England Pubs / Bars National
The Lamplighter (Northampton)
T'was a dramatic night in Northampton at the Lamplighter pub last Saturday as the Floor and Blind store across the road gushed thick grey smoke as menacing flames threatened to lick passers bye, pints put down and last orders at the bar folks! The pub bravely remained open behind the police tape but it was clear to see it was a good time ... to be a no smoking pub. It recently had an expensive refit and you could see the bar staff and manager were very nervous. Fires aside normally the pub is packed on a Saturday night and a great place to go if you are not in that fabled 18-25 crowds lusting for tinny dance music, sex and shooters any more. That is me. But because it is on an urban town centre street this style of old fashioned pub is susceptible to this type of street property fire or cordoned off event. It's not the first time I have been in this type of pub when fire has raged at number 27. In fact one of its quirks is how cozy it sits in an urban terrace street setting with the next door neighbors washing clearly visible from the politely noisey and vibrant beer garden. In the old days when men wore caps and girls were only ever seen in long skirts and button up blouses many a normal street would have a pub on the corner.
The Lamplighter is located just off Northampton town centre on the Overstone Road and not that easy to find if you are from out of town. Its one of those pubs that wants to be ignored by the town centre pub crowd as it knows it customer base. Parking is never great in Northampton in the deadly traffic warden zone though where it sits. It's in the heart of the old shoe industry where derelict old factories with beautiful old signs and royal crests proudly display their forgotten history and heritage high above the walkway, a final act of defiance by the industrial revolution before being gobbled up by property developers to be converted into trendy loft apartments, a thousand chattering stitching machines and leather stretching devices long since silenced by cheaper South East Asian labor in equally crumbling factories.
It's in a lively urban part of town with lots of Polish immigrants, student types and young families taking up the post war terraced houses and private accommodation. Its one of those welcome lively pubs that you come across on the way into town and you finally realize you are no longer as young and gorgeous as you think you once were and so the perfect pub to go when you are over thirty but in no mood to accept that onset of age. The weekend clientele is twenty-something student types to older real ale boys and girls, the later often jammed into a pair of jeans two sizes too small, a very talky place with plenty of those keg beers to try. It is town centre prices so not a cheap night out. What it isn't, is one of those slightly edgy working-class pubs with a pool table, dart board and menacing tattooed balding men at the bar just off the building site ready to get loud and leery. There is never the slightest hint of trouble here and the clientele a good social class mix, perhaps one of the pubs with a higher IQ in Northampton, which there are not that many.
The bar is small but the boys and girls behind it are quick, and plenty of beer and ale choices to indulge, on tap and in the fridge, punters under pressure to try something exotic with a silly northern name. You can buy a range of obscure real ales straight from the barrels and they often host regular real ale and music nights, not uncommon to see fully decked out Morris Dancers in this eclectic and refreshing pub. Its one of the center piece pubs for the coming Northampton Music festival.
The pub prides itself on having great live bands most Friday and Saturday nights and they range from what you may see in a small tent at Glastonbury to a full on Blues band or a bit of Northern Soul. The disco straight after to the 1pm closing time also gets them up and a small intimate dance floor just adds to the cozy atmosphere.
Monday night is Open Mic Night where Performers get a drink on the house - Starts 8:45pm. Be warned, this ranges from poetry to very bad comedians. The Wednesday night pub quiz is free and a nominal £1 per pint for the first hour and everybody cheats on their smart phones but good fun. There are cash prizes and you get families and groups joining in.
Grub wise its standard pub fare you would get anywhere else although I have never eaten there. You can eat it in the small pub garden in the summer if you don't fancy the main area or in one of the many smaller cozy rooms upstairs on the end of winding staircases that add an extra intimate dimension to this pub, also great places to take your date at the weekend. The pub is confident in its clientele and so doesn't have its own website so I can't tell you how much food is. I wouldn't say it was a pub food place and there are far more geared up places around the same price in the nearby town centre.
