Published: 11:30, 06 December 2019
| Updated: 14:37, 27 January 2020
Spying The Dog at the top end I felt sure it would deliver a great drop of beer and serve a tasty lunch. However, and I don’t want to be negative, it felt a touch snooty to me.
So, ignoring the perfectly manicured bushes and awards handed out by a motoring organisation, I headed down the road until I fell through the door of the Anchor Inn.
When I say ‘fell’, I didn’t quite, but it was very close as Weanie the lurcher was stretched out on the stripped floorboards in front of the open fire just through the main entrance.
It’s clear four-legged friends are not only welcome here, they’re positively encouraged, to the point where the staff work around them.
Having successfully negotiated a route to the bar I tested the Chocolate Porter which is a powerful, tasty drop but perhaps a little hefty for a lunchtime.
Instead I settled for Plough On from the Butcombe Brewing Company, a 4.1% winter ale which still carried a good rich, nutty flavour and is well worth sampling.
What an absolutely superb village boozer, low beams with hops, real fires, bar billiards, a Whitbread sign dating back to 1742 and dominant dogs. And, as if this wasn’t enough, there was even a jovial fellow fixing accordions in the back room and a traditional ‘bing-bong’ bell to tell the bar staff when food is ready.
Originally two farm cottages, this pub was built during the reign of Charles I in 1645 which may explain why there are three great open fireplaces and a lovely, slightly smoky, aroma.
The front bar was buzzy for a mid-week lunchtime but I left the locals to it in favour of a wonderful old sofa in a private area in front of log fire number two.
I selected a personal favourite from the impressive menu and the busy, bustling barmaid served me quite simply the best broccoli and stilton soup I have ever tasted, along with a serious slab of crusty bread.
By now I’d been joined by Elvis, a 10-month-old Shih Tzu, who was just one big soft fluff ball. However, Elvis must have been on the drink himself as he needed to leave the building - I followed to take a look at the garden too, and I’m glad I did. It might not be sitting outside weather right now, but this is a great space and anywhere which gives the hens their own lawnmower has to be okay.
Back inside, and partly to keep commenter ‘boredinkent’ happy, I ordered a pud– see, I wasn’t a “total wuss” this time. The cherry and Disaronno cheesecake looked and tasted equally as brilliant as the soup, though the texture took me slightly by surprise.
Pub dogs Kitty and Kizzy, mum and daughter (black spaniels I think), joined the canine crew and some toddlers were playing with toys in my sofa spot so I left them to it to re-join the front bar.
Here, Chris, rolling fags from a tin on the bar, was busy denying the Anchor was now his home and said he’s never in for more than three hours each day.
Several suited and booted folk with black ties were also in following a wake and were celebrating the departed in the best way possible, plenty of pints and many good memories.
On my way out I came across Kevin sitting on a bench at the front of the pub and discovered he’s not only an accordion player of distinction who heads up his own band but, in tandem with ‘er upstairs who must be obeyed’ owns the place.
Given the great atmosphere and its position at the heart of this lovely village I was surprised when Kev told me what a terrible, rough place The Anchor was when he took it over seven years ago. Just goes to show what hard work and determination can achieve, a thriving boozer which is confident enough to combine Tai Chi and ukulele playing within the same event, and it was voted Best Entertainment pub in 2014.
As the sign says, this pub keeps it real – the food, the ales, the music and the people - which all means you end up with a really great community pub catering for everyone.
The Dog at the top end may be trendy and upmarket with great gastro food, but for me, you can keep it – give me the delights and the dogs at the Anchor Inn every day and twice on Sunday - when I really should return for a roast.