I’ve shot past this place many a time on the busy A17 and I’m sure lots of other people have too. Next time you’re stuck behind a huge tractor someplace between Kings Lynn and Newark take heart, you can always call into the cosy welcoming Ship Inn at Fosdyke.
The pub itself seems to be in the middle of nowhere, where nowhere is a boring road through fifty miles of flat fields and leaden skies, that’s punctuated briefly by a series of roadside cafes, filling stations and the odd collection of houses. It’s as bleak and dreary on a rainy day as the South Pennines where I was brought up and the only landmark of note is the wide Welland that runs next to the pub. If you do visit, it’s worth walking the 50yds onto the bridge. Despite the never ending heavy traffic you get a real feeling of isolation, the brooding river just stretches on and on and you just know none of the cars are ever going to stop.
I did wonder where their custom comes from? The village of Fosdyke appears to be farther than most people want to walk these days and it’s quite small too. I was quite surprised when there were half a dozen folk in at mid-day Saturday.
The first thing that strikes you is how spotless the place is, someone obviously takes pride here. The interior is quite simple, the single room segregated into smaller areas by old pews and what’s left of the original walls, the main fire breast operating in this way, forcing drinkers to decide which side of the roaring fire they will sit. Spike, our ageing terrier instantly did a fire dog impression at the fireside in the bar area by a couple of leather chesterfield thingys which were probably the only thing I’d change if it were mine.
The decorative theme is very boaty mcboat face; think coastal charts, maritime memorabilia and old local photos of ships, the river and characters. There’s even tide tables for the river chalked up on a board and the wheelhouse from an old trawler serves as a shed in the beer garden. An old fella sat with a huge Corona in the smoking booth told me they had craned it over from the marina that stands between pub and the river.
I think, no I’m sure, we were the only ‘non locals’ in the pub. Initially they were older chaps having a late breakfast, or was it an early lunch with a pint. Between trips to the smoking shelter the cigar smoker sat at the bar, telling us about his travel insurance claim for a visit to the doctors whilst on holiday. From about twelve thirty, mixed groups started turning up looking for something to eat. A table for a dozen or so was marked as reserved and one chap popped in to pay the thick end of two hundred quid deposit for a Christmas meal. By 12.30 there were a dozen or more customers.
It didn’t surprise me at all that people were coming for the food, homemade pie of the day with the full mashings was chicken and veg at £11.50. Soup of the day was cajun spicy tomato and roll at £4.50 which had me wishing I hadn’t eaten my sarnies in the car park before we went in. Sunday carvery was only £8.50, twelve with pudding. I guess that’s what you’ve got to do in a place like this, good honest home made food at a reasonable price.
Despite this, it didn’t feel like a food led pub, more a pub that did food. Listening to the chatter between bar staff and customers, I had no doubt that there were some good times to be had in the evenings involving a pint or two, the fire and a plenty of craic. I couldn’t see a pool table or darts neither and there definitely wasn’t a bandit. If it had been at the seaside there would have been mumblings of smuggling. I don’t know if there’s any trade for smuggling taters and veggies, but if there were they’ve got a huge river and plenty of ships and boats of all sizes on which to do it.
Being in the Good Beer Guide you would expect the ale to be spot on, and it was. I didn’t expect any cutting edge beers or a line of hand pulls that stretched out like the telegraph poles at the side of the A17 all the way to Kings Lynn and I wasn’t disappointed. Three real ales Adnams Broadside and Bitter and Batemans XB. Between the two of us we tried Broadside and the XB, £3.30 for two halves which were both NBSS 3+. They had three draught lagers, the black stuff and a keg cider on draught as well.
All in all this is a lovely little old school pub that is immaculately well kept which serves decent ale and what looked like very popular homemade grub. It’s definitely worth calling in for a lunch stop if you’re travelling along the dour A17. I suspect it’s a good bet in the evening too, I still can’t see where the customers were going to come from, but I bet they do.
Verdict; Proper pub that ticks all the boxes required in these modern times yet retains traditional values and a homely feel.