“ Address: Lake Road / Keswick / Cumbria / CA12 4BZ / England „
As with most Lake District towns, Keswick is awash with places to eat and drink, all competing for your money. At first glance, the Four in Hand has little to recommend it over other places - from the outside it just looks like your typical town pub. However, step inside, and it's a different story.
First of all, the staff are extremely friendly. We have been in this pub a number of times and have always had a great welcome. As soon as you walk in, you are greeted as though you are a long lost friend, and made to feel instantly at home. The bar staff are chatty and friendly, without being intrusive and there is a nice warm feel to the whole place.
The Four in Hand caters for a wide range of customers. It's a popular stop off point for walkers - a place to have a have a quick pint and some food after a hard days walking; it's ideal for families looking for a reasonably priced and it's also used by the local and not just a tourist trap. This gives it a nice mix of customers and a great atmosphere. Despite this (at least when we have been there), it never gets horrendously busy and you don't have to wait ages to be served.
The atmosphere is enhanced the fact that the Four in Hand is relatively small - effectively just two rooms with a central bar. Tables are well-spaced, though, so whilst it retains an intimate feel, you aren't sitting on top of other parties. One of the rooms also has an open fire which is very welcome during the winter months and adds to the "homely feel."
Another plus, as far as I'm concerned is the music which, in common with most pubs, the Four In Hand feels the need to provide. On the plus side, it isn't too loud and you can easily chat to people without having to shout They also tend to play stuff from the 80s and 90s which, being an old fogey, is more my cup of tea! On the downside, they seem to have quite a limited selection. We went along two days running, and it was clearly just the same tape running on a loop! Go in too often and you may well get a distinct feeling of déjà vu!
The Four in Hand is also a real ale pub. Although they are owned by Jennings Brewery pub, so naturally stock their ales, they have some guest ales from other breweries, which change on a fairly regular basis. The choice is not that wide (generally around 3 or 4 different options), but if you like the ones on offer, it's a pleasant place to sit with a pint in an evening.
We have eaten there quite a bit since we first discovered it, and have yet to have a bad meal. The food is fairly traditional pub/bar snack type stuff, but it does make good use of local produce, which is good to see. Food ranges from light snacks (sandwiches, jacket potatoes etc.) to full blown meals, including starters, main courses and desserts.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the menu is the starters. When we first went to the pub, there was a choice of around 6 or 7 different options, all of which were very different. However, when we returned recently, this had been drastically reduced to just 3. The range of main meals is good, though, so there should be something for everyone whether you like meat, fish or vegetarian options. Puddings are good, honest stodge - things like jam roly-poly, spotted dick and so on. Not my cup of tea personally, but it is the type of thing which of walkers like, so clearly they are catering for that market.
Price-wise, the food represents pretty good value. It is perhaps marginally more expensive than you might expect to pay in other parts of the country, but that is to be expected, given the location. Anyway, prices are not extortionate. Main meals, for example, might be 50p to £1 dearer than normal, which is not bad at all when you compare it with some places in the area.
Many of the dishes come with a multitude of options - chips or potatoes, salad or vegetables and so on. Meals can be tweaked slightly to create the combination you want and they are very flexible and accommodating. Food is always cooked to order, and arrives piping hot. Service is usually pretty fast and efficient too - it's rare to wait more than 15 minutes or so from the point when you order your food to your first dish arriving. The food is nothing spectacular - it's just fairly bog-standard pub food type stuff and it's not somewhere you'd necessarily go out of your way to visit. If you're in Keswick, though, it definitely represents a safe bet, where you can guarantee your food will arrive hot and be very tasty.
There are a couple of small gripes. Whilst the overall standard of food if pretty good, the vegetables are a disappointment. I like mine nice and crunchy, but the Four in Hand believes in boiling them to death. They often arrive on your plate in their own little swimming pool of water and are very soggy and rather tasteless. It's the one part of the meal which lets the pub down. The other issue is that sometimes the staff can be a little TOO efficient - pause for a few minutes in your eating and they assume you have finished and race over to take your plate away! Still, that's nicer than having to sit surrounded by dirty crockery!
All in all, the Four in Hand offers a very nice pub experience. A friendly, welcoming atmosphere, real ales and decent pub food at a reasonable price make it well worth considering if you find yourself in the area.
Four in Hand
Tel: 017687 72069
© Copyright SWSt 2009