On the whole it's the ideal place for the more mature customer (25-55) that wants to go out on Saturday night and not feel too old and still enjoy their favorite real ale and a good youthful atmosphere. It's always busy on Friday and Saturday night and plenty of spaces to escape the gentle bar crush. The recently heated beer garden full of those wobbly brown picnic benches host interesting and drunken conversations between the students and once were students crowd and nothing too rowdy or boozy since I have been going there. You can also walk down to the Charles Bradlaugh from The Lamplighter which has very similar clientele but more crumpet and a bigger beer garden so good that way. In a way the Lamplighter is that pub you have always been looking for now you are over 35.
Address: Lamplighter, 66 Overstone Road, Northampton NN1 3JS
Telephone: 01604 631 125
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Absolut Ice Bar (London)
Why the Ice Bar? = = = = = = = = My boyfriend's 30th birthday was coming up and I knew he wanted to go to the Ice Bar at some point. Our mission this year was to go to as many places as we could to visit and although it's the end of April already we haven't really had the chance to visit many places. As a birthday present, I ... decided that I would take my boyfriend to London for the day where we would go somewhere for a meal and then go to the Ice Bar so we could both experience what it was like here. Some of my friends have been to the Ice Bar and I love the look of it and as we both booked a day off work I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to go.
About Ice Bar
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The Ice Bar is exactly what it sounds like because everything is made from Ice. The walls, bar, tables and even your own glass are made from the purest ice. This is the only UK's permanent bar made of ice and is kept at -5c all year round. Everything in the bar is made out of crystal clear glass and harvested especially from the frozen Torne River in Jukkasjarvi, Northern Sweden. Each visit in the Ice Bar is 40 mins long and includes a free drink which you can enjoy in the Ice bar. You will be given your own designer thermal cape with a good and gloves to keep you warm during your visit. Once a year the bar is completely transformed with a new design theme and layout by a team of skilled ice designer and sculptors. Every design is different from the next and each year they eagerly anticipate the results of the wonderful artistic transformation. I loved the sound of visiting the bar and couldn't wait to go here with my boyfriend. You can wear whatever clothing you wish in the Ice bar but they do suggest warm clothing. You can wear open toed shoes; how-ever your feet may get rather chilly from this.
Booking the Ice Bar
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If you are planning a visit to the Ice Bar they advise you to book your tickets in advance to avoid disappointment as you may not be able to get in if you just turn up on the day/night. I was planning on booking tickets anyway as I wanted to ensure that we could get into the Bar and I also wanted a time for as soon as they opened. You can only book tickets up to 28 days in advance so I had to wait until then to book the tickets. I actually went onto their website to book 2 tickets, one for my boyfriend and the other for me. Each ticket allows you 40mins into the Ice Bar and this comes with a drink a cocktail of your choice which you can order from the bar. When booking the ticket you need to simply choose how many people you want to book and the time you would like to visit the bar. It does state that you should arrive at least 15mins before your booking time to ensure you can get caped up before entering the bar. I paid for the tickets online which cost me £12.50. If I hadn't of booked tickets in advance it would have cost me £14.oo each for the tickets. Please note that the prices of tickets are slightly more expensive on a Friday and Saturday night. After making the booking I received a confirmation e-mail stating the date and time of the book and it also included other information such as how to get to the bar and what to expect when you get there. It did state that on arrival there may be a queue which is nothing to worry about; this is just in order to get everyone caped up ready for their time in the bar. I double checked all the information and decided to print the e-mail off to take with me just in case as there was a booking number on the e-mail. At least if I had it with me I could show them the e-mail if there were any problems.
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With your visit you get your first drink for free and you can then purchase additional drinks for around £6.50. You can purchase Non Alcoholic refills for £3.00 and you also have the choice to purchase a new Ice Glass for £4.00. Some of the alcoholic drinks include the following:
* Gin - Galactic Frontiers, Solar Flare.
* Rum - Ice bar Mojito, Voyager.
* Bourbon - Curiosity, The Big Bang.
* Tequila - Mercury Rising, Red Planet.
* Non-Alcoholic - Endor, Halley's Comet.
* Vodka - Down to Earth, Titan, Apollo 11.
* Champagne - Hubble Bubble, Zero Gravity, Stardust.
* Premium - Starlight, Enterprise, Armstrong, Mars Rover, Jumping Jupiter.
You can find out the ingredients of the different drinks on their website. The names and variations of the drinks are likely to change every year due to the different themes they have in the Ice Bar.
