[The Chippy Challenge: to eat more fish and chips in 2014; see original post for details.]
Evaluation: Dreadful. Too much batter but even that wouldn’t be so bad if the batter was good. Fish tasted a little ‘off’ as well.
Days since last: 2 (Dolphin Fish Bar, Highworth)
Monthly consolidations/compilations: January
[*kpw = kebab per week for 2013, as noted in an earlier post and the 55th entry for the 2013 Challenge]
At the end of a winter loop run along ridges above the River Kennet, I was cold and hungry and lucky to find a kebab stand open (the Kebab and Pizza House which I last visited a few years ago). Well, I SAY lucky but two hours later I a still chugging iced tea and water trying to lower the salinity of my blood. But, it was tasty, if not especially good for the blood pressure: the pungent flavours of mutton and, I’m guessing, rotting beef at least indicated meat was a major component and the sauce and veg were good. Not really worth rushing out to Marlborough for unless you are suffering from hyponatremia.
When the youths from the Marlborough College are packed on the bus and you are trying pass through the aisle with a flimsy shopping sack full of wine, vodka, and tonic you might have a sudden epiphany about the origin of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies whilst popping one of these privileged shits in the chest with an off-balance and accidental (we’ll go with that) elbow and dragging the bottle filled bag at skull level past three others until the rest duck-and-cover. Earlier, on my way to the Queen’s Head, I passed Golding’s former digs next to the Church, so maybe that’s what brought on these literary thoughts….
The contrast between the gaggle of students and the friendly–if a bit surreal–patrons of the Queen’s Head was striking. As a stranger negotiating the several small rooms to reach the back side of the public bar took a moment; it is a fairly old house but I am reckoning Edwardian or late Victorian despite the sturdy and ancient looking beams.; I’m sure the landlord will correct me as he seems as much an authority on any topic as he is authoritative and benignly autocratic…or the guy I’m assuming was the gov may have just been another punter.
I gave the pump clips a squint and decided on a Directors which made the three younger men at the bar burst into laughter as if they had been sitting on this merriment for minutes and could no longer hold it in. “What’s that then?” the one next to Maybe-The-Gaffer asked. “Courage,” he answered. “It’s a good strong ale.” They all laughed again. “Courage? What’s that?” “It’s a brewery.” “There is a Courage Brewery down near my house. But, what’s that?” Another ejaculation of laughter…I concluded these boys were tripping and sat back for what turned into an Abbott and Costello (or maybe more like Abbott and the Three Stooges) bit.
Horse racing features in the room to the left with some great photos of jockeys being dismounted mid jump, and boxing is highlighted to the right but the room seems more a shrine to the career of Muhammed Ali.
This is my new favourite pub in Marlborough (although the Bear and the Dragon are a little easier to get to on a tourist trip).
Another friendly bar in Marlborough, the Crown was bustling with customers and hustling food and yet still felt intimate despite the cavernous dining area just off the small front bar. The family running the shop were friendly to this stranger despite everyone else that arrived appearing to have long running warm relationships with one or more of them.
Unable to linger as I needed to get the Christmas groceries in, I hurried on after my Carling (they have ale but I’m bolstering my 100/100 totals as the year ends). The food looks like above standard pub fare — pies and roasts but artistically displayed and rich aromas — and this will be on the short list for a winter lunch on the next visit (note that everyone that came in had booked ahead and most still had a short wait).
Off the High Street running next to the fantastic Bear Hotel is a little street called the Parade which holds a couple of nice pubs which allowed escape from the Christmas Market. First up was the Lamb, an ideal choice with its attentive staff (and the bartender I had displayed some great tits, erm…tatts…oh, screw it, either is correct).
Dark when you move from the windows it is a cozy house with the obligatory real fire (only the best pubs will have one!).
Marlborough is an odd town and has a quirky bar scene considering how posh the populace is (of at least how posh the reputation of the populace is). The Lamb, like the Bear and the Green Dragon, seems to attract a better element.
Just a few doors from the Castle and Ball sits the Royal Oak, as it has for centuries as well as every time I have visited town and yet this is the first time I ever noticed it. “If it was a snake it would have bitten you,” old guys back home would say and so I went in for the requisite snake bite medication and retired to the garden to escape the bar crowded with diners.
The kitchen doors were open to the deck area and I listened to the busy banter for a while. The chef, a Scotsman, was in high spirit and he joined his sous enjoying a smoke near me; my presence imposed the weather conversation but that’s all I got…nothing about the old house with its interconnected and multilevel rooms encircling the bar. Maybe next time.
The end of the run came twenty minutes before the bus was due so I scanned the High Street for a pub I haven’t previously visited. Finding two (good lord, how did I miss either of these?), I chose the warm looking Wellington Arms and having shitty luck with beer today (at the Outside Chance and the White Hart), I opted for the Black Rat Cider (which is always sublime).
The landlady seems indifferent here, even unfriendly. She looked dismissively my way as I entered (fair enough), then turned and glared at some empty point in space miles away. Eventually, the chirpy bartender returned from serving someone their Sunday roasts and took my drink order and I watched the behaviour continue. The landlady is definitely much friendlier to folks dressed like the landed aristocracy or parents visiting a child at the College (i.e., she spoke to them). Nice house, otherwise.