Am not sure exactly what I expected the revamp of Preston’s Yates’s (two consecutive apostrophes never feels right) Wine Lodge to come out like, but cannot confess to being over surprised that very little seemed to have changed.
The popular Church Street branch of this, Britain’s oldest pub brand, has been in receipt of a long overdue spruce-up, a lick of paint and bits, but past that is essentially the same place I last entered some time earlier this century.
Arguably the first Yates’s in Britain (not that I am about to argue that here, suffice to say that technically I am correct in this wild assertion), it is fair to say little has changed since it was better known as the Grey Horse. And why would it?
The same spacious open pub it always has been, it is likely the modest refurb was simply a sensible response to the arrival on Yates’s doorstep of two or three spanking new and – in terms of pricing and position – serious rivals.
So we took a pew, chose some food from the slightly more interesting menu, I went the bar to order that and drinks – and just about made it back to the table with bevvies before our food arrived.
A common experience these days – as big pub chains abandon the fake delay once used to convince customers their nosh was NOT chicken ping nor made ahead and kept warm – but never less than unsettling to those of a certain age. On a recent trip to the Twelve Tellers, a plate of ham, egg and chips actually beat me back to my seat, causing a mix of deja vu and nausea which would have knocked me quite sick had they not been fairly decent ham, eggs and chips.
Decent as the scampi and chips and chicken breast in barbecue sauce thingie which hurtled our way Saturday, in fact, so again no bother.
Is fast food. Fairly good fast food, at a price not hugely removed, and judged by those standards just fine.
As to the beer, this end was substantially improved on my last visit. In place of bog-standard ubiquity were four or so casks and a couple of craft lagers, and the pair I sampled were spot on.
I first took up a glass (the barrel variety, delighting my nostalgic side no end) of Bank Top Flat Cap, which vanished and fast. Amber with a bright white head, this was fruity – citrus and mango – spicy and refreshing, a pint to savour.
Next up, a Wadworth 6X, which of the two merited the barrel glass more, by virtue of being a real old school brown bitter. Nutty, creamy, easy drinking – excellent.
Roll out the barrel at Yates’s.