Sunday, 7 October 2012

Blue Bell, Belmesthorpe, Rutland

It's been a long time since village pubs could rely for their success on beer sales and local drinkers alone. A quality dining experience is all but essential these days particularly if rural pubs want to attract visitors from outside the immediate area. But sadly for those of us who like a pub to be just that, drinkers can sometimes be effectively excluded from a pub in favour of the all pervasive dining experience.

It's often argued that when a struggling pub is reinvented as a successful dining venue, on balance it's a positive thing because at least the pub has been saved from closure. Certainly a closed pub is serving no-ones needs, but where I disagree with this thinking is when a pub has become so singularly focused on the dining experience that it is to all intents a restaurant with bar and not a pub at all. In these cases, a pub has not in fact been saved, but rather a restaurant has been created at the expense of the pub stock. Of course how common this situation has become is largely down to your interpretation of what a pub is. I know there are many people who believe that so long as the bar has a handpump or two on it, ideally dispensing something from a small or local brewery, it's still fulfilling its role as a pub. I believe there's much more to a pub than the beer. What sets a good pub apart from a restaurant is that it should include at least some space conducive to wider social interaction, perhaps even with people outside of your own social clique. Restaurants, and many of the more upmarket dining pubs simply don't encourage this kind of social mingling. They are not pubs in my view.

Which brings me to the Blue Bell pub in Belmesthorpe, a very good example of how to cater for the all important food trade, yet still maintain its essential 'pubiness'. Not only does landlord Aubrey Johnson win awards for the quality of the beer on offer, but he has also made every effort to maintain the pub as the hub of the community. The bar is still a place to drink and chat, and games are still an important part of the mix at this community local.

The league staples of Darts, Cribbage, and Dominoes are played, with other games in the pipeline including a recently acquired Bagatelle, and plans for a Devil Amongst The Tailors. It's not surprising that games play such an important role at the Blue Bell, the landlord previously played Pushpenny in the nearby Stamford league, and still keeps his own board polished and ready at the pub.

No comments: