WAGGON & HORSES – BECKHAMPTON

Waggon & Horses
On the A4
Beckhampton
SN8 1QJ

THIRD VISIT: WEDNESDAY 19 NOVEMBER 2014

SECOND VISIT: SATURDAY 8 MARCH 2014

We’d been for a stroll round the standing stones of Avebury. We’d been for a pint in the Red Lion of Avebury. We fancied something to eat. We fancied something to eat that wasn’t frozen food quickly cooked. We needed to visit the Waggon & Horses.

When we walked in a member of staff was sat at a table glumly tapping away at her phone. She looked up but didn’t make an attempt at verbal communication. We stood at the bar for more than a minute while she continued glumly tapping away. Another member of staff appeared and enquired about our needs. Perhaps the one glumly tapping away was on a break. The Waggon has four cask handles but for this visit only three were in use. The choice was 6X, Henry’s (not really) IPA and Swordfish, which is 6X with some Pusser’s rum thrown into the mix. It had to be a Swordfish. It’s an alright pint. Nothing special but not totally dull and devoid of taste. The rum isn’t especially noticeable but it is there if you can be bothered looking for it.

We took a seat in the restaurant area and perused the menu. It was a struggle to choose a clear winner among such notable entrants. Eventually I whittled it down to veal calf liver, venison and duck pie, duck leg, belly pork with black pudding or rump steak. (All dishes had more components than I’ve mentioned but I can’t remember the specifics.) I decided to keep it simple and go for the steak. Prior experience has taught me that the steaks in the Waggon are most excellent. I usually go for rare but this time I opted to go medium. Not sure why. Oh! And we got some olives and feta stuffed peppers to tide us over until the meat arrived. By the time the waitress arrived to clear away the nibbles dishes my pint of Swordfish was dead but she didn’t ask if I wanted another. Perhaps she would when she brought the steaks out. No. She didn’t. The food was good but I’d made a mistake opting for medium as it had gone beyond medium and was venturing into the world of well done. But despite there being no blood there was still a bit of moisture. And the onion rings and sweet potato fries were great. As was the hollandaise sauce. Just a shame the service wasn’t up to its usual standard. When I went to pay the glum tapper was all smiles and sunshine. She was probably angling for a tip.

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FIRST VISIT: THURSDAY 2 JANUARY 2014

I’ve been a patron of the Waggon & Horses for almost a decade and during that time I’ve seen off several management teams. The initial couple could be grumpy bastards when the place was super busy but mostly they were good spirited. And she cooked a damn fine Sunday roast and he was passionate and knowledgeable about ale so I was happy to overlook their indiscretions. In the beginning it was a free house. You could choose from local favourites 6X and Herny’s IPA (both served from the wood) and a couple of guest ales. For a number of years it was our go to place whenever we (me and my special lady friend) fancied a meal out. Within time the owners welcomed us as ‘regular irregulars’, which made me smile as it got me thinking of Kinky Friedman. Then they sold out to Wadworth. They stayed on as managers but it was obvious that they weren’t entirely happy and their days there were numbered. The guest ales disappeared. They had to serve food on Sunday evenings. They had to open on Christmas Day. They weren’t happy. Then they left and we weren’t happy. But then new landlady arrived and she quickly began steering the place towards a new and glorious era. We were happy again. Customers can be such fickle bastards.

This was our first visit to the Waggon for quite a few months and I didn’t recognise anybody who was working, which suggests that there has been another regime change. But everyone was welcoming and had what appeared to be genuine smiles upon their faces and real warmth in their voices. We sat down at a table in the bar (the wifi doesn’t work very wall in the restaurant area – old pub, thick stone walls) that once upon a time had a telly above it that I’d whacked my head into several times – sometimes more than once per visit and before even having a drop of beer. The food menu was different than previous visits but still maintained some form of continuity – no doubt thanks to a guiding hand from Wadworth. Service seemed a little slower than usual but nothing to get too stressed about and when it arrived it was hot and tasty.

Casks beers were all Wadworth: 6X, Henry’s IPA (do Wadworth’s pubs legally have to sell 6X and/or Henry’s?), Bishop’s Tipple and Old Timer. Keg offerings were Wadworth’s Corvus Stout (a pretty decent Guinness/Murphy’s replacement), Amstel and some other things I’ve chose not to remember. I opted for a pint of Old Timer – a 5.9% Old Ale that only makes a draught appearance during December and January. The first couple of glugs tasted a bit tired but by the time I was approaching the bottom the glass it had perked up nicely, which suggests it was my taste buds that were jaded and not the beer. The second pint was on tip top form and proved to be a great pairing with the meat platter I’d ordered to accompany the beer. Thirst (and hunger) slaked we departed. We will no doubt return.

If you are visiting the wonders of Avebury don’t bother with the Red Lion because if you venture just past Silbury Hill you’ll find a pub that does better food, service and beer.

Waggon&Horses

TURF TAVERN – OXFORD

Turf Tavern
Bath Place
Oxford
OX1 3SU

FIRST VISIT: TUESDAY 8 APRIL 2014

If you stumble down a narrow alley located near to Oxford’s Bridge of Sighs rip-off (actually, it’s more of a Rialto Bridge rip-off but let’s not worry about such things) you will find the pub that is ‘possibly’ Oxford’s oldest. As you’d expect from a pub that is several hundred years old it is a bit of a ramshackle affair. And as you’d expect from a pub located in Oxford it is usually jammed full of students and tourists. If you are anywhere near 6 feet tall and don’t like crowds comprised of people with high IQs and/or large cameras you might want to avoid the place.

The bar is split in two by a supporting wall. Greene King beers occupy one side and beer from other breweries, which are just as exciting as GK, occupy the other. I went for a pint of Old Rosie. Twelve real ales on tap and I opt for a cloudy flat cider! I sat outside and watched the people come and go (sadly, not talking of Michelangelo). Most of the folk with large cameras took a photo or twelve before departing without buying a drink. Most of the students went a sat in one of three outside areas and smoked designer cigarettes. I left straight after my last heroic gulp of fermented apple juice. There was no reason to hang around.

The Turf Tavern is a bona fide tourist attraction. If you go to Paris and don’t see the Eifel Tower people will laugh at you. If you go to Oxford and don’t see where Bill Clinton didn’t inhale people will laugh at you. Let them laugh.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

NEW CROSS INN – LONDON

New Cross Inn
323 New Cross Road
London
SE14 6AS

FIRST VISIT: WEDNESDAY 12 MARCH 2014

The New Cross Inn stays open late. I’m sure that if you the secret special hello you can drink there 24 hours a day. It’s an interesting pub. It can’t be described as on old fashioned pub but it has none of the trappings of the modern world. Seating comes courtesy of beer barrels with planks of wood on top and the kind of bench you find it the picnic areas of your local park. There’s a pool table and it’s very much the hub. It’s the kind of pub where you half expect fights to break out over the pool table but I don’t believe that ever happens, which is nice. The New Inn is also a live music venue. Old skool Punk and Ska legends are known to have graced the stage – the Selector played there on NYE 2013.

Beer wise the place isn’t very exciting: mass market keg or Tribute, Proper Job, Dartmoor and Dommbar were what I was greeted with this visit. But you don’t go to the New Cross Inn for the beer. No. No. No! You go to the New Cross Inn for a pint of Old Rosie Cider. Yes. Yes. Yes!

New Cross Inn