The Bree Louise sits on one of those windblown residential side streets that exist adjacent to every hub train station in the Western world, where the patina of train grime is smeared across the windows like a derisory smear of margarine on a First Great Western ham sandwich.
Despite the unwelcoming approach and the initial, unstructured look, the overly bright, overly heated single room isn't the sort of itinerants' boozer of last resort, filled with dealers, hooligans and the odd poor sod who missed the 5:15 to Leighton Buzzard. It's actually much better (or worse) than that. The Bree Louise is one of those 'proper' pubs. The kind of pubs where men have beards, toilet facilities are 'functional' and it's acceptable to order a half of NoseSplitter or Noggin's Best before comparing fisherman's knit or World of Warcraft anecdotes with your closest (male) friends. For the Bree Louise is a CAMRA pub...
Now don't get me wrong, I love a real ale as much as the next man, but there's something about the nerdier than thou that can emanate from the REAL ale drinker that winds me up. It's the same sort of aggressive apologist behaviour that attaches itself to train spotters, obscure indie music fans and Evertonians. A 'get the digs in now, but we know we're right', folded arms attitude that occasionally makes for a very closed shop.
Thankfully, as well as 'Award Winning' ales, ciders and perrys (and a couple of lagers), they also serve a range of 'Award Winning' pies (and obviously feature as an 'Award Winning' pub in a guide book somewhere, given the number of confused tourists wandering through…)
Less thankfully, with the exception of an off-piste haggis effort, the pies we had were fairly sloppily constructed, with that deeply unappealing pub habit of slopping an inch or so of pre-prepared casserole into the bottom of an earthenware bowl before covering it with a frozen puff pastry shell and reheating to order. The cider sauce was far too thin, if well enough flavoured, but there were just four small sad beige chunks of pork floating around in it, several inches below the carapace, like turds trapped under a swimming pool cover.
I suppose for £8 a pop, it's difficult to complain too vociferously about the food, but it didn't do it for me at all. The pub is recommended if you genuinely have missed the 5:15 to Leighton Buzzard and can't face the Weatherspoons*, or need to regale chums with your latest live roleplaying anecdotes over a pint of Old Badger, less so for anything else.
* Let me make this absolutely clear. The Bree Louise is a HUGE improvement over the Weatherspo'Neill-style sticky floored hellholes you normally find near stations. It's just that isn't saying much...