Sole Bay is the name of the Southwold brewery the Adnam’s family took over in 1872, effectively the start of their brewing dynasty, so it’s a fitting name for a pub which stands in the shadow of the brewery. Nestling on a corner plot, fronting East Green, opposite the iconic Southwold Lighthouse, the Sole Bay isn’t quite as large as The Nelson. It feels just as busy though. Dare I say it? With clientele who may think The Nelson a little pretentious?
From outside it’s a very traditional looking public house. The hard line traditionalist would be disappointed though, as it looks like the interior has been gutted at some time, knocked through, and refurbed in seaside yachting style chic. All bright and airy, but pleasant all the same, with old church hall chairs and hymn book holders for the person behind you, and a mish mash of bleached, no two the same the same tables. There’s even a couple of quality antique settles too. Commensurate with the feel of the place, everything is very shipshape and Bristol fashion. Toilets were first rate. To be fair, every Adnam’s pub in Southwold was spot on in terms of cleanliness and upkeep.
Although they concentrate on the food side of things, there always seems to be a few drinkers at the bar, stood outside, or sat at the street side tables. There’s a nice feel, with decent ordinary folk providing a nice vibe. I’ll go as far to say that a good few of the drinkers were locals, and not locals as in every weekend and Bank Holidays neither.
Looking round, If I wanted a pub meal then I might be heading here. Sit at the end of the bar and you can see the kitchen. The dishes might be a pound or so less than elsewhere too, but they looked very good and the frequently changing specials board often had more items chalked off than were available if you went in later on.
Same pint of cask Mosaic as The Lord Nelson, just as nice, but not quite the same in a branded Adnam’s vase. Think one of the Carlsberg glasses with thick sides and a heavy bottom, just branded as Adnam’s. The other beers from Adnam’s range I tried over several visits were similarly in top form and I rated the Mosaic, Bitter and Broadside as approaching Good/Very Good (NBSS 3.5). I might even have gone for a straight 3.5, if it weren’t for the glasses.
I nearly nicked a straight schooner from ‘another pub’ to do a taste test, they said they didn’t have any in The Sole Bay. I was convinced the beer was the equal of The Nelson and it was only the glassware that was making me think otherwise? Mind you, ale doesn’t taste the same in one of those dimpled glasses with a handle to me neither. They should be banned along with imitations of flower vases like Adnam’s have adopted. I guess I’m probably a bit of a glass snob, amongst other things.
I won’t tell you which pub it was in (not The Sole Bay), but a friendly barmaid pulled a clean glass off the shelf, turned it upside down in front of me and said, ‘what is it now?’
She didn’t honestly think the glasses had been designed to resemble Southwold lightouse when upturned, but it’s a nice theory?
Verdict – Nice little street corner pub that does food, but hasn’t forgot that it’s a pub. Decent beer and nice down to earth feel about the place.