Arriving at the Ice Bar
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The outside of the Ice bar has mainly black exterior with some tables and chairs outside, it looked very clean and also an expensive bar to visit. There was a roped off area which took you to a reception desk if you had a session booked or you could avoid the roped off area and just go into the top bar for a drink or head down the Restaurant which is located downstairs. When we arrived at the Ice Bar we went to the reception desk where I told the girl there that we had a booking for 2:45, although we were about 30mins early. She told us that was fine and printed off 2 tickets for us and told us we needed to keep hold of them to get our free drink once we were in the Ice Bar. She pointed to an area where we could sit and wait for our session. This area was really comfortable with long sofas and chairs with tables. There was also a bar so you could have a drink whilst you were waiting. The bar here served a range of cocktails, wine's and champagne. They don't sell beer here. I didn't want a drink but my boyfriend purchased a drink which cost him over £7.00. At around 2:40ish we were called by a male member of staff to form a queue in the roped off area. He ran through some information with us such as what not to do in the ice bar.
We were told that we were going to be given a Poncho to wear in the ice bar which has gloves attached to keep us warm. He told us to use the gloves as it was going to be cold inside the Ice Bar (-8◦). He also told us to be careful when placing our ice glasses down as the surfaces can be a little slippery. He also told us not to smash the glasses or to scratch anything into any of the walls or other objects in the Ice bar. He advises anyone to pop to the toilet before entering the Ice Bar as there are no toilets once you are inside the Ice Bar. The toilets are located downstairs and are very clean and tidy. I can't fault the toilets in any way. One by one we had to step forwards where a Poncho would be thrown over the top of our heads which is when we could enter the Ice Bar. It only took a few seconds for each person to get their poncho on and ready to enter the Ice Bar. The poncho's are a metallic blue colour and have a hood which has a fake fur trim around the edge.
Inside the Ice Bar
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You will walk through 2 sets of automatic doors which open as you walk towards them. This takes you into the Ice Bar where you can immediately feel the cold against your cheeks and hands if you haven't already put your gloves on. The first thing that grabbed my attention was the array of beautiful colours and lights in the bar which included blues and purples. The first thing I noticed was a tall block of ice which had a globed carved into it; this looked amazing from lots of different angles. The 2nd thing I noticed was how small the room actually was. I was expecting a slightly bigger room and was a little surprised at this as it looked slightly bigger in other photo's that I have seen. Everyone headed over to the bar area which was very large and looked stunning made out of ice. There was a forest/tree design on the bottom of the bar which looked beautiful as it was lit up in a very light blue colour. There was a few drink menus' on the bar where you could choose your drink.
There was one bar man behind the bar whom took the drink orders from you and then you would hand your ticket over which you originally got when first entering the location. The drink sizes are rather small, how-ever I found them quite strong and actually only managed to drink half of mine and then gave the rest to my boyfriend. The ice glasses the drinks are served in are square in shape and although it looked rather hard to drink out of the ice glass it was easier than I expected. It was much easier to hold the ice glass with your gloves on as the glass can get rather slippery and also very cold in your bare hands. We moved away from the bar area and took a good look around. There was a seating area over to the right where at least 5 people could sit. The seats have cushions on but are made from ice and the table is also made from ice. This area got full up pretty quickly so me and my boyfriend stood for a little while on one side of the room which has a shelf where you can place your drink.
There was an ice sculpture which had various holes in in which looked great when a picture was taken from the other side as you could see your reflection in the ice. There was also a little bit which I called an igloo which you could walk inside. (You had to crouch down to get inside). This area was quite good, but could only fit about 2 people in at a time. Me and my boyfriend liked this area as it lit up different colours and gave a slightly strange illusion to your body when taking a picture from the other side. There was another small seating area which was up 2 small steps and lit up in different colours. In this area you could see a range if drink bottles behind some ice which looked really good. This gave the illusion that the bottles of drink were actually in the ice walls. This seating area had a moon in the corner which lit up. There was lots of detailing on the walls in this area and it looked stunning. We couldn't get into this area as the people who first came into the bar seemed to hog this area for the whole session which was slightly annoying and also rather unfair. You could easily get at least 6 people in this area.
