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The Partridge at Clenchwarton and Lincolnshire's first micropub as pre-valentine's treats

The Bar Man column, by Jeff Hoyle (CAMRA)

Maybe it was the Barwife’s idea to go shopping, or maybe it was mine to go to the football.

Either way, we found ourselves in Spalding arranging to meet after the game.

I just had time for a pre-match pint in the amazing Prior’s Oven, Lincolnshire’s first micropub, housed in a small, strange building thought to have once been part of the Priory of Spalding and to have been used as a monastic prison.

Staff at the refurbished Priors Oven. Luke Hoare is in the centre
Staff at the refurbished Priors Oven. Luke Hoare is in the centre

It was far more welcoming to me, with a customer pouring my pint from the firkins racked behind the octagonal bar as the landlord had nipped out to check on a strangely parked car.

Not for me the Baz’s Bonce Blower at 12 per cent, probably the strongest cask beer I have seen on sale outside a beer festival as I had to hurry on to see the Tulips take on Belper.

Ten yellow cards, one red, a saved penalty, a stunning own goal and plenty of physio involvement in the 3-1 defeat, and I was ready for my post-game rendezvous.

‘How was your afternoon?’ ‘I nearly bought a handbag.’ I think I had the best of it. We headed for the local branch of a national chain, but despite the offers, chose not to eat.

Instead we raced the storm and called into the Partridge at Clenchwarton. I can place almost the exact day I first visited, back in July 1980 when it was called the Victory and run by the seemingly eternal Ethel May Leake.

Times have changed and landlords have come and gone. So are the very unpleasant posters that once adorned the bar, in the days before it became one of my favourites when Wayne pulled the strings.

Now it has had a makeover with improved toilets, soothing colours and a welcoming wood burner.

Nice though that is, it would be nothing without beer and, at least on this occasion, food. The beer passed muster, with Ghost Ship a tasty alternative to the Golden Newt and Cambridge Bitter and the menu made it hard to choose.

Eventually we both went for the pork. An amateur mistake if we were true reviewers and wanted to try a range of dishes.

No matter, it was one of the best meals that I have had in ages with lovely meat and tasty touches such as the garlic and malt peas.

It is not the cheapest place around, and I wondered if there was enough money to support it, but here we were in the 12th weekend of operation and the place was packed.

I pushed the boat out and had some lovely cheese for dessert, even better when the crackers arrived. “It’s a bit early, but count it as my Valentine’s treat,” I generously declared, seduced by excellent food, good beer and the warm fire.

Then I thought, what will we do on the night itself? As it happened I had spotted a special deal in the national chain pub a few hours earlier.

Two romantic meals for 20 quid, except there was a slight complication. Cathy is coming down to stay for the weekend.

Maybe they will do an upgrade, 30 quid for three? Will we have enough Prosecco? My daydreams were interrupted by a reminder I was running the UNICEF quiz that evening and supper was likely to be fish and chips from the Crossing.

Actually, that’s romantic enough for me as long as I can have a pint afterwards.

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