Visit The Pub Curmudgeon site

There’s always a worry, when visiting a pub you’ve enjoyed many years before, that you will find it changed beyond recognition and no longer worth the trip. But I was greatly reassured recently when visiting the Black Horse at Clapton-in-Gordano close to the M5 in the northern tip of Somerset. This is a country pub as country pubs should be. Outwardly, it’s an unassuming, whitewashed building of local stone. Access to the main bar is gained by a passageway that runs right through the pub from front to back. Inside, it’s all stone-flagged floors, ancient beams and creaking settles. There’s a main bar area with a cosy snug opening off. The servery also has an outside window allowing direct service to drinkers in the beer garden.

It once featured on CAMRA’s National Inventory of historic pub interiors, but apparently was taken off because a wall was removed in about 1850. But it’s still one of the most traditional pub interiors I can think of.

On my visit, it had Courage Best, Butcombe Bitter and Exmoor Gold on gravity, and Otter Bitter and Wadworth’s 6X on handpump. Not the selection of a cutting-edge craft beer exhibition, but all beers either brewed in the West Country or having a strong local tradition. Prices were between £2.60 and £2.90 a pint, similar to country pubs around here. The casks stillaged behind the bar had cooling jackets, and my pint of Butcombe was served at the right temperature and had no shortage of condition. When done well, gravity dispense has much to be said for it.

Food is mostly rolls and baguettes with a wide choice of hot and cold fillings, with the menu augmented by a small selection of specials. One of these was Jamaican Jerk Chicken on a bed of rice, so clearly they’re not rigidly wedded to Ye Olde Traditional Meate and Two Vegge style of pub food. This is how pub food should be done – provide a decent meal or snack to visitors, but don’t pretend to be a restaurant. No food is served in the evenings, or on Sundays (the latter something of a failing, I think).

It remains very much a proper pub – just after noon on a weekday there were old boys in there drinking pints of bright orange cloudy cider. Well worth a visit if you’re ever anywhere remotely close. And why can’t more operators of rural pubs realise that championing tradition, with a nod to the contemporary, makes much more sense than chucking it out of the window? The Black Horse is a truly memorable pub – how many knocked-through, stripped-pine establishments offering “contemporary dining with a strong emphasis on local seasonal produce” can say the same?

So don’t let anybody say there’s never anything positive on this blog!