A tricky one this, but only because it’s a slightly unfair fight for the pubs that didn’t make it. As with most Januarys, this one involved several visits to Cumbrian pubs. Although there was also a London trip in the mix, the Cumbrian pubs were the finalists. An honourable mention for The Monument pub in London, next to the monument of the same name (the one that remembers the Great Fire of London).
First up we have the White Lion Hotel, Ambleside, which scores highly for its guest ales, as well as some tasty food. It may be a chain pub, but it is a good exemplar of the chain establishment.
The Hole in t’Wall, Bowness is in third place. This one is a bit of an emotional choice, because I came here a lot with my family when we stayed with relatives in the area. My dad’s cousin Frank used to live just round the corner, so we came here a good few times. Sadly, he passed away a few years ago, and with my dad passing away last year, it put a slightly different spin on this visit.
It’s a lovely old pub, the food was very good, lovely portions, and very tasty. Plenty of Robinsons ales on, and a cosy feel to it, even with lots of dark wooden panelling.
The Black Bull Inn, Coniston finds itself in second place. One of our favourite pubs, and always good on a winter walk, especially when the fire is blazing away. Any pub that has a brewery attached is always going to score highly in my book.
The Beer Hall, Hawkshead Brewery, Staveley is by far and away the winner. Another pub with a brewery attached, and even though the surrounding environment is perhaps less pleasing (an industrial estate in Staveley), the great food and brilliant beer on offer here make it the winner for January 2016.
Hawkshead Brewery started life in 2002, just outside Hawkshead where they could brew around 8,500 pints of beer a week. In 2006 they moved over to Staveley, where they have been expanding ever since, increasing their brewing capacity and developing the very brewery tap that we were visiting, The Beer Hall.
We sampled several beers on our visit, as well as having the “Brewer’s lunch”, huntsman’s pie (pork, chicken and stuffing), Brodie’s Prime sausages (made with the beer of that name), parma ham, slices of local ham, black pudding, sticky bbq ribs, a pickled onion, piccalilli, salad, sourdough bread and butter.
I must briefly return to my note about mustard. In England, if your dish is advertised as coming “with mustard”, like this one was, it should be accompanied by a pot of freshly made English mustard, made from finely ground mustard powder. It should not come with some grainy generic mustard. Luckily, some sachets of decent mustard were available so the seedy stuff was left alone. Despite this minor mustard mishap, a lovely lunch indeed.
So, a very hearty recommendation for The Beer Hall, the first pub of the month for 2016…