Not one I’d rush back to, I thought as I walked out the door. An hour later I found myself eating my own words when I realised I’d left my book in the Volunteer. The lad behind the bar denied all knowledge, but I found it, still on the chair next to where I’d been sat.
So why did I not want to go back, because the pub itself is quite pleasant in that olde worlde English Inn style beloved of foreign visitors, well Americans and Japanese and … lots really. They would have loved the low beamed ceiling, bare floorboards, black painted walls and outside Gents.
Thing was Lyme Regis wasn’t awash with foreign tourists, just home grown ones competing for every inch of sand in front of the Cobb. That left me, five good old boys, three younger locals, a lone female drinker, two visitors and the bar man.
The good old boys kept their own company, the younger kids chatted at the bar while the lady drinker talked to anyone who would engage with her, they didn’t. Meanwhile the tourists seemed more occupied with goings on down the high street.
It said £3.20 a pint, so I was mightily surprised to be charged £1.90 for a half of Branscombe Vale Donegal. By my reckoning that’s a near 20% premium on one half of the price of a full pint. So that’s the first reason why I wasn’t happy.
I’m guessing the Donegal is rebranded Branscombe Vale Best Bitter, it’s the same ABV? Whatever, the quality of the beer was nothing to shout out about neither, NBSS 2.5 at very best. Average, very average, just like the rest of the beer choice; Tribute and Courage. I recall someone posting in the comments on my post about Cellar 59, saying they would rather be in the Volunteer. Mmmm, I think not.
I visited Cellar 59 later on and they serve excellent quality ales, of all descriptions, both quality and choice, all with a decent ambience, in a nice place, with no wax from the candles plastered all over the tables. That really annoyed me even though I generally like candles, as did the seating. When I sat down the chair felt too small, a bit flim-flam, like wendy house furniture, no wonder all the locals hogged the bar. I did like the Naval crests around the top of the bar though. I wasn’t so keen on the lounge, which looked more like a tea shoppe to me.
If you look at the pub’s website, you’ll see it’s been in the hands of the same family since 1995 and was originally run by Mr Joe O’Donnell, who sadly passed away in 2010. There are some lovely photos of him. He looked like someone I know. Well, bits of lots of people really, but they’ve all gone too. I know I would have got on with him like a house on fire.
He obviously ran a good house ‘back in the day’, but it seems West Dorset CAMRA judged the same as I did, as the Volunteer has disappeared from the Good Beer Guide (2018), last in the 2017 edition, and the fading GBG stickers in the window bear testimony to it’s lament. Serves them right if they charge a 30p premium on the price of a pint. Mind you, it does show that GBG selection works.