The 2014 Chippy Challenge ended New Year’s Eve but I was hungry and had a half hour to kill and I’m still not sick of fish and chips so I popped into the Codfather as I wandered around Trowbridge. The fellow cooked the small portion (at least that’s what I ordered albeit a very generous “small”) to order in the packed house and by the time it came up all succulent and steaming the queue was out the door. Brilliant.
Dry, warm clothing donned at the Stallards after the rainy run were a special joy but now the rain had stopped and I could look around on my walk back into town. On my right, I spotted the Rose and Crown which I had web-reconned and decided it looked too foodie for a stop (maybe it was the sign, maybe a review); but, the bar was crowded with fat, middle-aged blokes so I felt I could slide in unnoticed.
Turns out, they had a nice selection of ales on although it does appear to have a dining crowd in mind (with locally sourced produce featured but also largely traditional plates available). I went to the Spartan dining room next to the bar so I could sit by a window and watched a fellow demolish first a platter of burger and chips then a really large berry mess: five minutes flat and the bartender had to go get the dessert.
The longer I stayed the more it felt like a proper pub although the location is a bit unfortunate. However, almost right across the road you’ll find the rail station, so if you’re passing through and fancy a quick pint you could do a lot worse.
I was absolutely soaked as I entered the previous pub, but the run from there to the Stallards was even wetter, windier, and colder (although the temperature nearly hit double digits). It had just opened for the day (third time as first customer today), but there was already a brazier of coal started in the hearth so I knew the run was over — I had considered a loop around the outskirts of Trowbridge to pick up another pub but the thought of returning to the damp in soaked vestments was a non-starter, so the backpack was unloaded and the dry kit set on a chair to warm up.
That’s right, I didn’t change out of the wet stuff straightaway. I was hot from the exertion despite feeling outwardly chilled. I needed some time to let the internal and external temperatures equilibrate and I needed to grab a pint of nourishment, this time in the form of West Country Gold, a cider just sweet enough to appeal to the candied-cider crowd and dry enough (for a fizzy, industrial cider) not to offend the effete.
The bar seems like it might be a bit of a party shack for the young but not for youths. I get the feel of college or university educated folk or journeymen crafts people but not anyone over 40 years old. Hard to tell mid-day as the only punter in the place, but I don’t think I’m the target audience. Nice enough, but it has an atmosphere that doesn’t speak to me either as a traditional pub nor as a real dive. Perhaps a bit too tidy, or maybe the sensation that the well whisky is actually good or that brightly coloured shooters are on the menu.
Completely off my tits at this point (counting backwards to the start of the day, this was my 11th pub stop), I got one more cider and took a quiet seat near the window. This seemed like a serious drinkers’ bar or at least it was populated by some severely drunk folk (mea culpa).
I had not lifted a cool souvenir yet (there was a camera pointed at the antique skittle pins in the window at the Bell, earlier), so I scoured the room for something that would fit in my bag. They were using the billiards table (and my collection of cue balls is substantial already) but with my change into dry clothing there was enough room for one of the items, above, in my pack (hint: it isn’t the pinball machine although it is doubtful anyone would have noticed me dragging it down the pavement). Good pub.
The pub seemed a bit rough so I didn’t take any interior photos, but the music was surprisingly good and the crowd, obviously completely bored with one another, welcomed the wasted stranger with the exotic accent and made the pint last a bit longer than it might otherwise have. One off-duty barmaid said it was her birthday today (27) and I added that it was also mine (51), which for Trowbridge might make me older than her granny. Dives are always the best places, though.
[*kpw = kebab per week for 2013, as noted in an earlier post and the 24th entry for the 2013 Challenge]
Now 9 pubs (and pints) into my birthday run (most recent stop a hundred stumbly steps away at the King’s Arms), I found the highly recommended Flames Kebab. I really needed this and it did not disappoint. The thin chilli sauce had subtlety and fire, the tomatoes were firm and flawless and highly aromatic, the chips were worth the wait and crisp to the end of the meal’s very short lifespan. The best bit, though, had to be the meat, itself: not very fatty, rich with lamb, and a texture that does a very good impression of fully constituted flesh. Yum.
Eight pubs, eight pints and about 13 miles into the day’s effort (I got, erm, ‘lost’ on my way to the town centre from the Ship), I was closed to famished and soaked through to the bones. I needed a dry place to change into my dry clothing and the King’s Arms seemed to suit the bill. I couldn’t very well go in just for that so I had a Rite Flanker by Wickwar (very floral hops in this delight) which I now think had a rugby theme (Right Flanker) but at first thought it was a play on Right Wanker.
There is a pub map of Bath that is designed like the London Underground map on the wall nearest the bar and front door. I can kick myself for not having the presence of mind to take a photograph but also am fairly proud that I DID have the presence of mind NOT to just tuck it under my arm and walk out with it.