The Tiger Moth is one of the many pubs that neither of us have ever visited before, but we’ve often passed – even if only because of its location just off Avon Drive, one of the main routes around that part of town. So, basically we’ve almost always been driving, not walking. But even then, that’s excuses: we’ve walked past many a time too, and the truth is, it just doesn’t look very appealing.
For a start, there’s the location: tacked on to the end of the local row of shops, in an almost identical style to the Bird In Hand was, before that became a Tesco Express (and no, I never went into the Bird In Hand either, and RealAleRocks only went in there once). I’m no great expert on the history of these pubs, but they seemed so similar in external style and location, I’m going to guess that they both rolled off the production line, and into Charles Wells’ hands, at about the same time, probably in the late 60s, when I believe this whole area was first built.
So: a blocky, end-of-the-shops, 60s build pub, tied to the local brewery. So far, so uninspiring. And we’d heard that the Tiger Moth had closed, so as we approached it, we expected it to be closed … and, based on our preconceptions, that wouldn’t have been a disappointment. But, surprise! It’s not closed. At least, not today.
There’s a smoker’s area and a beer garden out the back with a lawn and picnic benches, which I imagine could be rather nice at the right time of year, and with an agreeable drink in hand – but that’s not today.
There’s a central hallway area leading to the front bar, the dining area, the loos, the garden, and the main entrance. The dining area is at the back, but it’s out of action when we were there (mid afternoon on a weekday). It’s well presented though, with a mix of high and low tables, seats and sofas, and with some Tiger Moth aeroplane artwork.
Since the front bar appears to be the one that’s open, we head in. The door from the hallway has reinforced glass, reminding me of the house I grew up in, which would have been built around the same time.
There are a handful of locals here, all male. Apart from us, the only women are behind the bar. The men are playing pool and talking about football, and pay us no attention, which of course suits us just fine. It’s a little gloomy in here – those front-facing windows are very narrow, contributing to the initial unwelcoming feel.
Apart from the pool table, there are three TVs, a dartboard (there was a dartboard in the dining area, too), a juke box, and two fruit machines. The TVs are playing music apparently from “Radio X”, a little louder than I’d like, but not so loud that it makes conversation hard – at least, not if it’s only between two people. On the walls are posters advertising Sky Sports, and what events are presumably going to be on those TVs: a list of football fixtures, and an upcoming boxing match. After a while, “Radio X” is replaced by Sky Sports News, but muted; there’s still music coming from somewhere, so maybe the music wasn’t from Radio X at all.
Having already thrown out my previous quip about rolling into Charlie Wells’ hands, the Tiger Moth does in fact still sport a Greene King badge on the wall outside, that perhaps nobody thought to remove … though I’d much rather believe that someone chose to leave it intact, for posterity. Inside though it’s firmly a Wells joint, so I was at least hoping for Eagle IPA. However, we were disappointed even on that front: apart from some alcoholic drinks that barely deserve a mention, there’s a few common choices of lager (yeah, that’s the kind of level we’re at here), Stella, Guinness, Fosters, and Eagle Extra Smooth. There are three handles, one of which has an Eagle badge on it (but turned round); and the other two have no badge at all. I wonder how much action those handles see.
Side note: when we set out to visit every pub in this town, RealAleRocks set herself the rule of always preferring the handles over the taps or the fridge – I’m not so strict on myself. So, here we are at pub #1, and … bam. Rule broken. Well, sort of: she would have preferred the handles, except they’re all off. Needs must.
So we settle for the Eagle Extra Smooth. Being served cold, on draught, it’s as tasteless as you’d expect. This takes me right back to my pre-real-ale drinking days, and that’s not a good thing. At least at £3.10 a pint I feel that the price is probably about OK. By now the Starapomen pump is looking like it might have been a better choice, but then I notice that that’s off, too. There might have been something in the fridge, but it wasn’t lit, so I couldn’t see what was on offer, and I didn’t feel like asking.
Outside we remember seeing a sandwich board, advertising … well, sandwiches. Behind the bar, I notice a small collection of sandwiches, wrapped in clingfilm. They’re probably perfectly adequate – you’re not exactly going to be getting finest bacon, brie and cranberry, in a place which doesn’t even stretch to a single real ale.
As we drain our glasses, a few more people arrive, including (at last) a woman. (Yes, I’m deliberately excluding ourselves).
The Tiger Moth isn’t exactly a gem, but it’s also not as bad as we feared. We expected it to have terrible beer, badly aged décor, and unwelcoming (read: hostile) clientele. But it turns out that the only problem is its appalling beer selection. But if you don’t want real ale, this shouldn’t present a problem.
Will we come back here? Probably yes – just not for real ale. But for a lager, cider or soft drink on a warm day: absolutely. That beer garden won’t try out itself, you know.
Images by GirlMeetsPint, CC BY 4.0