A harsh and possibly unfair judgement, based on no more than two or three or visits down the years, but one I carried over the threshold of The Withy Arms one evening this week.
Whereupon I stopped dead in my tracks. Looked around. Rubbed my eyes. Looked back through the door I just entered by, to confirm in my startled brain that, yes, there is the Fox and Lion over the road, this is the same place .
Then looked around again. Where once as gloomy a set of cramped feeling shady rooms as ever greeted a thirsty visitor greeted the thirsty visitor, was now an airy open clean space.
A gleaming bar stocked with a range of European light beers and real ales to tickle every palate to my right, took the place of what was once as generic a drink offer as is to be found in any pub staggering feebly towards the end of its meaningful life.
Chuck in a fairly lengthy menu of modern type pub grub – with daily specials chalked on boards here and there – and a bracingly frank zero tolerance policy of bad language and sportswear and you will then understand how the clientele – such few as had been in evidence on previous visits – also seemed to have undergone extensive refurbishment.
In short, out with the brooding scallies in baseball cap and Rockports, in with groups of mixed and varying age, both genders represented equally.
Shortly to work draining a barrel glass jar of Cumberland Brewery’s brilliant Corby Blonde, it is fair to say my only quibble was that the emphasis might just have tilted a little too far to the culinary offer; the profusion of tables and chairs in everyarea of the room making the place feel slightly more like a restaurant than a pub.
But this is picky, and if the ale sampled and selction on offer was a reliable guide of things to come it is a racing certainty the pub will attract the serious – by which I mean discerning – drinking crowd. Smokers too.
Popping for a tab I discovered that The Withy Arms is, in fact, any alfresco drinker’s dream.
A sprawling split-level flagged area with sheltered booths, heaters (and a smoking shelter similarly appointed), above, will pull in fresh air fiends from every point of the compass.
Like Arnie, I’ll be back.
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