SW Essex Pub Quest: The Noak Bridge

This week it was meant to be The Plough and Tractor in Basildon. Set in a slightly deprived part of town, surrounded by terraced houses and blocks of council flats the pub does not exude character. There is a food truck parked next to the entrance, suggesting that getting lunch inside might be problematic. Indeed, the nice barmaid says they don’t serve food, but we can get something from a nearby chippy and have it here, over a drink. Worse still, there is not a single ale among the long row of taps – just lagers and ciders. No bottled ales either! The clientele at midday consists of a pair of middle aged ladies and three teenage girls, all finishing their morning pints. The bar area is large and empty, the ceiling low. Decor is dated, but couches look inviting and the book cases by the walls are a nice touch. I wouldn’t mind sitting here for a while if there was anything to eat or drink. But since there isn’t, we smile, say goodbye and leave.

On to the next one on the list then, The Noak Bridge in a village by the same name. This is Greene King chain pub which immediately sets my expectations fairly low – I have never been a fan of their ales. Inside it is spacious and bright, with some of the walls nicely tiled, very pleasant on a sunny day like today. As expected, ales are a letdown, just Greene King IPA and Abbot Ale on tap. Fortunately, there are is a bottle or two of craft IPAs, plus Punk IPA on the tap. I had Big Bang, a bit too malty and not hoppy enough for my tastes, but overall quite okay. The food is a typical chain pub fare, with a choice of burgers, curries, sandwiches, and pizza in a few variants, but each with Cheddar cheese on top. This time I go for a burger, which turns out to be edible, if a bit dry – not just the meat, but also the bun. It is salvaged somewhat by a piece of bacon. Z has a vegan burger, impression similar: not the worst, and not the best by far they tried. We both agree that fries are the highlight of the meal: despite them being the skinny type, not chips, there is actual substance and texture to them, with a lovely, crispy skin on the outside. In summary, not a place for gourmet meal or a good ale, but with quite a lot of space, inoffensive background music and a few reasonable drink options, a decent spot to hang out at lunch time.

a bottle of beer on a table