Review: The Well House Tavern
The Well House Tavern has long maintained a reputation as one of Exeter’s most unusual pubs. Last week Graham Wilson and Paddy Bettle put their livers in the line of duty to discover whether this status is truly justified, with pleasing results.
The Well House Tavern is located in the cathedral quarter of Exeter city centre, and as such is far from the traditional student ghettos of the town. Situated on top of an ancient well and with more than one skeleton in the cupboard, the Tavern is widely regarded as one of the city's quirkiest drinking establishments. In rating the pub, Graham Wilson and I adopted several different criteria, ranging from atmosphere and value for money, through to the difficult to determine ‘student factor’. Below are our conclusions, please feel free to add your own comments at the bottom of the page
My last visit to the Well House was over a year ago, dressed as a fox and towards the end of a long crawl. As such, my memory was a little hazy. The place itself perhaps verged on the cosy side, but was generally large enough. Despite being sited smack-bang within the most affluent district of Exeter, the Well House could slot easily into any tour around the town. The atmosphere was good, but did seem at times confused, with adverts for cheap sours sitting uneasily alongside pricey gastro menus. The beers on offer were excellent, with a wide range of ales and ciders, but the selection of lagers seemed neglected. We did not stop to try the food, but the extensive menu and the pub’s association with the Michelin-starred ‘ABode’ next door looked promising. Staff were friendly and seemed to be on very good terms with the locals. As far as fixtures went, there was a quiz-cum-juke box machine tucked away in the alcoves, as well as the notorious bones of a pair of 14th-century star crossed lovers on display in the basement. All in all, I enjoyed my visit to the Well House Tavern, and would recommend it in future. However, I would say that it is more suitable as a stop off in a casual crawl or as the venue for a lazy Sunday lunch, than as a site of more dedicated debauchery.
Student Factor: 5/10
This was the second time at this pub for me as well. My first impression was that this pub didn't know what it was. The bar seemed to be going for an old-fashioned look while the rest of the pub was open, bare, and had quite a modern feel to it. However, the pub did have a well-stocked bar and friendly staff. Most standard spirits were there plus a few bottles on the more adventurous side and there was a good selection of local beers and ciders. I thought I’d give one of the local ales a go and so I chose Spriggen Ale, the guest beer that week. Coming in at £3.40 a pint it's not a beer made for downing, but I'd say it was worth the price. With its coppery overtones and autumn feel, Spriggen Ale is a good winter warmer and was a welcome respite from the chill outside. The atmosphere of the pub was definitely subdued, it's not somewhere that you party hard, although the reasonable Jagerbomb and shot prices beg to differ. If you're looking for a Sunday pub to quietly enjoy a pint then this is your place.
Student factor: 5/10
Average Score: 6.8/10
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