IT is reassuring to walk into the Baskerville — an unassuming red-brick building in Lower Shiplake — and find that the pub has not been completely gastrified.
There is a bar with bar stools, tables and chairs and a good line-up of real ales... and there are people drinking and chewing the fat, like you used to get in locals up and down the country. There is nothing wrong with gastropubs, of course, but there is a lot to be said for pubs retaining their traditional character — a place to go for a pint and a chat, if that’s all you want.
Once you move away from the bar into the dining room, however, you know you are now in a restaurant. Wooden tables are laid with white cotton napkins and sparkling wine glasses, and little red oil lamps cast a rosy glow, giving an ambience of relaxed chic.
The spring à la carte menu has something for everyone, including sirloin steak, lamb, fish and seafood. Even though I am no longer a vegetarian I always cast my eye over the veggie offerings, because an innovative meat-free choice speaks volumes about the creativity of the chef. In the case of the Baskerville, the choice passed the test — a crumbled goat’s cheese, mint and pea salad for starters and a linguine, cream and broccoli main, with a further selection on request.
Of course, if you are a veggie, choosing your meal is always easy and quick: you cast your eye down the list looking for the “V” indicator, and Bob’s your uncle. Hence for 20-odd years my choices were made in two nano-seconds while my husband ummed and ahhed (annoyingly) for half an hour, then kept the waitress waiting, pen poised, until finally a tut or sigh from my side of the table forced him into a decision.