The Old Ale and Coffee House is a properly funky pub, cool all the way to the tip of its beach huts, slap bang in the centre of historic Salisbury. Visit the cathedral, see a show, shop ’til you drop and then…reboot and revive right here in The Old Ale. Owned by pub aficionado Eddie and his Buff and Bear company, Salisbury now has a damn fine saloon.
Relaxed, friendly, local, but professionally run – these guys know what they’re doing. The design is unusual but spot-on – the owners have designed the pub the same as their home, they say, an eclectic mix of things that make them smile. Think red phone boxes, colourful prints, ’70s chairs, retro signs and everywhere lots and lots of bears. Of every variety. Paddington, panda, grizzly, you get the idea… There are some great nooks and crannies to curl up in, including a Harry Potter table. The whole place is properly funky without being too cool for school.
Outside, The Old Ale and Coffee House has got without a doubt the coolest garden in Salisbury (bookable beach huts, for goodness’ sake!), a garden bar, hell, even a ping pong table. The kids (and I) loved it.
SCOFF & QUAFF
You’ll be pleased you ate here – it definitely puts the gastro into pub, doing the basics well (all day brunch with smashed avocado, poached egg and my fave, Simon’s sausages. Then house pies, mac & cheese, and beer battered fish and chips for lunch, moving onto larger plates of Hampshire bacon steak, 5 week dry-aged Scottish ribeye steak and Shorthorn cheeseburger) while also creating a twist on the classics so Sunday roast comes wrapped in bacon and the puds can come deconstructed. The food is made from fresh ingredients, locally sourced wherever possible.
But first, the entree. I obviously went for a full Sunday roast of stuffed chicken with sage and onion, wrapped in streaky bacon, with Yorkshire pud and all the trimmings. It came with cauliflower cheese (or maybe it didn’t and they just saw me coming and gave me an extra whopping portion), their bestseller apparently. I can honestly say this is one of the best Sunday roasts I’ve eaten in Wilts, and I was tempted by plenty else on the menu (especially the flat iron steak with bearnaise), which is always a good sign.
One of my girls played safe with macaroni cheese, which was delicious; the 6-year old plumped for (and finished, and declared perfectly cooked) the kids’ roast beef.
Dessert was the positively scrumptious Saffy’s sticky toffee pudding with clotted cream and Ziggy’s ice cream sandwich with popping candy, which was a massive hit. Any restaurant that puts popping candy in a pud knows what kids like.
The booze is pretty impressive too – they have an unrivalled selection of craft beer, real ale and wines, plus a range of cool gins.
Love, love, love this gaff. In fact, it’s one of very few pubs I’ve eaten in that successfully combine morning coffee with relaxed lunches, moving onto boozy nights and even, just ‘cos the food is so damn good, a place for a big celebration. Dogs are welcome, the loos are twinned with other public conveniences in far-flung places and there is silly banter wherever you go. It’s a city pub with a chilled seaside vibe, where old duffers propping up the bar are perfectly at home alongside young families. Service is spot and friendly, and there are lovely family touches such as the beach huts named after the owner’s children.
One final plug to owner Eddie’s homemade tomato juices – Turner Hardy
squeeze the juice straight from Isle of Wight toms and although tomato juice isn’t my favourite tipple it’ll go very nicely in my Bloody Mary after a night on the tiles, thank you very much.
Good for: Relaxed Sunday lunchers, groups of friends, beer-and-crispers and gin-and-tonic fiends. Anyone looking for a different, funky rendering of a city pub.
Not for: Those looking for ample gardens for kids to run around in – it’s a city garden full of tables, beach huts and fun stuff to do. So that’s not really a negative, is it?
££: Good value. Bar snacks start at £3, with starters around £6-8. Mains start at £9 and puds at £4. A full Sunday roast goes for only £16.
The Old Ale and Coffee House, 80 Crane Street, Salisbury, Wiltshire SP1 2QD. Tel: 01722 410541.