You could tell how cold it was in the Ice Bar as although the floor is metal it feels slightly sticky from where your feet stick to it a little due to the cold. There were at least 20 of us in the Ice Bar during the session and although the area is smaller than I expected it doesn't get too cramped which is good. The poncho's which they give us to wear help to keep you warm during your visit and they are comfortable to wear. As the poncho doesn't have sleeves it's easy to move your arms about. I did find that your ears and face can get a little cold so I wore the hood to the poncho up during my visit. The gloves that are attached to the Poncho are thick and these keep your hands really warm and give you a good grip when holding your ice glass. We got chatting to the bar man whom was serving the drinks and he told us how the design of the Ice Bar changes every year. He also tells us that every 2 months the top of the Ice bar gets re-made. If you don't wish to stay in the Ice Bar for the full 40mins you can cleave when you wish simply by pressing the button next to the automatic doors. When you walk out someone will be there to take your poncho off you and you can then leave the location. Me and my boyfriend stayed in here for at least 25mins before we decided to leave. Some people left the bar after about 15mins which we were a little surprised at.
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I couldn't wait to visit the Ice Bar and once we got to the location and my boyfriend knew we were going inside he was also looking forwards to it as well. In terms of size the Ice Bar is smaller than I imagined and I was a little disappointed by this. Once in the Ice Bar we were amazed by the Ice Walls, Ice Bar and different carvings in the room. Me and my boyfriend really enjoyed looking at the details on the walls which lit up different colours throughout our session here. Although the seating areas get taken up quickly, me and my boyfriend were happy to stand as we wanted to look around the whole Bar anyway rather than just staying in one place for the whole session. The range of cocktails in the Ice Bar was reasonable but I found them quite strong. I loved the ice glass which we had to drink from which was so different to drinking out of a normal glass. The ponchos did a really good job of keeping us warm and the gloves were nice and warm as well. Although we were a little shocked at how small the Ice Bar actually was we really enjoyed our experience here and would definitely visit here again maybe in about 1 year's time when there are new carvings and designs on the walls of the Ice Bar. I would definitely recommend other people to visit here as it's a really good experience and you will be amazed at the fact that everything inside the Ice Bar is made and carved from Ice, it's really fascinating and actually really hard to believe. You can purchase some Ice Bar merchandise such as a candle holder, t-shirt and even a glass which looks like the Ice Glass you drank out of when you were in the Ice Bar. I can't really fault anything about my experience here as it was fantastic.
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Address: 31-33 Heddon Street, London, W1B 4BN
Phone: 020 7478 8910
Directions - As the Ice Bar is in London it's probably best to use public transport to get here. From London Waterloo you need to get on the underground (Baker Loo Line) towards Queens Park. Get off at Piccadilly Circus (3rd stop) and then walk to the Ice Bar which will take about 5 minutes.
(review will also appear on ciao)
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The Countryman Inn (East Knighton, Dorset)
Last year I spent a long weekend in Dorset with my partner and our dog. We rented a lovely holiday cottage in the village of Winfrith Newburgh, which is equidistant between the towns of Wareham and Dorchester. We were lucky enough to find a selection of pubs within easy cycling distance of Winfrith Newburgh...which made our lives so much ... easier. You aren't allowed to leave pets unattended in most holiday homes so you're forced to take them with you everywhere you go. That's a bit of a problem for us as Tattie gets very distressed on any car journey be it long or short. Therefore we try and minimise her anguish by travelling on bikes for shorter journeys and her daily walks. The Countryman Inn can be found in the tiny village of East Knighton, which was about 2 miles from our holiday let and thus ideal for a cycle ride.
We pulled up outside the Countryman Inn earlier in the day just to double-check they allowed dogs in the pub, and also to see if they were serving food that evening. The outside of the Countryman (and their website) makes much of their renowned carvery, but we were hoping there would be more than this option on offer. The landlord informed us he had only just taken over running the pub that very day, but it was business as usual and the kitchen was fully open. He apologised that the advertised carvery was not on offer that night, but that he hoped it would be up and running soon. This wasn't a problem for us, as neither of us is a huge fan of a carvery dinners - we just wanted simple pub grub.
