Pub Spy: A taste of the mother countries

By Penny Lewis

5 comments
The British Isles Inn
Address: 577 Beach Rd, Rothesay Bay
Ph: (09) 478 5592
www.britishislesinn.co.nz
Uwe Dorr serves a pint at The British Isles Inn in Rothesay Bay. Photo / Doug Sherring
Uwe Dorr serves a pint at The British Isles Inn in Rothesay Bay. Photo / Doug Sherring

How have I never heard of the British Isles Inn before? A cosy little pub, on a hill overlooking - just - the sea, which serves English ales on tap and has a spectacularly good happy hour - how did I miss it?

I put it down to my slight aversion to going over the bridge for a night out. This is nothing against the Shore, just a personal thing. I find it strange and confusing up there and I can never quite work out exactly where I am in relation to everywhere else, or at least not as well as I can on the southern side of the bridge.

Anyway, I bowled into the British Isles and was pleasantly surprised to find it full of happy souls enjoying various pints of foaming beer and all smiling a lot. I found out why when I ordered my drinks - $10 for two pints, one of which was an English import. I was beaming like a Cheshire cat as I took my seat.

The sun was shining down on the nice decked area and everyone seemed in good spirits, apart from one chap who had clearly never met a sentence he didn't think could be improved by the addition of copious swearing.

Still, at five bucks a pint, I wasn't complaining.

The service was a little patchy - either very prompt or very slow depending on the staff member, but I was willing to cut them some slack, given how busy it was.

The interior is rather British, without having to rely on pictures of the Queen everywhere. The bar is small with a low roof and a forest of "imported" beers on tap.

I use the quotation marks because, despite the claims on the menu and website, the Guinness doesn't come from Ireland and the Bulmers doesn't come from England, but those are fairly small quibbles, as the Old Speckled Hen and Abbot Ale are definitely from England.

Despite the name, the bar is basically British. It is utterly unlike any Irish bar I've been into, although that isn't a criticism. I am merely bemused as to why it's called British Isles when the only remotely Irish thing in there is the New Zealand-brewed Guinness.

The wine list is pretty good and the spirit selection is more than adequate as well, so it was all looking fine, really.

Then we ordered the food, which was certainly British - chips with everything. There is always a danger when places offer "traditional British food" that it will taste exactly like traditional British pub food - stodgy, fatty and oddly tasteless. What we got certainly wasn't tasteless, but it wasn't exactly great either. It certainly wasn't to the standard you come to expect from the average Kiwi hostelry.

Still, I wasn't there to eat, I was there to see what it was like as a pub and I have to say it really did remind me of pubs back in the UK. I just wish they hadn't mixed up British Isles with simply British.


Scores

Service: 3
Menu: 2
Drink: 4
Atmosphere: 4
Overall: 3.5

- Herald on Sunday

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