FIRST VISIT: SATURDAY 4 JANUARY 2014
Some folk love Spoons. Some folk hate Spoons. I don’t mind them. In case there is any doubt: I’m referring to the UK pub chain not those metal things you use to eat your Butterscotch Angel Delight.
It was wet and cold outside and dry and warm inside so my glasses instantly steamed up. As I was waiting for my vision to return to normal I could see that the beers available were the Greene King staples that populate every Spoons bars and one beer that had a robin and the clip (it looked like an xmas card you’d give to someone you don’t really know and/or like) and another that appeared to be, from a slight distance and sans specs, a crude and colourful piece of landscape art – I couldn’t make out the brewery on either of those two clips. I didn’t want a GK beer and the other two weren’t exactly speaking to me so I beat a retreat and headed to Newbury’s other branch of Spoons, which is located a couple of hundred metres down the road. This time I was greeted by GK beers and one other beer whose label was a white bit of paper on which someone had written, quite neatly to be fair, IPA 5.9%. Despite the name and ABV being correct I assumed it wasn’t going to be Goose Island. So I headed back to the Hatchet. This time I managed to out that the beer sporting the robin photograph was by Green Jack. I’d had a couple of beers from them before and they were okay so I opted for that. The pump burst into life and then spluttered and stopped with barely a quarter of a pint in the glass. Off. The beer was a weird pink colour. Not quite highlighter pen pink but certainly not the colour you’d expect a beer to be. I’m guessing it was brewed to look red so it would resemble the breast of a robin. I was now left with a simple choice: GK or crude and colourful landscape art. It wasn’t a difficult choice. On closer inspection I discovered that the beer was Shepherds Warning and it’s brewed by Wild Weather and the artwork is a cockerel shouting at the sky. Crude and colourful chicken. But the beer was pretty fine: a fresh and tasty 5.6% IPA packed with citrus kissed hops. I went back for a second and I very probably would have still done so if the competition had been stiffer than Abbot and Ruddles.
The Hatchet is dressed up like a lot of its stable-mates: dark wood, swirly patterned carpets, walls lined with framed photographs featuring people who have a vague association with the local area and tables that are pushed so close together that getting to the bar or the bogs is akin to negotiating The Vortex on The Adventure Game. However, the Hatchet did boast a special feature: an open fire around which a group of what I’d guess are regulars had gathered on leather sofas. As we arrived one of the assumed regulars stuck a log on the fire, which, depending on your outlook on life, is either very community minded or taking a bit of a fucking liberty.
I ate a mixed grill then left. I doubt I’ll be returning to Newbury anytime in the next twenty years so I’ll probably never return to the Hatchet but I’m sure I’ll be in several pubs just like it over the coming year. When you’re in a town that you know nothing about and you fancy a swift pint and something to eat stumbling across a Spoons is usually an okay thing. Not great. Just okay. Much of a muchness.