We journey back from a wet week in Cornwall, the sun shining as we decide a pub lunch is needed to see us through the next leg of travel. So we set off in search of the Bridge Inn at Topsham, Devon. A vision in pink, the 18th century building is our choice purely for convenience of location, picked off a list online, and as it comes into view I have a good feeling about the place.
We admire the outlook over the river on which the pub sits before making our way up the steps, not realising we’re entering a time capsule or, indeed, a pub firmly on the list of Cult Classics. We’re stood in the corridor as a face pops up from the cellar below, a quick welcome is offered as I ask if they’re serving food. “Yes”, comes the answer, “its just traditional things though, like a ploughman’s”, our attention directed to a sheet of A4 pinned to a notice board; the menu. Perfect. “The mini ploughman’s is popular with children, and you can sit in the room there, we don’t have a license for the other one”. So we take our two year old and join the square room- the parlour- just opposite the cellar. It’s quiet, just the subtle hum of easy conversation between couples and friends and the familiar light thuds of pints gently placed on wood. It’s like being in a sitting room, as all pubs were once upon a time, and despite the close proximity to other folks it all feels very comfortable. Even our toddler feels at ease as he thumbs the crocheted beer mats.
There’s not much of a bar here as it turns out, the set of steps joining the cellar to the corridor work just as well if you’re sat in the parlour, so an order is made from the corridor, two pints picked from another sheet of A4 pinned to the notice board. There’s no keg beer here either, all beer is poured directly from cask and delivered up the steps, the handover made in the doorway. Served in a dimpled mug, my pint of Dark Ness, a dark mild style of beer by local Red Rock brewery is a malt driven delight. Smooth, full bodied, well balanced toffee, fig and chocolate is perfect for the moment; a traditional ale in a traditional pub, I couldn’t imagine drinking anything else. Ploughman’s lunches are regularly brought in, delivered to the right tables without the need for table numbers as an old charm oozes from an unspoilt interior. Some might find the old ways of this old inn somewhat antiquated, unnecessarily old fashioned and lacking in some way but to hold that view and not see just how special this place is would be a shame, especially as it seems to be a part of the local community -signs were up for an Autumn Pie Night.
The ploughman’s lunches are finished, the last mouthfuls of beer swigged in satisfaction, and we reluctantly make moves to depart. Staff wave from the outside serving hatch as we pull away and I know already that we’ll be back again. More than that though, I know I want to discover more gems like this. It’s good to do research, sure, but it’s also fun to just explore and see, and experience a small thrill when discovering something so special without much effort in the run-up. I don’t do that enough, more so now I’m a parent, but this experience will serve as a reminder to take a chance and I think we could all do with taking a chance on more pubs.