~~~ A VERY BIG HOUSE IN THE COUNTRY ~~~
The Countryman Inn looks rather French from the outside - I put that down to the fact that all the windows are shuttered. However, it has to be said that the building looks more than a little rundown and unloved from the outside. The yellow painted walls are peeling in places, and the signage is a little too sun-bleached. All the windows are decorated with some rather French looking shutters, but they're painted brown which just makes the place look dreadfully old-fashioned and dated. However, don't let the outside put you off going inside, as it's a rather nice place if you venture over the threshold.
The Countryman Inn is like a tardis inside - it's a huge barn of a place. There's one massive bar area running the length of the room and various different snugs, lounges, seating areas in all different directions. The décor inside the Countryman is nothing to write home about, but it's comfortable and mostly functional. There's a lot of brickwork inside - to the front of the bar and on the fireplaces, but all the floors were carpeted throughout. As it was a Monday evening when we went there, the place was rather quiet and it felt a bit mausoleum like.
~~~ IN A BIG COUNTRY(MAN) ~~~
It took us about ten minutes to cycle from Winfrith Newburgh to East Knighton and the Countryman Inn. It looked like most of the journey would involve cycling along a very busy main road, but we found there was a footpath to one side of the road, so luckily we could cycle slightly away from the traffic (always best with a skittish dog like Tattster). The village of East Knighton consists of a handful of houses, a petrol station and the pub. If you blink you'll miss the place! The pub was very quiet when we got there but it was a Monday night after all. We understood from overhearing various conversations at the bar from the new landlord and his clientele, that the pub used to be very popular, but the previous owners had let it go somewhat, and he was planning on getting it back on track soon.
Our welcome was warm and we were directed to a choice of about three different areas where we would be able to sit and eat dinner with the hound. There was one area with lots of sofas and low tables, but we didn't think that would be very comfortable to eat in. By the front entrance were two areas, both with plenty of tables and chairs for eating and drinking. We decided to sit in the right-hand one so we could keep an eye on the bikes out of the window. There was also a lovely looking fireplace in this section, and we were a little bit chilled after our cycle ride as there was a very fresh April wind in the air. Sadly the fireplace wasn't lit so we moved to the opposite side of the building where there was a wood burning stove. Unfortunately this wasn't lit either, so I was rather reluctant to remove my coat. I suspect that the landlord and staff had been so busy moving into the pub that day and getting things ready for the evening that they'd all been rushing about so much they just didn't feel the need for the heating to be on. Sadly, it was quite chilly in there and rather too vast to be unheated.
~~~ COUNTRYMAN FARE ~~~
The menu at the Countryman Inn is typical pub grub but at a good, reasonable price. There are no surprises on the menu, but it's all good, hearty fare. There were no daily specials on offer - or at least we didn't spot any, or have our attention drawn to them on the night we visited. Orders are placed at the bar and you then find a table to eat at - it's all very casual and informal.
The menu at the Countryman is rather big, but I understand from the landlord that it is going to be updated shortly. I would hope they are going to streamline it into something a little snappier and 21st century, as it's currently rather peppered with 101 different pub grub meals, and there are few surprises at all within its pages. People need to be tempted out of their homes of an evening to spend their hard-earned credit crunched pounds....and offering them the "same old, same old" fare ain't going to do it. They can buy a steak and kidney pie in Marks and Spencer or Tesco for half the price, so if they're going to venture further afield there needs to be plenty of tempting dishes on offer that they won't find elsewhere. Currently the menu is rather vast and sprawling and seems to be trying to please too many people with too many options.
There are plenty of lighter options on offer at the Countryman Inn with a good array of sandwiches (£5.95), omelettes (c£6.25), filled jacket potatoes (£6.95), ploughmans (c£6.95) and paninis (£6.25) on offer. Conversely, if you're after a proper sit-down meal rather than a snack then the menu offers plenty of choice for everyone. There are a range a starters from £3.95 to £6.25 consisting of things like soup, pâté, garlic mushrooms, whitebait or that old favourite prawn cocktail. I was quite tempted by the Thai fish cakes, but suspected they were likely to have come from either Brake Brothers or Iceland so I passed on that particular choice.
