Empty bar apart from one old cove supping his pint of Cotleigh Tawny, the session beer of choice for some in this part of the world. A rural retreat of a pub (you know the sort, looks like it was last given a lick of pint during the Dark Ages, which is all part of the charm), a few chimney pots about above the thatched rooves. There we are in early for an evening drink. Quantock Brewery’s Will’s Neck it was, ok, a crowd-pleaser, a bit like Exmoor Ale and several other West Country beers I could name (and there’s no shame there, brewers have to eat). We’re peckish, fancy a bar snack. Sorry bar snacks only during the day I’m told, but some scampi could be rustled up for you. That’s good we think, oh and some chips. Can we have it in the bar? We’ll put you in the dining room nearest the bar we’re told with a smile. Time passes, I contemplate another beer thinking that we’re being left to remain where we are, then food arrives and we’re ushered into an empty dining room, next to an empty bar (the old cove has scuttled home). Great view of the bar we think, but we’d rather be in there. Will there be a great influx of trippers after their coach has negotiated the narrow lanes? The cricket team mayhap will be descending from on high about 10? Clock ticks, we eat, good grub, good beer, but we then leave. In the bar I would have handed the keys to the old lady and ordered a pint of Exmoor Gold, followed by a pint of Proper Job. Instead, I drive home and we pop in at our local. The moral of the story: there still remains a great inflexibility amongst some licensees, a rigidity as to what is correct and not. How many of us have arrived at a pub after 9pm, been told no more food, but hold on I can get the chef to rustle up a sarnie. They do that in my local(s). I’m reminded of the time when I was researching Pubs for Families and landlord after landlord uttered the sacred mantra ‘portion control’ when I asked if kids could have smaller versions of choices on the main menu (I seem to remember interviewing an electronic band called Portion Control in the 1980s). I know it’s a business, but the pub was empty, we would have finished our food in 20 minutes or so and carried on with the ales. And while I’m at it, another pub over the border in Devon yesterday, a pint of another popular West Country ale from the cask, halfway through the bugger is empty. New barman puts glass aside, broaches another cask and continues to fill old beer with new. Half and half? Or just bad practice. I was in a rush, I knew the barman vaguely and he was obviously new, so I just left it. Needless to say, I won’t be returning there again — the boozer up the road shall have my passing trade.