In years gone by, The Paddox pub was my ‘local’; a pleasant if unspectacular watering hole on the corner of Ashlawn Road and Hillmorton Road, writes Andy Morris.
Walking in, I was confident that I knew what to expect. How wrong can you be?
On the surface, there were no surprises; the traditional homely decor, wooden furniture, welcoming fireplace and trusty pool table were all where I had left them.
But adorning the bar, I spied something new: a row of real ale pumps, the hallmark of any good pub. And after one glance at the menu - and a quick chat with the locals - I realised that some things have dramatically changed.
The food on offer is unrecognisable from that which was served on my last visit. No longer a predictable list of straight-from-the-freezer pub standards, the Paddox’s gastropub-style menu is bursting with avant-garde flavours, plus a share of traditional classics.
All food here is cooked fresh to order, and is gushingly endorsed by the locals.
“It’s actually quite a hidden secret,” says regular punter Gary Tate. “When you look at the pub you might not expect it, but the cuisine here is on another level; it really is first class and very very good value.”
The secret is in the proprietors. Sisters Caroline Graham and Erica Baskerville took over the pub nearly eight years ago with wide experience in catering, having trained at the Hunthouse in Kilsby during the 80s. And, after a £24,000 kitchen refurbishment, improving the food was at the top of their agenda. And what else keeps the customers coming back? “I think it’s the way we treat people with a big warm welcome,” Caroline says. “We treat everyone as though they’re family and friends. The sign above the door says ‘there’s no such thing as strangers; just friends we’ve yet to meet’. And we treat people like that!”
At the bar, Gary’s mate Simon Thompsett-Carroll agrees. “I have a little boy, and if we say we’re going for something to eat, The Paddox is the one to come to. They’re very children-friendly. It’s a family pub run by two great sisters, and there’s never any bother at all.”
Given the warm and trusting welcome I receive from the locals, this doesn’t surprise me. “The staff are very obliging, very friendly indeed,” says George Bagley. “The atmosphere in here is brilliant.”
And what would he say to those sounding the death knell for the local pub? “We still like going to the pub. If you didn’t have a local pub, it would be terrible!”
Gary concurs. “If ever I was going to move to another area, finding an area with a local pub which was as welcoming and as good as this would be high up on my priority list,” he enthuses.
With a weekly roster of events (including poker on Monday nights and a quiz on Wednesdays) and a reinvigorated group of sports teams (football, pool, darts), The Paddox is in safe hands in these unpredictable times.
“You open the doors and you never know what you’re going to get from day to day,” says Caroline, “but it always makes me smile.”