Main courses at the Countryman are divided up into sections - Choice Fish (c£8.95), Famous Countryman Pies (c£9.75), Country Curries (c£8.50), Chicken (c£10.50), From the Grill, Vegetarian or Chef's Recommendations (where they shove all the dishes they cannot categorise in the former!). Fish is of the deep fried variety (i.e. battered cod or scampi), but the pies selection sounded more interesting. I was tempted by the curries (korma, madras or tikka masala), but you never really know how spicy they're going to be so I stuck to a safer option. The Grill section is Rump, Sirloin or Rib-Eye steak and all the trimmings - competitively priced at under £15, or you could stick to a simple Burger and Chips for less than £9. Of all the sections, I found the Chef's Recommendations the most tempting as they had items on it that were a little more unusual than the rest of the menu...which so far had offered nothing out of the ordinary. The Chef's Recommendations had Minted Lamb Shank (£13.95) and Local Butcher's Faggots (£10.25) both of which were just slightly different from the run of the mill pub grub.
If you are dining with your family, the Countryman caters nicely for children even if the menu is rather naffly called "Kiddies Korner". They offer a choice of main course and ice cream for £5.25, with dishes like Fish Fingers, Burgers, Pizza or Sausages alongside fries, peas or beans.
The Countryman website makes much of their famous carvery, but that was not on offer on the night we ate there. However, I understand that the landlord is planning on reintroducing the carvery meals in the near future, as they used to be a popular choice in the pub's heyday. The cost used to be £8.95 for a choice of two meats (hand carved by the chef), vegetables, potatoes and real gravy. Children are offered smaller portions at £5.25 per head.
~~~ OUR DINNER ~~~
On the evening we cycled there, we were pretty tired. Although it was only a two mile cycle ride, we'd had a busy day sightseeing in Dorset. We'd been to Bournemouth to visit the mother -in-law, we'd tried to visit the village of Tyneham (this is a "ghost" village closed by the MOD in 1942 and they never allowed the former residents to move back after peace was declared) and we'd been to see the Rude Man of Cerne Abbas.
The list of starters on offer at the Countryman Inn weren't particularly inspiring so we just ordered a couple of main courses. I was torn between a couple of dishes from the Chef's Recommendation section Local Old English Sausages with Onion Gravy, Creamed Mashed Potato and Peas (£8.95) or Homemade Beef Lasagne served with Garlic Bread and Salad (£9.50). In the end I chose the Lasagne as I fancied some garlic bread. As soon as we placed our order at the bar, the barmaid said I could help myself to salad from the salad bar on the other side of the bar. This was a nice selection of freshly chopped ingredients as well as various different dressings and accompaniments. Although it wasn't the most innovative selection of salad items, it was all fresh and clean - which was good enough for me. As well as the ubiquitous selection of sliced tomatoes, cucumber and celery there was shredded lettuce, picked beetroot, coleslaw and potato salad on offer. I filled my bowl and added a tiny bit of vinaigrette to flavour the items. It was all very crunchy and tasty, and I managed to scoff most of it before my lasagne made an appearance. The lasagne was served in an oval shaped dish straight from the oven and piping hot. It was a simply massive portion and all topped with freshly melted cheddar cheese - I really did struggle to finish it all. Inside the dish were plenty of layers of pasta with lots of beef and tomato flavoured mince too. The garlic bread was nicely crispy and slightly burned to the edges as I like it. The only slight criticism I could make of this meal was that the beef and tomato filling in the lasagne was slightly too sloppy and sauce like; I prefer the beef element of a lasagne to be slightly drier and meatier, but that's purely a personal preference. All in all it was a good value tasty meal for less than a tenner.
My partner stampeded to the Countryman Pies section of the menu as he is more than a little fond of a pie and a pint (....prompting me to burst into a chorus of "Who Ate All the Pies? You Fat B$%^*!, You Fat B$%^*!"...which earned me a glare). Of the pies on offer (Steak and Ale, Steak and Kidney, Chicken and Ham or Cheese, Onion and Potato), he was torn between Steak and Kidney or Steak and Ale. In the end he chose the Steak and Ale Pie for £9.75. The pie was a good sized triangular shaped wedge accompanied by a generous portion of peas and chips. The dish was also served with a small spoonful of fresh vegetables which consisted of mostly cabbage and a few carrots. The pie was coated in a lovely rich and buttery short crust pastry which was very tasty indeed - the perfect foil for the rich steak and ale filling. The pie was not served with any gravy, which was slightly remiss of the chef, but to fair the pie's filling was moist enough to get away without any gravy. It wasn't one of those dry and crumbly pies where you need plenty of juice in order to help you swallow.
