There’s a place for ‘pubs’ like The Fox Cub at Walmer Bridge; a fact the sizeable Tuesday evening crowd – both eaters and drinkers – encountered on my recent visit proves beyond reasonable doubt.
Recently built yet carefully designed and styled to create the illusion of living history, such ‘pubs’ thrive across Britain.
Usually at or just beyond the edge of conurbation, never far from the beaten track, indeed, almost invariably by or adjacent to a major arterial route.
Essentially a modern take on the motoring pub of yore (or the coach house of even yorer), these pubs offer the weary traveller all the same emphasis on warm, cosy, homespun hospitality – or, to quote The Fox Cub website “oozing rural charm and rustic character” – only now with a nod to the modern gastropub and with improved design budget and attention to detail.
This latter is arguably the crucial difference. ‘Pubs’ of this kind, tapping into the average citizen’s endless nostalgia for an agrarian Britain which they never knew (largely because it predates the Industrial Revolution), are by no means rare.
But whereas a similar venture 20 years ago, say, might have sought to establish its credentials solely by virtue of having screwed to the walls some rusty rakes, hoes and sundry farm equipment last used by Jethro Tull (the inventor of the seed-drill rather than the scruffy pop group), today the bar has been raised.
Ceilings are low, beams and brickwork exposed, floors, doors, stairs creaking charmingly – the illusion is meticulous, the ‘country pub’ experience complete.
Almost complete. Lighting is the sole glaring giveaway, with the dim, ‘aged’ shaded lamps on every wall betrayed as ornamental by modern spotlights sunk in the ceiling over each set.
Then again, so what?
If we begin denying custom to any commercial venture trading on artifice and illusion in these sentimental times we’ll end up enduring short crawls around Preston’s bleak and functional Wetherspoons.
By every measure it sets itself The Fox Cub works just fine. The selection of ale and wine is good, the impressive menu is tasty and fairly priced and the interior itself, for all those shabby chic shenanigans, is comfortable.
It’s just a ‘pub’ rather than a pub. Whatever that means.