Bridport & West Dorset News, Views, Videos & Curiosities

Reviewed: The Pilot Boat, Lyme Regis

The Pilot Boat pub in Lyme Regis January 2011

The Pilot Boat in Lyme Regis, a Victorian pub not far from the seafront. Photograph by Michel Hooper-Immins.

THE PILOT BOAT is quiet and peaceful as Lyme Regis enjoys a bright January day. A noted Palmers’ pub at the foot of Lyme’s two fearsome hills – and opposite the main X53 westbound bus stop – this distinctive white-painted building dates from 1844.

The Pilot Boat consists of two large rooms, with the bar between them. First impressions are good. Joan and I are welcomed by the smiling barmaid and choose a table in the rear room, overlooking the river Lym. The iconic high-backed chairs are comfortable. Windows all round give both rooms a bright atmosphere.

I’m fond of Palmers fine real ales from the thatched roof brewery at Bridport and here they serve superb 200 strong ale, Copper and Best Bitter.

I savour my first mouthful of 200 – a tasty and vinous drink reminiscent of Eldridge Pope’s Royal Oak – as we look at the menu.

This is a licensee who knows how to look after his beer.

Fish from Lyme Bay

Eating fish at the seaside is often a good idea: “locally sourced from Lyme Bay when possible,” says the menu. Joan fancies fishermens’ pie for her lunch – a luscious mix of coley, salmon and smoked haddock with a creamy potato and cheese topping. It comes with a nice side salad, minus oil as Joan specially asked. I too opt for fish and pick haddock fillet with a flavoursome lemon and pepper crust. It comes with potatoes, carrots and cabbage, served piping hot by the jolly waitress. Being made to feel so welcome at the Pilot Boat makes such a difference and adds greatly to the pub experience.

The comprehensive printed menu is supplemented by a set of interlinked chalk boards listing delights like beef chilli on a bed of rice, the classic cheese omelette and local sea bass. From the short dessert menu, I go for bread & butter pudding – delicious, if rather overpriced at £4.75. Joan likes ice cream and loved the coffee latte flavour with mocha swirl – again locally sourced.

Lyme Regis history

Lyme Regis has a long and proud history, reflected in the interesting photographs along all the walls – old views of the town, the historic Cobb, local lifeboatmen and the boats that bring in the fish. The atmosphere is relaxed and everybody we meet seems happy to see us. The landlord comes in from walking his dog and goes round talking to customers. Unsurprisingly, the board outside proclaims “Dog friendly!”

The Pilot Boat and Lassie

Talking of dogs, the Pilot Boat is reputedly the inspiration for Lassie. On New Years Day 1915, HMS Formidable sank in Lyme Bay and many survivors were brought into the Pilot Boat. Able Seaman John Cowan was thought to be dead, but the landlord’s crossbred collie kept licking him, bringing the sailor back to life.

We two certainly felt well restored after such a good lunch in this oasis of calm and well-kept real ale. The cost was £32.20 for two. A good experience that we want to repeat soon.

The Pilot Boat is at 1 Bridge Street, Lyme Regis.

Landlord: Bill Wiscombe. Tel: 01297 443157

Editor’s NoteMichel Hooper-Immins belongs to the British Guild of Beer Writers, whose members share “a love of beer and a desire to see its virtues communicated more effectively.” He is a leading member of CAMRA’s Wessex Region, and his name can often be found in The Good Pub Guide.

The editor of this website also works for Watershed PR, one of whose clients is Palmers Brewery. Please note, however, that Michel Hooper-Immins is an experienced journalist who chooses for himself which pubs to visit, and writes about all pubs and brewers in Dorset as he sees fit.