The St Kew Inn in Kew, Cornwall, is a pub that serves thick steaks and premium beer as dark and complex as port.
Steak as thick as a baby’s fist sprawls across the plate, with a yellow rim of fat running all the way along one side. Juices ooze from dark and marbled meat.
It is Saturday evening and, all over England, rumps, ribeyes and sirloins will be landing on pub tables with a dull thud. Many disappointed diners will be chewing doggedly on grey and gristly meat that’s under hung and overcooked. Here, in the Cornish hamlet of St Kew, finding a steak that lives up to expectations is made all the more pleasurable by being chased down by St Austell ale drawn straight from wooden barrels behind the bar.
Hicks Special Draught (HSD), a fruity premium beer, trickles out of the tap as dark and complex as port.
Even the light Tinners Bitter takes on a mellow density from the wood.
Tinners once slaked the dust from the throats of thirsty tin miners, but working miners are rarer than coopers in Cornwall today. There are, however, plenty of affluent second-homers and holidaymakers.
New licensees Lanie and Philip Calvert face the tricky task of meeting their expectations while keeping the locals happy. He was once a barrister in London and an attorney in New York; she comes from a family of prosperous publicans.
The lounge is being eased towards the 21st-century from its 1970s time warp while the main bar remains firmly rooted in a rustic past. A male-voice choir from the nearby church calls in at regular intervals. “Good old Cornish boys singing good old Cornish songs,” as Lanie likes to put it.
Built by stonemasons in the 15th century, the pub predates the church and was once a smokehouse. Metal hooks still protrude from a low, deep yellow ceiling that looks as though it might be made from clotted cream.
The floor is of polished slate and next to the dartboard is a 1963 photograph of Cornish wrestlers in the idyllic pub garden.
The Calverts are planning barbecues out there on fine summer evenings.
Steak will, of course, be on the menu.
St Kew Inn, St Kew, near Bodmin, Cornwall; 01208 841259.