Pub/Bar of the Month July 2013: The Plough, Norwich
The Plough, Norwich, UK
Norwich is stuffed with great pubs. The now-annual City of Ale celebration, held in May–June, is testimony to that.
I love the historic cosiness of the city's oldest pub, the Adam & Eve, with its split-level interior and tucked away lounge.
I appreciate the more functional layout of The White Lion, now a Milton Brewery pub serving some of the best food in the city, and the bustle of the cask ale magnet The Fat Cat, a former CAMRA national Pub of the Year.
The newly-opened, starkly furnished Norwich Taphouse, with its focus on 'craft keg', provides an alternative attraction. But one pub I always seem to migrate to is The Plough.
The pub is housed in a 17th-century merchant's house, I'm told by local historians Michael and Frances Holmes, whose book Norwich Pubs and Breweries Past and Present is a treasure chest of information.
It was rescued from closure a few years ago by Norfolk brewery Grain and, in its present incarnation, slots suitably and seamlessly into a street filled with local traders, including a number of music and old vinyl shops.
This is not a brash, showy pub. Its pleasures are simple but hit the spot.
Although the cream facade is rather ornate, still boasting a plasterwork plough above the entrance, inside you're looking at simple furnishings with beamed ceilings, stripped wood and candles that flicker on top of chunky tables.
Log fires crackle in winter, fresh flowers add a splash of brightness and reading material comes via newspapers (or free wifi, if you must browse).
A blackboard declares the current selection of wines and cocktails but most eyes home in on the bar counter where a bank of handpumps are dressed with Grain's distinctive woodblock clips.
Pints of Grain's Bitter, Oak, Blond Ash, Blackwood Stout, perhaps also a guest beer, are served in branded glassware and can be taken back to one of the little benches beneath the front leaded windows, or up a step or two to the raised drinking area beyond the bar.
In summer, the pub gains a further dimension. If you head out the side door, an alleyway leads you to possibly the best beer garden in the city centre – a feature you really wouldn't know was there from the street.
It climbs to a few levels but, being totally traffic free, is a real pleasure on warm evenings and occasionally hosts live music.
There's not much more to say about The Plough. It's just one of those pubs where everything – atmosphere, setting, decor – seems to slot into place and you don't really need anything more elaborate. Even the food provision is basic, in the best sense of the word, typified by cold slices of sausage and onion pie.
Armed with a pint of local bitter, The Plough is just a great place to read a book or meet for a chat. Sometimes you need nothing more.
The Plough, 58 St Benedict's Street, Norwich NR2 4AR
Tel. (01603) 661384
Opening Hours: 12–11; 12–midnight Friday & Saturday, 12–10.30 Sunday