We knew we were in for a treat when the waitress placed a bottle of Heinz malt vinegar on the table after we ordered the sweet potato sizzler appetizer, on her recommendation.
Actually, we were pretty sure we were going to enjoy The Old Spot the moment we walked in. The gas fire on the pub side, the friendly barkeep, and the flirty pig decorations in the main restaurant were the first clues. The 16 beers on tap, juicy burgers, and an opportunity to order spotted dick cemented the deal.
Established almost three years ago across from the Hawthorne Hotel, The Old Spot is, the waitress told us, the owner’s version of a English pub. Traditional fare like ploughman’s lunch ($12), toad in the hole ($8), and fish and chips ($16), along with ½ liter beers, ensure the pub part is on target. The “version” we took to mean more sophisticated menu choices, including delicious seared scallops with butternut squash ravioli in a light cream sauce (a recent dinner special).
Five of us shared the sweet potato fries ($9), which were topped with bacon, cheddar, sour cream, and scallions. Good thing we are all well behaved, or there might have been some elbow-related injuries. The haddock sandwich, fish and chips, and burger were declared a success, although the fries could have been more crisp. The hit of the night was the very slow roasted pork with wow-wow sauce (a vinegar-laced brown sauce with Worcestershire and whole grain mustard). Despite its melt-in-your-mouth qualities, we couldn’t finish the generous serving.
The same can’t be said for the desserts ($6 each), portions of which were left in their bowls. The brownie sundae tried, unsuccessfully, to cover up for the desert-dryness of the brownie with ice cream and whipped cream. A similar fate befell the spotted dick, which turned out to be bread pudding with whiskey sauce. The lemon bars were the best of the lot, moist and flavorful.
In the end, we left sated and happy, with plans to return. The welcoming atmosphere, attentive service, and good pub fare won us over, not to mention our desire to sample some of the cocktails on offer. With names like thickety boo, nancy boy, and peach knickers, who can resist?
The Old Spot
121 Essex St, Salem