atrebatum, after which the Fullers pub is named.
My heart sinks at the thought of a lunchtime Fullers dining pub, the custom from Romans and retirees nowhere near enough to prop up this range;
As I stand at the bar, a man with a huge plate of chips asks “Are you sat at No. 17 ?” which confuses me beyond measure.
“I’m just here for a drink” brings a look of complete bewilderment.
Three different OAPs with menus, all of whom should be seated, bump into me as I wait. “You’ll be old once” says Mrs RM.
It’s an attractive pub in that Hampshire/Wiltshire/Berkshire style, but the Seafarers is only just OK (NBSS 2.5), cold and tasteless.
An old couple with cokes whispered conspiratorially, “She’s never forgiven him“. For what, I never found out. Simon would no doubt have asked them.
There was huge laughter from a leaving do in the restaurant, reminding me just how wonderful it is to be retired and not have to cope with such social nonsense. Even the Pink Floyd and Dire Straits played at an excessive volume couldn’t drown them out. I hope he enjoys his carriage clock.
Nice Michelin man.
One for Dick & Dave on their next Grand Tour. Perhaps.
In complete contrast, the Soldier’s Return is clearly one of those pubs Basingstoke inherited from non-posh Surrey in the great border switch of 1974, which are required to have blokes in their late ’50s in shorts and Chelsea shirts at all times. Drinking Carling.
Stuck up a dead end lane near the hospital, it’s one of the plainest pubs I’ve seen outside of Potters Bar, but I liked it for that. Basingstoke does this type of suburban boozer better than many, though Reading gets more of them in the Beer Guide.
The regulars, two old boys and a Rangers fan in his 20s, wouldn’t survive the Sam Smiths swearing ban.
If you believe some folk, pubs like this shouldn’t be in a Beer Guide. They major on Carling and Fosters, have no traditional pub features, and are dominated by a TV playing screechy modern music.
But they serve some excellent beer (Longdog Kismet, NBSS 3.5), and that’s all that matters as far as the GBG is concerned. A victory for North Hants CAMRA.
The inter-generational banter revolved around Spurs coming a cropper, the problems with barbecues and a heroic, but fruitless attempt to name a song.
“What’s that song John. It’s a beautiful song“.
It was “Galway Girl“. What’s the world coming to ?
Tomorrow, I promise I’ll have a pub cat for you.