NEWPORT'S Castle Inn has undeniable character and ambience, with the building dating back to the 13th century.

When we visited, the twin scourges of Veganuary and Dry January had yet to make themselves apparent at this delightful hostelry.

Liver and bacon was on the menu and ale was in the pumps.

It was not quite Twelfth Night, and the Christmas lights were squeezing out a last twinkle.

A real log fire blazed in the grate and the floor was scattered with sequins, presumably remnants of new year celebrations.

We liked the vibe and settled in a cosy corner by the fire.

Locals greeted us, and our hostess gave us the lowdown on curry night: "Choose your meat and choose your heat!"

The pub curry is a genre all unto itself, and this one was a fine example.

A modest spoonful of hot rice came alongside a single poppadum and a dish of curry.

Matt had no trouble sorting out the meat and the heat and had chosen a medium beef curry loaded with big chunks of meat, which, despite its 'medium' pretensions, packed a fair punch.

The two slices of hot naan were a beneficial addition to this satisfying winter warmer and with the whole thing weighing in at just under £9, very much worth it.

For a light bite, Cat's plate had a decent pile of handsome triple-cooked chips, a goodly spoonful of garden peas and, languishing on top, a long streak of fish.

Surprisingly skin-on, Cat anointed it with fresh lemon, then scraped the tender white flesh from its skin substrate. Perfect.

The batter was light, nicely-seasoned and with pleasingly crispy bubbles.

The chips were outstanding — soft and fluffy innards, hugged by golden coats.

Traditional Christmas pudding served with brandy sauce was still on the dessert menu.

Suitably solid, and if the brandy was present only in homeopathic amounts it was no matter — the hot custardy sauce was just the thing.

We liked the Castle Inn. We enjoyed the ambiance, friendly staff and homely interior.

It was good to see a bunch of locals pontificating over pints at the bar, as patrons will have done for hundreds of years.

We took pleasure in being part of that continuity, and the enjoyable pub grub made that pleasure all the sweeter.

Matt and Cat's bill

Light bite cod £6.95

Curry £7.95

Naan £1

Dessert (2 @ £4.50) £9

Total £24.90

Three stars: a decent place that we’d recommend.

Read a longer version of this review, and others, at Matt and Cat's Eating Out Guide.

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