Rating: *** - Maria Bagnall and her husband give the thumbs-up after visiting a landmark pub.
Rain. Not many people really like it – especially those folk living close to the ever-changing water levels of the River Severn. Each season, heavy downfalls have businesses battening down the hatches and cringing at the potential loss of trade.
But, every stormy rain cloud has a silver lining, and the downstream location in Jackfield hasn’t discouraged local businessman Nigel Venn and brothers Ivor and Adrian Price from regenerating a pub/restaurant which was first licensed in 1802!
Ruined by floods and vacant for almost 20 years, the refurbished Half Moon Inn reopened earlier in May and when I visited, staff were no longer up to their knees in floodwater. Instead the place was positively swimming with customers taking in the idyllic riverside views while enjoying value-for-money pub grub in baskets, washed down with pints of local ale.
An old coracle has been hung over one of the snug bays inside, where rustic wooden tables with leather padded seats and large windows offer verdant views of the flowing water and embankments. Although the narrow interior is compact with only four larger tables, plenty of smaller nooks allow families and young people to sit in efficient cosiness.
Having said this, the best seats are outside and the last one available – by 8pm! – showed just how popular the venue has become. Benches line the grassy bank and behind a large flood defence wall the patio has 20 or so more trendy black rattan tables with white canopies.
My table was near the bar (where else) and a black and white canvas showing a rather worried looking publican with water at the foot of the pub’s door. Since the picture was taken in 1802, double-glazed windows have been installed along with flagstone flooring, heavy wooden furniture and ambient lighting all of which have turned this little pub into a haven for guests wanting no-nonsense food, good ale and somewhere the children can play happily in a pretty local spot.
Enormous 12in pizzas for £8.50 sailing out of the kitchen looked tempting and were proving a big hit on the night, the 40-minute wait meant we opted for a seafood salad and two baskets brimming with chips and a burger. Other options included staple favourites like scampi, steaks and salads.
Eyeing the Half Moon Inn branded wine bottles suspiciously, I opted for a half pint of Ironbridge Gold instead and my husband tried the house Half Moon ale – Rowton Bitter.
When we came to pay the bill which came to a thrifty £24.60, the area’s poor signal meant the card machine took an age to accept the payment.
We were in no hurry but the crowd at the bar seemed eager to quench their thirst – remembering to take cash would be a good idea next time.
While waiting I quizzed the young lady about the canvas and how flooding has affected the business. The response was brief and frankly she seemed a little bored – or perhaps stressed – because of the mounting queues. Who knows, but I was left feeling like a bit of nuisance. Luckily another member of staff filled in the details for me.
Although basic, (the salad had no dressing or seasoning) the food was filling – so much so that I only managed half a portion – value for money and just the job for a relaxed Friday night supper.
First impressions seem like the relatively new business is still finding its bearings – pub/restaurant who can tell as either aspect could benefit from a couple of tweaks here and there – especially the wine list! However, the no-frills approach to food, local ales and a truly beautiful location has ensured a tidal wave of trade during the summer.
As the nights draw in and with little passing trade it would be a shame to see this thriving business return to an empty wreck if customers ebb away.
The reintroduction of a carvery on Sundays from October and a fully-booked music programme on Saturday nights could be just the ticket to for the business through a stormy winter.
Breaded mushrooms (£4.25)
8oz Sirloin Steak (£11.75)
Vegetarian supreme 12” pizza (£7.50)
Enthusiastic and efficient
A slightly bumpy path for wheelchair users leads to a smooth ramp and excellent internal access