Smoke

On walking through the door of the Rusty Bike in Exeter we noted with pleasure the comforting aroma of wood smoke.

It’s an earthy, whole­some kind of smell that trig­gers cer­tain assump­tions in the prim­i­tive human brain:

I am home, I am warm, food is one the way.

Open fires have long been asso­ci­at­ed with prop­er pubs. The Cam­paign for Real Ale’s Good Beer Guide used to be spon­sored by the Sol­id Fuel Advi­so­ry Ser­vice dur­ing which time a sym­bol appeared to show whether a pub had a real fire or not. The 1984 edi­tion was a ‘real coal fire’ spe­cial with a two-page adver­to­r­i­al on their appeal.

As it hap­pens, though, there is no open fire in the Rusty Bike.

Oh, yeah – we’ve been smok­ing pigeons all after­noon,’ said the red-eyed young man behind the bar, pos­si­bly sup­press­ing a sooty cough.

But it turns out that does­n’t real­ly mat­ter: the smell was enough to make it feel as if we’d walked into a snug vil­lage pub, pos­si­bly via a 100-year time warp, rather than a mod­ern gas­trop­ub a five minute walk from Exeter Prison.

(PS. We’re no food crit­ics but the great big hunks of corned beef at the Rusty Bike struck us as aston­ish­ing­ly good, as did the pig cheek frit­ters. It’s part of the Fat Pig brew­ery estate and, though the beers are quite home­ly, a strange­ly coconut­ty cask ESB was just the job. We did­n’t try the smoked pigeon.)

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