WHEN your favourite pub undergoes a re-fit, there's always the worry that it might not be the same afterwards. Changes introduced sometimes don’t go down well with the regulars that keep it ticking over.
And so it was with trepidation that I went for a meal at the Norwood Arms in Leckhampton Road, Cheltenham, after owner Greene King had carried out a major refurbishment. But following a £500,000 overhaul that saw the place shut down for six weeks, I need not have worried.
Yes it is different. Gone are the pool tables and the many televisions that were dotted around. New dark wooden chairs and tables have smartened up the eating areas and what was an overgrown area at the front has been transformed into an impressive outdoor patio. But the bar is in exactly the same place and the feel of the pub remains one that means you will feel comfortable popping in for a drink or arriving for a sit-down meal.
The key factor for my wife and I was that the thing that attracted us to the Norwood in the past had not changed. Crucially for us, the food was still as excellent as ever. Hot, fresh and plentiful and served up with a smile by landlords Pete and Diane Fryar. The couple manage to do so at reasonable prices which should keep customers coming through the door despite the credit crunch.
I began my meal with a beautifully tender duck starter that came with a side salad while my wife enjoyed her baked mushroom with goat's cheese. Having thought so much of the Norwood's burgers in the past, we both ordered the cheese and bacon burger for our main meal. Served in a white bun with garnish, tomato relish and mayonnaise, it came with hot chunky chips and a crunchy red onion coleslaw – delicious. My wife rounded off her meal with Belgian chocolate cheesecake while I chose a cheese platter that consisted of slices of cheddar, wedges of Camembert and a generous amount of Shropshire blue.
The Norwood is still a good drinking spot and Pete and Diane expect 60 per cent of their trade to be bar-related. But the couple - who ran The Bell at nearby Shurdington for 11 years - certainly know how to provide good food too. They're aiming at the middle market and, to my mind, they've hit the target bang on.