Neither of us spotted any mention of desserts on either the menu nor on a stray blackboard at the Countryman. We didn't enquire about the possibilities of pudding nor was any suggestion offered. Besides which I was too chilled from sitting in an unheated pub to even contemplate a chilled dessert! Maybe if there had been a warm fruity pie or a crumble with custard we may have lingered longer.
~~~ ANYTHING ELSE? ~~~
The Countryman is a free house so there were a good range of various different lagers and beers on offer. I had a J20 and himself had a pint of Fosters Lager (£3.40 a pint). You could also partake of Kronenbourg 1664, John Smiths or Carling Black Label. If you like real ale, they had a full range from local brewery Ringwoods - Best Bitter, Ringwood Forty Niner and Old Thumper.
The welcome at the Countryman was very friendly from both the staff and the new landlord. Our dog was welcomed too and given a biscuit (so she's a fan of the place for life). We were served with drinks as soon as we arrived and offered menus as soon as we expressed an interest in eating there. Once we'd placed our food order, there was only a short wait of ten or so minutes before she brought our food to the table. She brought us cutlery and asked if we'd like any condiments such as ketchup or mustard. Our night out came to a rather reasonable £28.55, which we felt was quite good value for two main courses, two pints of lager, a packet of crisps and a J20.
The toilets were once again very pink at the Countryman. All the pub toilets I visited in Dorset that weekend were pink - it must a décor top tip in that part of the world. They were perfectly serviceable and clean, but in need of a lick of paint and a re-tile / re-grout. Unfortunately the chilly air in the pub was worse in the toilets so it wasn't a place to linger and freshen up - more of a slash and dash scenario
The pub is situated just a short way down a country lane just off a busy main road (the A352 - the main road between the towns of Dorchester and Wareham). There's a massive car park to the front of the pub...but it's rather pitted with pot holes so it's best to take care when parking. For sunnier days than we experienced in mid-April last year there is a good sized garden with outside seating to the back of the building.
~~ RECOMMENDED? ~~~
The Countryman would get four stars from me had it been warmer internally. Unfortunately I'm going to have to deduct a star due to the fact that it was just too chilly in there to be completely comfortable. They're got a very nice fireplace, plenty of logs AND a wood burning stove...so why not use them!? April in the UK can be unpredictable and chilly at the best of times and it was certainly not the warmest of weekends weather-wise. The Countryman wasn't a place to linger as it just wasn't warm enough. The thought of cycling back to our accommodation on a cold April evening was not a pleasant one as we just hadn't been warmed though in the inn as we should have been.
Our meals were very nice and the portions more than generous. The prices seemed pretty reasonable compared to other pubs in the area. I wish the new landlord and his team the best of luck in turning the fortunes of the pub around. It has plenty of potential but I fear they have a hard road ahead of them. It's a big pub to fill so they need to get the word out there fast that it's under new ownership, and then prove their intention to change things for the better. And they could start by putting the heating on!
Recommended...if you're sporting several layers of clothing....
~~~ FURTHER DETAILS ~~~
The Countryman Inn is a hop, skip and a jump off the A352 (the main road between the towns of Dorchester and Wareham in Dorset). The pub is in East Knighton which is so tiny a village that you could blink and miss it.
The Countryman Inn
Telephone No: 01305 852666
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England Pub / Bar National
Pub / Bar National / 12, Gloucester Road, Brighton. Tel: 689006
Pub / Bar National / 1 Church Street, Brighton. Tel: 684951.
Pub / Bar National / 74, East Street, Brighton, Tel: +44(0)1273 207256.
Pub / Bar National / Marlborough Place, Brighton, Tel: 607207.
Pub / Bar National / 65 Upper St. James Street, Brighton. Tel: +44(0)1273 629927.
Pub / Bar National / 33, Upper Street, St James's Street, Brighton, Tel: 602521
Pub / Bar National / Sun Street, Lancaster. Tel: +44(0)1524 845599.
Pub / Bar National / 6 Steine St, Brighton. Tel: +44(0)1273 605525.
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