One early March Friday evening, we headed to The Ship Inn in the pretty Forest of Dean waterside village, Newnham-on-Severn. It’s not difficult to find The Ship – it’s along the A48, in the centre of the village’s High Street and is painted bright blue, which I’m sure has been done for people to find it but also as a talking-point. After all, talking-points are the basis of all of the The Ship’s marketing ploys to lure visitors through its door.
In the past The Ship’s owner has unveiled the ‘Rat Burger’ – a lamb burger with rosemary and thyme, rather than a flattened roadkill courtesy of the A48 – and it is still on the menu. More recently the ‘Titanic Burger’, (deep breath in) a stack of ¼ lb steak burger, ¼ lb bacon burger and a 1/4lb minted lamb burger with three toasted buns, three potato rosti, red onion, sliced tomato, tomato ketchup and minted mayo, and of course the killer Iceburg (breathe out), was in the limelight. Gluttons who fancy themselves a ‘Man vs. Food’ legend are welcome to come and sink a Titanic (at £17.95) and if successful, make The Ship’s very own hall of fame. In addition to these key talking-points, you can often see signs along the neighbouring road to beckon passing-trade for their custom.
There is sometimes difficulty to park near The Ship – you need to find a space some where along the High Street as the pub/restaurant doesn’t have its own car park. After you push open the pub’s creaky entrance door you are met with a cosy, warm-lit small bar area to the right and the restaurant to the left. The interior has a nautical theme with natural wood, beige and mint-green and the sparkle of polished surfaces, crockery and glass make you well aware you are in a clean and relaxing environment.
We ordered some drinks at the bar, where a few locals sat on bar stools nursing half-drunk pints of lager, before we were seated in the lovely restaurant. We took our pint of Peroni and half pint of Scurvy Cure cider through to our table. The cider is very good but unfortunately I didn’t find out who makes it. Although a later conversation revealed the reason behind the cider’s name; apparently years ago sailors used to take cider on voyages as water or fruit would not preserve very well and the vitamins in cider would prevent the onset of scurvy. Quite a convenient story about the cider that is served in a conveniently-named pub.
The lady on front-of-house advised us of the specials board, with a nod to the ½ lb barbeque beef burger with fries. We opted for two burgers, with a side-order of onion rings, to enjoy after the starters of whitebait with tartar sauce and filo prawns with sweet chilli dip.
When the starters arrived they were on a starter plate with a small bit of garnish and a ramekin. The starters to be honest, were pretty bog standard but I didn’t really expect any more – given we had ordered the filo prawns and whitebait. The starters weren’t fresh, they had been bought in bulk – probably in a big box from Bookers – and thrown into a deep-fat fryer. I can tell, as for many years as a student I worked as a waitress and kitchen-prep – and I know a cash and carry, pub-grub, pre-made starter when I see one. The starters were edible, as I said I knew what to expect when we ordered.
After our empty plates had been collected our mains soon followed. Two burgers with fries and a side of onion rings were plopped down on the table in front of us. The first thing I thought was how enormous the vessel-like burgers were and that we didn’t need the extra side.
The gigantic bap stack was held together by its wooden crucifix, and the mountain of skinny chips accompanied it on a tin plate covered with parchment not unlike the stuff you get at an Ed’s Diner. Pulling apart the burger I could see the a melted slice of cheese – possibly Monterey Jack (if not, it should have been) – under a gloop of sticky dark barbeque sauce. Underneath the beef was a potato hash on salad.
You need to use a knife and fork for the burgers at The Ship and the first slice of the beef I saw that the meat was cooked medium to medium-rare. The flavours of the juicy meat, with the smoky-sweet sauce and the creamy tang of the cheese was a heavenly combination. I was very glad the burgers were recommended to us as it was seriously delicious. The bun, although I didn’t eat too much, was white, soft and floury and very pleasant. The only criticism I do have is that I would have liked to say the onion rings were home-made – I think they had made the same trip back down the A48 from Bookers with the filo prawns and whitebait.
The burgers at The Ship are well worth the trip to Newnham for and I recommend that you go hungry. The atmosphere of the restaurant is always nice. I’m sure the landlord has some more talking-points up his sleeve and so in terms of the menu, I don’t think this ship has yet well and truly sailed. For now, anyway.
Dinner for two at The Ship for two courses, drinks and a tip came to £60.00.
The Ship, High Street, Newnham-on-Severn. GL14 1BY. Tel: 01594 516283.