Shropshire Star

Food Review: Great choice at the popular Woodbridge Inn in Coalport

Valentine’s Day. Is there a worse day to try and book a last-minute table? Well, yes, probably, and it’s called Christmas Day. On both occasions, chefs are rushed off their feet, there’s an unrealistic sense of expectation, and everyone wants to eat at exactly the same time.

Last updated
Old favourite – Steak burger and fries

Happily, there are a small number of venues around the county that cater for such disorganised types as me – and The Woodbridge Inn is among them.

From the usually-excellent Brunning And Price stable, it’s big, it’s friendly, the menu is a doddle and it’s got a really easy-to-follow booking system, which allows you to reserve a table with the click of a mouse.

And so, on Wednesday, I found myself driving to a quiet corner of Shropshire, on the banks of the River Severn, a mile downstream from Ironbridge, to dine at The Woodbridge.

The venue is named after the wooden bridge that once connected the pub to the village of Coalport on the opposite bank.

The pub was built at the same time as the bridge, in around 1785, and it is packed full of character.

There are lots of interesting corners and nooks to squirrel away in, or more open, buzzy areas for those in a more gregarious mood.

A light and airy dining room

There is a substantial raised deck at first floor level to provide an outside drinking and eating area overlooking the river, and a sunny garden room which also looks out over the river with further dining space.

There are parking spaces for 80 vehicles and if the sun is out and there’s no spaces left, there is a public car park a short walk from the pub.

In summary, and to stop nicking perfectly well-written copy from the pub’s website, it’s remarkably well-organised, one of the reasons for its enduring popularity.

The venue habitually features in the Good Pub Guide, having gained entry since 2014, and it serves a selection of exceptional ales, many of them locally brewed, as it brings together the best of decent beer with good, affordable bistro-style food.

A picturesque location

I arrived a minute or four after my allotted time and the venue was pretty quiet. I was taken to a far corner, the furthest distance from the bar, and perhaps slightly forgotten about, although staff were pleasant and sought to engage.

But, on to the food, the menus at Brunning And Price pubs are great. They combine a range of pub classics with stuff that’s a little more interesting.

There’s the opportunity for chefs to get a little bit creative, without straying too far from a brief that presumably reads something like this: give the people what they want.

The menu offered a wide choice, with classics such as 8oz Sirloin steak, served with dauphinoise potato, wild mushroom, pancetta, caramelised onions and red wine jus; Chicken, ham and leek pie, served with buttered mash, green vegetables, white wine and tarragon sauce and Pumpkin and sage tortellini, with garlic roasted baby courgettes, toasted pine nuts, sun blush tomatoes.

While the light bites menu featured dishes such as crispy beef wrap; Fish finger sandwich; smoked haddock and salmon fishcake and stilton, butternut squash and onion quiche.

And desserts – should you still have room – such as poached rhubarb, with stem ginger granola, vegan crematta, orange sorbet; French fine apple tart with Calvados toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream and sticky toffee pudding with toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream.

I started with crispy teriyaki king prawns, with a salad of pickled ginger, lime, watermelon, and chilli. It was unusual, but I kinda liked it.

King prawns nicely presented

The dish was slightly unbalanced. There was more pickled ginger than prawns – which was lucky for me, I like pickled ginger. But the pickle is there to balance the dish, to season stuff, not to take the main billing.

It felt a bit like the backing singer had stepped up to the mic to perform the solo rather than offer subtle support.

The teriyaki was a bit underwhelming, while the chilli-melon-lime salad was great, if not also a little unbalanced. The combinations were great – sweet and hot, crispy and soft.

The burger was good. A fantastic patty, scorched on the outside, and left a little pink within, was well seasoned – hurrah – and smothered in a layer of cheese that had melted to a decadent, filthy goo.

The grilled pancetta was nicely crisp, while there were beer onions beneath the Monterey Jack cheese, which were fine, though not as refreshing as if they’d been freshly cut. Sometimes, less really is more.

The fries were fine and there was a pot of chorizo-infused mayo, in which to dip stuff. It was all pretty good, though perhaps lacked a little in the execution.

The roses were red at the pub

I had planned to stick around for a dessert. The poached rhubarb dish had my name written on it; hell, who can resist a seasonal dish that celebrates the best available local produce.

Service, however, remained slightly patchy – perhaps to be expected on Valentine’s Day I suppose. And that was that; a pleasant, but sometimes curious, evening.

Brunning And Price has got it nailed with good venues in Shrewsbury and near Newport. There were aspects of The Woodbridge on my visit that matched those, though service perhaps needed looking at, but that aside, I’m sure the great choice of food and picturesque location will see the pub’s popularity endure.