Beer Blog

The Harbour Inn, Blackshore, Southwold

It’s not your archetypal jetty harbour, more a row of staithes along the river estuary that services the local fishing and leisure boats. There’s odd whiffs of rotting sea weed and loads of sticky mud when the tides out. It’s genuinely a working port with a stilted, shanty town of black bitumen soaked wooden sheds housing fish merchants and boat builders. You can go crab fishing, get fish and chips or visit my favourite; The Sole Bay Fish Company for a decent seafood platter, other simple fishy dishes are available. They call it the Blackshore locally, which incidentally is the name of Adnam’s in house Guinness substitute, sorry Stout, it’s not a bad drop of ale neither.

The Harbour Inn-1

I reckon most people will approach the pub from the harbourside car park and think it doesn’t look much at all from, what is ostensibly, the front aspect?  A look round the back suggests in days gone by the North aspect was probably the front of the pub and what’s left of an older building that’s been successively added to.

The Harbour Inn-9

Effectively the main body of the pub is connected to a larger, barn like annexe, dining area by a wooden clad corridor cum narrow room with it’s own bar. The supplementary bar didn’t appear to have been recently used operationally, if at all, but there were plenty of diners in the airy barn area.

 

The main building is quite interesting, it’s on a split level and you go down into it which takes me back to my theory on it’s development. I’m certain the builders of yore would never have built something like this. You only have to look at the many wooden bitumen sheds on the Blackshore, all set up off the ground, like on stilts. That’s because when the tide comes in it comes up quite high. In fact so far that if you’d parked your car close to the river at low tide you might be getting your feet wet if you came back at high tide, only a few inches mind.

Hence I don’t think that anyone with common sense would have made a front door on the riverside of the pub. There’s actually a plaque on the front wall showing the height of the floods in 1951, so this part of the pub was here then. Maybe there’s someone reading who’s got an accurate knowledge of the place and can put me straight? There was no landlord/lady type character to ask, just under 25’s serving on.

It gets more interesting inside, the cosy back room is the hub of the pub and hosts the bar itself, and it’s the first bar I’ve ever encountered where the staff have to bend down to serve customers in the front room, who peer up at the bar staff and punters at the bar in the main room. If I was going to have a bet, my money would go on the less attractive front room having been the cellar at one time? Whatever, just think higgledy piggledy!

 

The main room is wooden panelled with nauticalabillia all round the walls. There’s even a fish tank behind three brass port holes. I quite liked it, it would have been better if it had been full of drinkers instead of diners. I get the local economics though and I can’t criticise the management. Sensibly, this inner sanctum was strictly adults only.

Wandering outside, there are tables on the terrace, the garden, and the overflow garden. In fact you could accommodate at least three bus trips in the spacious outdoor areas. The views across the town marshes back to the town were superb. Kids had acres of space to run round in, so why did they persist in trying to jump off the wall at the side of me and tread on my foot? Again, on a summers evening in a holiday town, kids are what you get and what you should expect. To be fair, it was the sort of place you’d have loved if you came when you were a kid with your parents.

 

Southwold Bitter was spot on, NBSS 3.5, and spoiled only by the generic Adnam’s thick glass, upside down lighthouse vase. Following the trend, they didn’t have the full cask range on. No Mosaic, just Regatta, Ghost Ship, Broadside and Bitter. Service from the cheery bar staff was swift and competent.

Verdict – Best avoided around meal times in the school holidays, unless you want to eat, and judging by the number of customers you’d need to get there early to secure a table in the inner sanctum. I reckon, with the fire lit in the main bar on a chilly autumn night it would be well worth a revisit, the beer was of the highest order, if only it wasn’t in one of those glasses ..?

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