The Boycott Arms, Upper Ludstone

Service and food were only average but our undercover reviewer, The insider, hopes his experience was a one-off.

The Boycott Arms, Upper Ludstone

Service and food were only average but our undercover reviewer, The insider, hopes his experience was a one-off.

England. The best Test cricket nation in the world. Sounds good doesn’t it?

Not just good in fact. It’s flippin’ amazing. Who would have thought that in the dark days of the 1990s, when England were the laughing stock of the world, that this fair country would top the world rankings?

Of course it won’t last forever, but let’s just enjoy the moment while it lasts. After all if you can’t celebrate a 4-0 drubbing of Tendulkar and Co, what can you celebrate?

Now, remembering for one moment that this is a food column, I suppose we ought to consider where we celebrate.

Which brings me to the Boycott Arms.

No, it wasn’t named after the fiery former England opener, but its a good peg to hang the review on, and such little aids are always welcome.

It’s quite easy to miss this one. Set up a quiet lane linking two main roads, it is quite secluded, although there is a sign on the busy Bridgnorth Road directing customers.

The Boycott is a whitewashed cottage-style building, and the foundation stone gives the date of 1717, although its carefully researched history says there was a pub on this site long before that. It occupies quite a lofty elevated position, giving it a good view over the surrounding fields, although the slope from the car park across the road, coupled with the big step at the entrance means it could potentially be quite challenging for wheelchair users.

Maybe it is the secluded location, but I was surprised by how quiet it was when I arrived, particularly as in the past it had a reputation as being somewhere it was difficult to find a table. I poked my head around the restaurant area, to the side of the main lounge, and while it looked quite pretty in a quaint, old-fashioned sort of way, it was also completely empty.

“We stop serving food in 20 minutes,” said landlady Kayleigh Millard on arrival. “I’ll be with you in a few minutes.” I must say I was a bit taken aback, given that it was 8.10pm, but we took our place by the window in the main lounge, next to two mature couples who were having a good old natter.

It seemed like we had been forgotten though. We waited for somebody to bring us menus, but after waiting around 10 minutes – and mindful that we had been advised to get our orders in quickly – we borrowed some menus from the group on the next table.

As referred to earlier, the menus include a fascinating insight into the history of the inn over the centuries, including its role as a stopover along the important trading route between Wellington and Dudley. It is very much the old-school country pub, with basic furnishings, a lot of attractive period features, and a big open fire which is no doubt very popular in the winter.

Hearty pub food best describes the contents of the menu, with simple, wholesome grub the order of the day.

There should be something to suit most tastes, although I did think the choice was a little limited. After a little deliberation I went for rump steak – the only steak on the menu – while my dining companion chose the hunter’s chicken.

Not quite sure what the procedure for ordering food was, I headed for the bar, where there was a tempting array of real ale pump clips. Sadly the three most interesting ones were not yet available, so I contented myself with a pint of Banks’s mild. Landlord Paul Tacchi took the order, and said it would be no problem to serve the chicken with chips rather than mash.

The menu proudly declares that all food was cooked from fresh, and that at busy times customers should be prepared for a short wait.

Who could complain about that? After all, you always have to wait for something that is a little special. And besides, the pub was certainly not busy.

Doubts did start to creep in though when the group on the next table, who we assumed were enjoying after-dinner drinks, revealed they were actually still waiting for their meals, having ordered some time before we rolled up.

“We ordered ours on Wednesday,” quipped the man sitting nearest to me.

Our meals finally arrived just after 9 o’clock, but that wasn’t the end of the story. Paul Tacchi spotted straight away that there had been a mistake, and my companion’s chicken had come with mash rather than chips.

He took the meal back, and it was another 10 minutes before it returned, and in the mean time I had little option but to tuck in alone.

The meal itself wasn’t bad, but it was nothing special either. It was a 10oz steak, which is larger than average, indeed there was no faulting any of the portion sizes. But while the meat had a good beefy flavour, it was a little on the tough side, I suppose that’s the deal with rump. It’s just a shame there wasn’t a fillet, a sirloin or a ribeye as an alternative.

The black pepper sauce, which was an extra £1.50, had a pleasant spicy flavour, and there were plenty of carrots, but I do think for £10.95 – that’s before the sauce –you should get something a little better than ready-made, machine-cut chips. Particularly when you have waited 40 minutes.

When my companions’ meal finally arrived it was reasonable, but the vegetables were a little cold.

I was also disappointed that the pepper, salt, and sauces, came in sachets. This might be okay in a budget pub chain, but this is not a cheap place, so surely they could have run to a pepper mill? I also think there should be more than three vinegars sachets in the bowl, given that it was for two people. No doubt if I asked they would have provided more, but you shouldn’t have to, should you?

After the meal we were asked if we wanted coffee, but nobody offered a dessert menu, and to be honest, I wasn’t really in the mood to ask.

When I went to settle up, I was told the coffee had been missed off the original bill, and after a bit of fumbling I was asked to pay for that separately and had to request a second receipt.

In total it came to £28.65, which I think is quite a lot for a single course each, two pints of beer and a coffee.

I wouldn’t have minded had it been a first-rate experience, but while the portions were generous and the staff generally friendly, the service was haphazard and the food only average.

The present management only took over last year, so perhaps it is experiencing a few teething troubles, or maybe I just came on the wrong night – I would love to hear from other readers about this - email theinsider@expressandstar.co.uk

I do hope it was an isolated experience, because this is a lovely old building, and I hate putting the boot in when traditional country pubs are having such a hard time.

But I have to be honest. And I can’t say I was bowled over.

ADDRESS

The Boycott Arms, Upper Ludstone, Claverley WV5 7DH

Tel: 01746 710272

MENU SAMPLE

STARTERS

Chicken goujons £2.95; Mussels £4.50

MAINS

Fish and chips £5.95; Chicken curry £6.95; Quiche Lorraine £5.95; Lamb shank £9.95; Mushroom and Brie Wellington £7.95; Surf and turf £11.95; Aberdeen Angus burger £6.95

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