Two backstreet boozers to start, both with a decent smattering of custom by 2019 standards, then onto the “Lunch Stop” aka “Anywhere But Spoons“.
The rest of our group doubted my navigational skills as I wove them past dustbins and through Balti kitchens and graveyards on the way to the Merchant’s.
If I’d been asked to give these Rugby GBG pubs a mark before our trip they’d have all been in the 7-7.5 range, where 10 is Staggs and 1 is the Maidenhead Conservative Club.
I reckon they all went up a notch on our crawl, the Merchant’s Inn a real beneficiary of the return visit. I remember this opening as the first real specialist ale house in the early 2000s, but I’d forgotten the “tat“, as Mrs RM would have it.
I got my half of NBSS 3.5 Oakham (as ubiquitous as Doom Bar these days), ordered a rugby-themed burger, and left the Famous Five (Mudgies, Coldwell and Pete) who seemed to want to actually read the menu before deciding on lunch.
Despite my love of Bass I’m not quite as obsessed with breweriana as you might think, but the Merchants is right up there with the Cambridge Blue.
A stunning display across a rambling pub neatly divided into four or five different drinking areas.
I know, if this was a micro I’d be calling “cliché”. There you go.
The Merchant’s had been quite busy with local lunch trade, but by 2pm was thinning out a bit. Still enough drinking trade to keep it honest, all jollied along by the ’96 soundtrack (“Common People”, “Wonderwall”) that defines Rugby.
All quite classy, I thought, with particularly cheery service and one of the best pub lunches I’d had since Toad in the Hole on Tuesday.
Pub upgraded from a 7 to an 8, a result confirmed by the jokes in the Gents.
Mrs Beer Leeds refused to tell us what was on the Ladies wall.