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The Punch & Judy

Covent Garden, That London:

A tourist trap, this is a “18th century pub in Covent Garden Market“, apparently. I was working nearby with a colleague, and we needed lunch.

What it really is is a spoons-a-like pub with a terrace and a cellar bar. We went in the cellar bar, as the terrace bar was closed. It was a big gloomy, but OK. There’s an eating area at one end, with normal table, but they were all occupied so we had to make do with those ridiculous stools that seem to be fashionable at the moment.

There’s ale, but as we were working we had soft drinks with our meal, which was good, but, as you’d expect, pricey: our burgers were well over a tenner, and Fish & Chips will set you back the thick end of 15 quid. the food and staff were fine though, but it has to be said I’ve been in nicer surroundings, and used less stinky bogs, and paid a lot less for it.

Revisits: The Royal Exchange

Original post here.

A while ago, the pub had a half-hearted makeover that made it worse: it felt even more like a clubhouse. I’m glad to say that’s been fixed: the pub looks smart and feels modern and welcoming, and there’s new outside furniture too. It’s also gained real ale, which is very welcome, and food.

…which is where I was disappointed.

At time of writing, the website says food is served 12:00-20:00, and I’m told if you view on an iPad, it says light bites available up to 14:30. The sign outside says “food every day”.

Either way, having settled down with an (to be fair, excellent) pint, it was dissapointing to be told the kitchen had closed when I tried to order food at 14:01, so we drank up and went back down to the bustling centre of Walsall Wood and the Boatman’s Rest. Shame really, we’d have been set up for the afternoon…

The Fradley Arms

Near Fradley, Lichfield

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Just a few hours after whinging about them, I find myself in a chain-pub “restaurant”. In my defence, it was on the way home; an awkwardly-timed appointment in Burton-upon-Trent saw us heading south back home without having eaten, so we called in. I was last here over 10 years ago, and I think I recall a traditional pub. The old building still looks attractive, but it shares its site with a Premier Inn, has become a behemoth collection of buildings, and is part of the Fayre & Square chain, itself a brand of the Spirit Pub Company. See what they did there? It sells Fayre, at a fair and square price, and *giggle* some of the food is square (the burgers). How very whimsical, I do believe my sides have split.

It was OK, as a better alternative than McDonalds or the chippy, and it was pretty cheap (£17 for 2 meals, a soft drink, and a large wine). There was cask ale, and a good choice of other stuff. There’s a wacky warehouse for kids to run about in, though that didn’t stop some parents letting theirs run about the place (fortunately, as it’s a big place, we went to the other end and escaped them). The food was serviceable, rather than exceptional, and the menu standard family feedbag stuff (PDF, 11MB). Staff were nice enough, but a bit corporate training manual:

“Pint of lime & soda please”

“Is that a large or a small?”


Overall, you could do worse, but you’re not going to get atmosphere or haute cuisine.

The Bamburgh Castle Inn

Seahouses, Northumberland:

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Opposite the Olde Ship, this seems to bask in the reflected glory: we went in because The Olde Ship was rammed, as did several others. It doesn’t have the olde-worlde charm, but it does have great beer and food, friendly staff, free wi-fi, and a great view over the harbour. Dog-friendly too. Like the ship, it’s got rooms, but both feel mostly like pubs.

The Cairnbaan Hotel


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Again, it’s a hotel, but the bar area feels sufficiently pub-like. Great staff, decent beer (2 real ales), and good food- a step above average pub food. Not cheap, but not rip-off, and you have to remember overheads here are greater. Right alongside the Crinnan Canal; there’s some outside seating, and a separate restaurant if you want quieter dining. We ate here three times, and drank a couple of times on top of that, as we were staying nearby.