I’m often reticent to engage in conversation with people who sport Festival t-shirts without any irony at all. They tend to be full of piss and wind. Cropredy thus has one particular purveyor of such smoke-filled shit to thank, not only for the pre-conception I’ll guiltily admit I’ve formed of the village’s annual music attraction – the awkwardly named Fairport’s Cropredy Convention – , but for any advance misgivings I might subsequently and secretly have harboured about the prospects for its village pub.
I, of course, know better than to rush to judgement before all the facts are in. Don’t misunderstand me, The Brasenose Arms is not sexy. Chosen as a geographically convenient and, I won’t lie, budget-becoming Father’s Day lunch venue, only the inexperienced would have expected much more than we got for about £12 per head for 2 courses. The service at table was extremely pleasant. Away from table, it was pretty wildly inattentive given there were kids present who were only ever going to be kept interested by the promise of ice-cream. But the cut of the place, and its prices, promised little else, the air of it faintly fugged-up with pot and a distinct lack of pretence that the owners are in it for anything more than the chat, the music and a modest living.
Which, of course, is absolutely fine by me. Particularly since the previous night’s fly-by had been such a lookalike-laden success. Along with a hybrid of Sting and Freddie Starr (‘Tantric Dad’), we’d arrived in good time to procure front row seats for a live set by Canadian guitarist, David Celia. Nice lad, David, albeit too many of his songs are about dogs. I bought him a beer, myself and each other several (local favourite, Hooky Bitter), and we had a really nice time. The way the Brasenose rearranges its furniture to accommodate the live entertainment can make it a mission to get served, however. Especially as the locals, as is their wont as locals, clamour about the recessed bar, elbows out. Oh, and once in the chair, don’t be put off if a game, ‘does he or doesn’t he work here?’ guy offers to lend the snowed-under barman a hand, then proceed to spend more time deciding which glass to use than he does preparing your drinks. But do check your change.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this pub so long as your hopes for it fall in line with the way it turns itself out. It’s a bit scruffy but then its folksy roots befit that. The beer was bright and had life, and the more mature of the gentlemen pouring it, evidently one of two brothers involved here, was an especially affable, after-sales asset. I also liked about it the way upholstered bench seating had been roughly inserted into every available nook in the walls, regardless of the likelihood anyone would, in a million years, be inclined to sit there i.e. halfway along a narrow corridor between kitchen and restaurant. This is the kind of quirk LamBert likes. Gives a place like this personality where perhaps product, presentation and professionalism pale.
Photos courtesy of Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner and the Brasenose Arms.