While in my previous review of Ben’s Takeaway I had mentioned some of the decline of Britain’s rural pubs, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about some of the successes. As we continued our hike on the Cotswold Way, while the weather was a bit dreary, the pub situation got substantially better. After checking out some Iron age barrows and forts at Uley Long Barrow and Uley Bury, we descended into the village of Uley (home of the quite good Uley Brewery) and then headed into Dursley, which is one of the larger towns along our hike. Being a market town (complete with an impressive Market House in the center of town), Dursley also has quite the active beer scene, with several active pubs and a very active CAMRA group. So when we came across The Old Spot Inn right on the trail, we decided that we had walked enough during the day to warrant a late lunch.
First, lets talk about beers. While a lot of the pubs we went to would have just 3 or 4 taps, usually with Doom Bar being one of the more exotic offerings, The Old Spot is doing a great job bringing in a lot of the better beers from the local area breweries: Uley, Moles, Hook Norton, Mantle, Brains, and Ramsbury being ones I remember seeing. Indeed, Carol and I found ourselves quickly relaxing at a table in one of the dining rooms, sharing a Moho Mantle and Brains Rev. James Original.
But seeing the food coming to the nearby tables (including the couple at the next table who were also hiking the Cotswold Way on a slower itinerary than us, they having finished their day in Dursley, while we still had several miles to hike on to Wotton-Under-Edge), we couldn’t resist ordering a bit of a late lunch to tide us over.
Carol opted for a nice combination of their tomato soup and a grilled mackerel. Both of these were quite good. Tomato soup is one of those things that I always have to remember that I actually like. I always see “tomato soup” on a menu, and my mind wanders back to the “tomato soup” of my childhood, which often came out of a Campbell’s can, and that’s probably one of the worst renditions of tomato soup on the planet. The soup here, however, was a proper, good tomato soup, tasting nicely of tomatoes and herbs in a rich but not salty soup. Add in a hearty amount of croutons and crusty bread, and I would have loved this as a light lunch in itself.
The mackerel was interesting as well. I rather liked the simplicity of the presentation: the mackerel was presented whole on the plate with a light salad. And while mackerel isn’t one of my favorite fish (those aware of my food allergy issues know that if I’m going into the world of seafood, I’m rather picky about it), this was a rather nicely done mackerel: cooked up nicely, with a light amount of olive oil and herbs brushed over it, just starting to crisp up from the heat. Carol certainly enjoyed it.
Myself, I went a bit pedestrian for the pub standard of bangers and mash. But I’ll have to say, this relatively simple dish can be taken to a higher level. In this case, the whole Gloucestershire area prides itself on its sausages, and the bangers and mash of The Old Spot Inn sported no fewer than three different sausages from local vendors. Add in a pleasantly robust-but-not-salty onion gravy and some nicely prepared mash, and I’ll have to say, this was just about the perfect little late-afternoon break.
Overall, we found The Old Spot Inn to be one of the little gems of our hike through Gloucestershire: it’s still a well-functioning and pleasant old-style pub still serving up some great local beers and food. I’d love to come back.