Reviewer's rating *** It is a sad fact that a lot of pubs these days are run by people who have little in common, apart from their uniforms. Of course, there are exceptions - and at the Captain Webb in Wellington, we discovered a gem, writes James Shaw.
Reviewer's rating ***
It is a sad fact that a lot of pubs these days are run by people who have little in common, apart from their uniforms.
Granted, there are exceptions, most notably those smaller establishments, but the majority of chain pubs will be run by a manager.
Add to that a deputy manager, a supervisor and other members of staff and you have an unfamiliar mixture that fails to make the customer welcome.
Of course, as I mentioned, there are some exceptions - and at the Captain Webb in Wellington, Claire and I discovered yet another gem.
I have passed the pub on many occasions in my role as video journalist and have always thought of it as a drinkers' pub.
Like many of my previous assumptions, I was wrong.
We arrived just 30-odd minutes before the scheduled end of service - once again, Louis' sleeping patterns determined our eating times. But it didn't matter and the barman was happy to let us stay.
It really was like going home for a meal with mum - but without the biscuit barrel and endless cups of tea.
Indeed, the bar on that day was being run by what appeared to be a mother-and-son team, with mother, of course, in charge of the kitchen.
To begin, both Claire and I were both a little indecisive - a fact picked up on by mother, who soon set us straight.
Bearing in mind the fact that closing time was fast approaching, she was happy to run through the options she still had available.
I am sure we have all been in pubs that stick rigidly to the menu, read out by a surly waiter/waitress who clearly wants to finish on time.
But here, mother had few such concerns and made us feel at home. Eventually, I chose the lamb shank with minted mash, while Claire opted for the 'J Burger'.
From the description in the menu, I had great expectations of my main course and was not to be disappointed.
My lamb shank was huge, with meat so tender that it fell off the bone almost as soon as I touched it. In fact, I even picked it up towards the end of the course and the remaining meat simply dropped onto the plate.
It goes without saying that it melted in my mouth, while the mint sauce added a really welcome tang.
The mash, meanwhile, was a superb accompaniment, although some of it was left untouched after that superb lamb shank.
On the other side of the table, Claire's 'J Burger' was a great success.
As you would expect from a pub burger, it was loaded with cheese and bacon and came with the usual accompaniment of chips.
Claire was treated to two thick and juicy slabs of meat that had a delicious smoky flavour. The chips, as ever, were little more than a distraction - the real item of note was that burger.
Time was pressing and, bearing in mind we had ordered desserts beforehand, we took a few moments to scan our surroundings.
Although it is a large building, the Captain Webb is still cosy, with lots of nooks and crannies. It was the little touches that impressed us the most, such as the TV, sofas and pile of newspapers next to the bar.
Soon enough, young Louis got himself into fine voice, so we took delivery of our desserts.
Once again, we both took the advice of mother. I went for the ice cream sundae, while Claire decided to have bread-and-butter pudding.
To be honest, I shouldn't have asked for chocolate ice cream with my sundae as it sat uneasily with the fruit pieces. It wasn't the treat I had expected.
But Claire loved her pudding - clearly home-made - and appreciated the chunky pieces of fruit and lashings of custard.
The final bill was yet another treat - about £22 for drinks and two superb main courses.
A little later, we were told that mother isn't really the barman's mother after all - instead, she's a kind of surrogate 'mother' to all her customers and staff.
Judging by the food and atmosphere, we can see their point.
By James Shaw
Soup of the day (£2.50); Chicken wings (£2.50)
8oz rump steak (£5.00); Mixed grill (£10.00)
Treacle sponge (£2.50); Spotted dick (£2.50)
Very quiet, as it was the middle of the day, but we could not have felt more welcome.
No real complaints about the service, which was efficient.
There is access for wheelchairs and toilets.
The Captain Webb, Bagley Drive, Wellington. Telephone (01952) 240447.