Cracking pint of Adnam’s Mosaic, over a couple of days you could taste it go down the cask until you got the, ‘I’ll just have to change the barrel.’
Out and out, by a fenland mile, the best beer I had all week in Southwold was in The Nelson, an observation consistently made from repeated visits. It’s also in a pretty decent location at the end of a ‘no through road’ that leads to the cliff top path, although it’s only a small cliff and a few steps down to the promenade and all the beach huts. They call them beach huts here, because it’s all very posh. In more working class resorts they would be called chalets, to give them an air of being a little upmarket. They don’t have to do that here because individually, they sell for more than a street of terraced houses does in parts of Leeds 11!
I often wonder about people who pike through pub windows at others sat having a quiet pint? Or poke their heads through the door, peering around. What you looking for? It’s a pub! Then they wander in, only to become the soulless inhabitants of public house dining purgatory. Wraith’s, forever destined to walk round busy pubs clutching a menu, mumbling oaths like,’ What time do they serve until?’ and pointing at people sitting with half empty plates, saying, ‘Looks like they’ve nearly finished?’
You have to carefully time your visits to The Lord Nelson avoiding the lunchtime food hunters and teatime diners. It’s always busy at these times, but quietens down a a bit in the late afternoon, and after 8.00pm. But not at weekends. In fact, I’ll deliver my verdict now; The Lord Nelson would be a much better pub if it didn’t serve food. Yeah, I know they’ve got to make a living, probably over just a few months, although I suspect there will be some year round trade here. Mind you, the money going over the bar must be substantial, it’s never quiet in August. They do however have more than sufficient, very friendly staff to cope with the demand.
Thing is it’s just not a comfortable place for serious drinking. You’ll see one or two drinkers, an odd paper reader or book browser, but most folk are more interested in eating, or are in there to see and be seen, sitting in a prominent position taking as much bar or table up as they can and making a pint and a G & T last for two weeks.
To be fair, at times, it really is London on Sea. Why do they have to talk and laugh so loud? Just talk amongst yourselves, there’s no need to address the entire pub, OK yah?
Another thing that always pisses me off, particularly in busy pubs like this, is the barman who turns from the till to face a crowd five deep and says, ‘Who’s next then?’
FFS, if he doesn’t know who does? I mean, it’s his job to know, especially in a pub full of people who aren’t familiar with proper pub etiquette and the consequences of breaching said rules.
Another, other thing, that pisses me off is chip and pin card sales for small amounts of purchases, pubs or anywhere. Contactless is cool, chip and pin is taking the piss for a small round of drinks.
However busy it is they seem to operate a system whereby regulars, I’ve put regulars in preference to locals because they seemed to be a bit thin on the ground, get served immediately on a nod and wink. I hate that too. If I get treated like that I’m not going to keep going in and become a regular myself, am I? I wonder if they have locals rates? I’ve heard of a good few recent incidences elsewhere, but I’ll leave it for another post.
The decor? Bare floors, piney tables and seating, low ceilings and some really cool Nelsonabilia knocking about, a fair amount of it in the ‘too good to be risked on a pub wall’ category, I thought. There’s also a blackboard at the side of the bar with a semi-permanent listing of all the beers and suggested food pairings, nice touch I thought.
I couldn’t work out why The Nelson, a tenanted house, was the only pub with the full Adnam’s cask range? Why not in the managed pubs as well? Anyway, it was all very well kept; Bitter, very good, 3.5 and rising. Broadside similar, Mosaic the same. On occasions, I had the Mosaic up to NBSS 4, like when they changed the cask.
It’s the first place I’ve seen the ‘Jack Brand’ Innovation IPA, on draught, a 6.9% modern style IPA; malty, hoppy, quite balanced, a bit piney, soft tropical fruity flavours. I got some from the Adnam’s offy on the corner of Pinkney’s Lane to drink on the veranda, and it was shite out of a bottle, but the draught version was quite nice.
I’m not sure about the ‘Jack Brand’ branding, it’s just ‘Corporate Craft’ as Retired Martin nicely termed it. Bandwagon and jumping on, comes to mind. My advice to Adnam’s would be – stop it, you don’t need it, you’re a decent, traditional relatively well known medium sized brewer with a good reputation. It might be a more modern style than you usually brew, and you’ve not made a bad job, so just call it Adnam’s beer please.
Toilets? The Gents is a bit small considering the numbers of customers. It’s in decent order, but at busy times probably needs a more frequent fettling. Other positives include decent wi-fi. No children in the bar area, at all. They are allowed in a side room and in the semi-covered, and quite pleasant, beer garden out the back, which can only be accessed through the bar? At quieter times there was even some decent conversation with other holidaymakers and an odd local.
I could put a rider on all the pubs in Southwold – I’d love to come back outside the holiday season, when it comes dark in the late afternoon. A walk along the sea front listening to the waves breaking against the groins, watching the lights of the ships getting brighter as the darkness creeps in from the East. Walking back up the steps towards East St and into the warm hum of The Lord Nelson, ‘A pint of Mosaic please.’ Maybe even calling for some fish and chips afterwards at The Little Fish and Chip shop further up East St. Highly recommended, top quality Fish and Chips, if not a little over priced (a lot actually), but nevertheless of the highest order, which is unusual this far South of GOC.
Verdict – If this were a wet led pub it would be unbelievable, but the local economics dictate it could never happen. Notwithstanding, it is still the most characterful pub in Southwold with the best kept ale and a real buzz about the place. Yes, I think a revisit in late autumn is required. Yes, it is deserving of the accolades, ‘Best Pub in Southwold’, ‘Best beer in Southwold’ and ‘A Seaside Pub of the Highest Order’.