Yesterday, despite the grotty weather, my wife and I decide to go for a drive out to a nice country pub for Saturday lunch. For no particular reason we decided to try the Edgemoor Inn near Stroud, which neither of us had been to for many years.
The very name of the Edgemoor Inn conjures up images of a wild, rustic setting. The mind imagines a dark, cosy interior with old, stout stone walls, roaring fires and a convivial landlord at the bar with ruddy cheeks, perhaps sporting mutton-chop whiskers.
And for the fare, what would you want to eat in such a place on a wet Saturday lunchtime? Steak and ale pie perhaps, or fish and chips, or a nice, succulent burger, all washed down with some decent ale. Oh yes, that is a pub.
So what did we find? Well, from the outside the Edgemoor certainly looks the part, and as you enter there is an old deed hung on the wall to show that its origins go back some way. And the wall on which it is hung is, indeed, stout and made of stone.
However, when you enter the bar what you find is a very contemporary interior entirely devoted to the serving of food. The bar does boast three very well kept ales, but there is nowhere to sit and drink them other than at the large, contemporary dining tables.
We ordered our beer and quickly perused the menu, most of which consisted of full on posh grub in sauces and jus (no pub should serve anything in a jus!) costing from around £12 to £20. Perhaps on a ‘foodie’ night out with friends my view would have been different, but on a wet Saturday lunchtime this is not what I need. Luckily there is a small selection of ‘light lunches’, which include ham, egg and chips, plaice and chips and the like. Not outstanding value for this type of food, but they are less than a tenner.
As our conversation at the bar was clearly tending toward these lower priced options we were directed to sit in the front bar area rather than venture back into the hallowed confines of the large restaurant at the rear. This suited me nicely as at least the front had some character remaining – the large restaurant area was more like, well, a restaurant.
I shouldn’t really criticise; the Edgemoor is a nice enough place. It is famous for its views over the Painswick Valley and it has large picture windows to capitalise on this. Sadly, shortly after our arrival, the whole place was engulfed in cloud, so the view vanished. On a nice day, however, it is worth a visit to sit on the outside terrace with a beer and enjoy it – if it’s not full of diners.
But is this still a pub? The fact is that pubs out in the country can no longer survive on ‘wet sales’ alone. You have to drive out to them, which means you can’t drink much. In fact, if plans to reduce drink driving limits are brought in you will not be able to drink anything at all. Food is what brings the money in. But surely you can still get a better balance.
My vision of a country pub can include the serving of decent food, even in jus if they must. It can also, in moderation, allow contemporary furniture. However, it should include a friendly welcome and a place to sit for people who just want a drink and a bar snack. It goes without saying that it should sell decent ale and it should, preferably, have its own following of regulars and locals.
There are pubs that meet this ideal. With the caveat that I haven’t visited some of these for a while I would cite the Craven Arms at Brockhampton, the Butchers Arms at Sheepscombe, the Glasshouse Inn at Longhope, the Queen’s Head at Longford (barely in the country, but it feels like it) and the King’s Head at Norton.
As the summer approaches we enjoy venturing out further afield for decent pubs to eat and drink in, so any recommendations within a reasonable drive from Gloucester gratefully received.