The Providence Inn, Plymouth: where the wild things are

The Providence Inn is a small backstreet pub full of dogs, plants and bric-a-brac – but there’s somehow still plenty of room for people.

Would we ever have thought to go there if Sam Congdon at Vessel hadn’t recommended it as “probably the best place for cask in town”?

We enjoyed walking through street after street of terraced houses on our way, up and up the hill, until we saw it glowing yellow in the blue late evening light. It looked like a relic or throwback – the very ideal of the street-corner beerhouse.

The cluttered interior of a pub with pot plants, books, framed pictures, cushions and board games.

Inside, we found a wall of warmth, in every sense.

Despite our strangeness – we gawped, took a photo or two, elbowed our way to the bar – we were given a cheery “Hello!” by the landlady from her seat by the fireplace.

The beer was typical for Devon: malty golden ale in good condition, but not in itself especially exciting. But there was enough going on in the pub that the beer didn’t need to carry the weight.

First, those dogs. There were three, two big and one small. The bigger dogs had the look of retired prizefighters about them – muscular but sleepy. They submitted to being fussed by the regulars and, at the first opportunity, stole the two armchairs and began to doze.

Two dogs sleeping in pub chairs in front of a fireplace.

Then there were the drinkers, several of whom wore Hawaiian shirts, and a couple of whom (not in Hawaiian shirts) were quite merry.

One tried to leave several times but kept spinning on his heel in the doorway and returning, like Columbo, to mention just one more thing. Another demanded of a fellow drinker: “Go on, feel my arse – I’ve got buns of steel.”

At one point, a party of five or six turned up in an already crowded pub and still managed to find a seat. We don’t really understand how.

There’s the decor, too, which ticks every box on the pub interior checklist. Carpet, dark wood, houseplants, pump clips, nautical nick-nacks… Wherever your eye lands, there’s something to enjoy. Even the gents toilet has crocheted seahorses dangling from the ceiling.

Finally, there’s the landlady. Once we’d been seated for a few minutes, she came over to say hello. “I’ve not seen you before,” she said. “I’m Shirlie. What are your names? Jess and Ray, Ray and Jess, Jess and Ray, Ray and Jess… Got it.”

This reminded us of Garvan’s approach at The Drapers Arms. It’s a way of saying to us, and to the perhaps territorial regulars, that we were welcome.

Once we’d been given the royal greeting, we couldn’t leave, so another round it was. And if we lived nearby, we’d probably be there three times a week.

The Providence Inn is at 22 Providence St, Plymouth PL4 8JQ.

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