Regular readers will have guessed I’m a big fan of Jamie Oliver and his relentless attempts to improve our diet through his range of pizza restaurants. I know Pub Curmudgeon shares my admiration.
Jamie was brought up in the badlands south of Saffron Walden where his parents ran a pub that failed to make the Beer Guide. Rumour has it that top GBG pub explorer Simon Everitt also lived here before being expelled from Audley End for poor dress sense.
25 minutes on the train from Cambridge brings you to Newport, feeling a million miles from the M11 until those days there’s the inevitable oil spill and the lorries divert along the B1383.
I’ve said it before; Essex contains some of our greatest villages (and grimmest towns).
Overshadowed by Walden and Duxford, Newport is a picture postcard of pargetting. And has a shop that appears to sell Nose Gay tobacco boxes. Being Essex, it still manages to support an Indian takeaway, as is the law round here.
I’d walked the bounds, and taken in more antique shops than the world needs, in half an hour. People were looking uneasily at me through their (antique) net curtains, so I joined the early evening crowd in the White Horse, which I shall describe as a “recommended pub“.
This is not a Jamie Oliver pub, it’s a retiredmartin pub, that’s open all day to serve beer and pork scratchings and talk to you (if you want). Essex pubs are more consistent than pubs in any other county, seemingly always prompting comments such as “unfussy“, “unspoilt interior” and “drinker-friendly“.
I could have told you from the photo alone that this Essex (OK, 4 miles from the Herts border), though the blokes in shorts at the bar and “The Sound of Indie ’96” were also giveaways. It’s always 1996 in Essex.
A pint of Milton Justinian and scratchings were £3.80, which seemed a bargain, particularly since this was the best beer from my home village since the Milton brewery “tour”. A cool and chewy NBSS 4 in fact.
The next recommended pub, a jolly half hour sprint west, was the one in Clavering that Jamie’s father doesn’t own.
As you’ll have guessed, the Fox & Hounds has whiteboarding, local tradesmen at the bar, and Fairport Convention from about ’71.
A proper play area too. No doubt Si will break it, if he didn’t 30 years ago.
Perhaps a more modest ale house, with Wherry and Black Sheep in decent nick straight from the barrel.
Plenty of seating, but of course in Essex everyone sits (or stands, Grrr) at the bar. And wears shorts (it was cold outside). And talks about the Essex Sunday League.
Evening meals here in a side room seemed very incidental to the proper business of the pub. The village wet-led local is still in rude heath in Essex, and not just at weekends.