Pub/Bar of the Month September 2010: The Old Spot
The Old Spot, Dursley, UK
What do you actually want from a pub?
That all depends, clearly, on a number of factors, not least your age, your occasion and your company.
I’d warrant, however, that all that most discerning drinkers require is a good choice of well-kept beers, a simple, but comfortable environment, and the chance to enjoy a little conversation.
On top of this, some good but relatively simple food and perhaps some interesting décor to engage the mind wouldn’t go amiss.
If you agree with me, then The Old Spot should be on your hit list. Less than 20 years ago this little market town pub on the Cotswold Way footpath in Gloucestershire was a run-down cider house called The Fox & Hounds.
Then along came the man who was to turn around its fortunes, and bring a lot of cheer into the lives of local beer lovers.
His name was Ric Sainty, a former local government draughtsman who followed his love of good ale into the licensed trade. He renamed the pub after the celebrated breed of local pig and installed a range of quality beers. With conversation and a warm welcome encouraged, the pub then developed a character of its own.
It retains that character today, despite the sad loss of Ric, who died while on holiday in France in 2008. In the hands of licensees Belinda and Steve Herbert, the pub remains a hospitable haven, a clutch of well defined-drinking areas beneath a low ceiling.
Floors are tiled or boarded and benches and pews slot into snug corners, allowing privacy or full participation in the conversation of the day, which is unimpeded by jukeboxes, piped music or other such intrusions.
A light ‘pig’ theme forms part of the décor, but most of the furnishings reflect beery matters, with framed posters for beers from regional breweries and a collection of pump clips competing for your attention with battered, old enamel advertising signs tacked above your head.
Big stone fireplaces warm the pub from either end and there’s a small garden and covered courtyard at the back, for which blankets are offered on chilly nights.
As for the beer provision, well it extends to around eight ales, with offerings chalked on a blackboard.
Guest selections may come from the likes of Wye Valley, Butcombe, Wickwar and Brains, but you should always find beers from Severn Vale and Uley, whose founder Chas Wright was a close friend and drinking buddy of the late Ric.
Indeed, one of the regular beers, Old Ric, was first brewed on Ric’s birthday many years ago, and was named in his honour. Veltins lager offers a genuine continental alternative to British ales.
Meals, served at lunchtime only, include the likes of cauliflower cheese, burgers and Old Ric sausages and mash.
CAMRA recognised the pleasures of The Old Spot in 2007, when it presented it with the prestigious national Pub of the Year title. If, like me, what you want most from a pub is that good range of beers in a friendly environment, where conversation rules, then it’s time you discovered it, too.
The Old Spot, Hill Road, Dursley, Gloucestershire GL11 4JQ
Tel. (01453) 542870
Opening Hours: 11–11; 12–11 Sunday