An inconsistent beast, the Big Pub Co pub, I have found, in the course of my stagger around the alehouses of this area.
Sometimes they get it just right. Hand on heart, I’ve sat in some chain pubs over the past year or two which rival for cost, quality (of both ale and food) any similarly priced privately run-establishment.
More often they get it part right. Decent ale, decor like a dentist’s waiting room. Nice dimly lit comfy bar, untreated piddle flowing freely from every tap.
On rare occasions they get it so wrong – so utterly hideously wrong – you feel you are less in a pub than you are on the set of a bad American TV movie (no sex or swearing, on Channel 5 of a weekday afternoon about a British pub).
The Martson’s owned Bell & Bottle at Kirkham fell into this middle category.
So what did they get right?
Thankfully, for the business of this column, the beer was bang on the money – in quality if not quantity.
Three pumps, two of which offered the same drop, is not really what you expect from a pub owned by a brewer with the history of Marston’s, albeit now a fully fledged Big Pub Co PLC.
That said, both ales were fine, particularly my first, a Jenning’s Cocker Hoop.
Bright golden body with a fruity, pine coney smell, malty citrus hoppy and-sweet on the tongue, long, dry and bitter on the way out of sight.
The Bank’s Bitter which gave chase was pleasant enough. Clear amber, thick creamy head, bit of malt, bit of hop, well kept, drinkable.
So that’s the right. The wrong?
Not strictly this column’s brief, but it is considered a public service matter to alert the unwary to two things.
The 2 for 1 every meal? That’s because each meal is worth precisely half – or less – its price on the menu. Do not eat alone or in odd numbers. Ideally, do not eat at all. Despite gastropub pretensions, the food I ate fell some way short, even, of the quality you’d get in stack it high sell it cheap maestros Wetherspoons.
Avoid the eats. Just drink to be merry.