A pub called The New Inn could be quite old so a change indicates a new approach. After all, Newcastle has been there for a thousand years or more, and that goes for all the many such towns and cities in Britain.
There was a vogue a while ago for re-naming pubs, introducing such horrors as The Slug and Lettuce or the slightly more imaginative, The Bee’s Knees, usually with the apostrophe in the wrong place.
Oddly enough, many of them have gone back to being The Victoria or whatever, as the expected flood of new customers grew tired of the style.
These thoughts on new names came to me when I spotted that the long established New Inn on the roundabout where the road to Malpas turns off the A41 from Whitchurch to Chester had become The Market House, perhaps a puzzling choice when the cattle market nearby closed a generation ago, although no doubt the memory lingers on.
A new name usually means a new approach so I decided to give it a try, perhaps unkindly choosing a quiet lunchtime when things would hardly be buzzing, although it has looked crowded enough on several evenings.
The pub is well sited on a main road, with the car park turning in just before the roundabout where the road comes in from the wilds of delightful Bickerton on its way to Malpas to cross the A41, so there wasn't far to run in the rain to the rear entrance.
The interior has a light and roomy feel to it, although the rows of oblong tables look somewhat regimented when a more casual layout can be more encouraging, but there's plenty of room, and a smile from the young barman.
Pubs have a lot of work to do apart from just serving beer, so perhaps one can excuse the preoccupied air of the lady at one table doing the accounts, and the man at another busy with documents, so the welcome was left to the cheerful and willing young man at the bar who made all the necessary noises, and served an excellent pint of Black Sheep for me, usually a wine drinker but a fancier of genuine ale as well.
But I noticed that Sue's glass of red wine, while perfectly generous, was simply that, with no alternative offers, and the rather off putting practice of pouring from the bottle into a metal measure before reaching the glass.
The menu is straightforward, but includes plenty of the vegetarian options I never sample, a childrens' selection, and 'lite bites' and sandwiches which are useful for hurried lunchers.
I went for BBQ wings and ribs, although this actually featured only one rib, all perfectly well done, but without the finger bowl that is helpful for messy eaters tackling these hand-held items.
Sue decided on the soup of the day, but felt that the carrot and coriander was more like a puree that a straight liquid, with the coriander indicated by too many small fragments of husk which could have been sieved out.
Service was prompt and helpful with the main course following in short order, although I had to point out that there was no salt or pepper on the table, and when these arrived with an apology, the cellars were those annoying identical ones where you can't tell one from the other without a preliminary shake.
I had chosen a sirloin steak, simple and properly medium done as requested, supported by good onion rings, mushrooms and chips, with a couple of fried tomatoes which I never fancy, although that's not the pub's fault.
Sue went for a cajun salmon supreme, accompanied by a stir fry of sliced peppers and onions, which she reckoned was satisfactory, and not over heavy for the middle of the day.
The dessert menu was more enterprising than most, and I was well satisfied with my Truffle Americano with cream, an interesting series of tasty layers in an ample wedge, while Sue went for three ice creams, choosing banana, fudge, and vanilla, all of which were much better than average, and clearly as the menu claimed, a farm product rather than that of a factory.
All in all, a perfectly reasonable meal on entirely straightforward lines, and perhaps things are a lot livelier in the evenings.
I noted that Tuesdays offer a curry night with steaks on Thursday, which should hit two very popular lots of taste buds.
Location: The Market House, Hampton, Malpas.
Lunch from 12 noon, and dinner from 7 pm until 9.30pm.
Tel: 01948 820565.
Best Thing: Good site on main road and prompt service.
Would suit: Travellers looking for a reasonable meal.
Worst thing: Not buzzing when we called, but things may vary.
Bill: Two full lunches. With pint of good beer and glass of wine, cost £42.50.