I’ve been putting off writing up this one for way too long – partly because of other commitments, but also partly because … well, maybe you’ll see. I half-jokingly suggested to RealAleRocks that I would just do hundred-word or so write-up of this one, but she says I have to do it properly. OK then.
The Anchor is part of Greene King’s Hungry Horse branding. It’s a large property, just opposite Goldington Green, well away from the town centre, and as such it’s got plenty of parking, and … oh no I’m struggling already aren’t I?
It’s one of those places where you know what you’re going to get: plenty of tables, a large menu, nothing challenging on the beer front, something for the kids, some sport on TV. “Family friendly”. The pub itself is set well back from the road, so there’s a big sign by the road pointing out the entrance, and (heart sinks slightly) “Watch all the big games, live here!”, co-branded by Sky and BT.
Inside, we head to the bar: past the grabber machines at the entrance, past the toys-in-balls vending machines to extract pound coins from kids, through one of the seating areas. There’s a predictable selection available on tap: Strongbow, Strongbow dark fruits, Fosters, Carling, Stella, San Miguel, Carlsberg, Budweiser, Guinness Extra Cold, John Smiths Extra Smooth. Given that there were (where I was stood anyway) four handles, I have to say I think I was hoping for something like GK IPA, then Abbot or Speckled Hen, a GK “other”, and probably one empty. But no, it wasn’t that good. Instead, we have two GK IPA, and two empty. Sigh.
In desperation I select Newcastle Brown Ale from the fridge, and RealAleRocks – for the first time in this blog series, voluntarily opting not to have one of the handles – chooses the John Smiths. £5.85 for the pair. Oh, and there is a Slushie machine on the bar, so I suppose we could have had a Slushie instead? Maybe next time.
Towards the back, there’s a pool table, and a couple of young men are playing a game. There’s also a dartboard, some fruit machines, and a TV showing football (perhaps repeats of the weekend? It’s the day after the end of the season).
Further towards the front, there’s a central seating area which RealAleRocks tells me – she’s been here many more times than me – can get rather dark. On the wall, pictures of butterflies, balls of wool, and of Batman and the Cardington Hangars (for the local film-making connection).
Out the front there’s a decking area with a few picnic tables, and I believe there’s something similar out the back, but to be honest I didn’t go to check. Also there’s a rather brighter conservatory area inside, just to the left of the front door. But we select one of the booths to the right, with tables to seat about 6-8 people, and what appears to be a 10-inch or so TV built into the fittings at the end of each table – though it was turned off, and I couldn’t work out how to turn it on. This was probably a good thing.
The music was easy going pop (we identified Sugababes, Pharrell Williams, Human League, Michael Jackson, Prince, Bee Gees, Arthur Conley, Earth Wind & Fire, Kool and the Gang, Duran Duran), all at a perfectly comfortable volume. This was early on a Monday evening, by the way.
So, we drank our drinks, and we chatted, and it was all easy and inoffensive enough. I actually enjoyed my Newkie Brown far more than I expected, and if anything it took us both back a good twenty-plus years, when Newkie Brown and John Smiths would have been the sorts of drinks that we’d actually want to find. That was what we had back then. Before we discovered real ale.
Come for the family-friendliness, come for the sport on TV, come for the kegs on tap, come for the parking and the large menu. What I’m saying is, don’t come for the real ale.
Images by GirlMeetsPint, CC BY 4.0