Under normal circumstances I avoid, like the proverbial plague, seaside town bars in prime locations like this one - which is on the main drag heading from town down to the seafront. In my experience these sort of places offer cheapish variations of the lager/alcopop theme and tend to be frequented by the worst sorts of amateur hour drinkers - the guys who think that the ability to drink 12 pints of vaguely alcoholic fizzy water is somehow macho.
However upon checking a review site that I use, and occasionally write for, Beer in the Evening (BITE) Henry's gets surprisingly good reviews from what sound like sensible people and so I gave it a shot.
Despite its slightly garish frontage this turned out to be quite restrained decor-wise inside - proper pub furniture, not too shabby nor too trendy, and there were even barstools. Service turned out to be friendly and swift, the beer was good (mostly local ales) and very reasonably priced. There was also a pleasant laid-back atmosphere and sitting at the bar I enjoyed a casual shooting of the bull with a couple of the regulars.
I don't know what it's like in mid-summer but this was definitely a contender for a John pub on my winter visit - just a pity I wasn't in town long enough to develop it.
UPDATE March 2013 - Managed a few more visits and everything above still applies :-)
I must admit I haven't been in here in the evenings but have dropped in during the afternoon on a couple of occasions for a quick beer and so I'll extrapolate my impressions towards the evening.
This is quite literally an "All-singing, All-dancing" sort of pub. During the day and early part of the evening it offers homecooked pub-style food with a family-friendly upstairs restaurant (kids allowed until 9.30 pm), a traditional-style downstairs bar and a beer garden (with a kids play area).
Later in the evening there's something happening every night, from Karaoke to Quiz nights, and claims to be the best live music venue in the area (website includes a "gig guide").
As I said, I haven't been here in the evening, but my afternoon beers have always been enjoyed and the place has a pleasant local feel and friendly staff.
During the Napoleonic War the present day Inn on the Quay was a Naval Hospital. At the end of the war the Admiralty sold the property and it became a private ‘Marine Residence’ known as Goodrington House.
After becoming neglected for a while the building took on a new lease of life when it became a pub a few years back and today it’s part of the Premier Inn’s Brewer’s Fayre empire.
Anybody who’s been in one of these establishments knows exactly what they’re going to get which is good if you don’t want any surprises.
Situated right next to Goodrington Beach it’s especially ideal for families but there are separate areas for a more relaxing environment. Personally I like to use this venue al fresco when the weather’s good and not too busy.
Premier Inns are everywhere these days and I use them a lot because they have a winning formula but I can’t think of another one that’s as close to the sea as this one.
Dress Code: Casual or even beachwear outside
At the town end of Preston Beach the Boathouse has a great location with its terrace overlooking the bay.
This is a smartly-presented cafe-bar with a good range of food and drinks offerings in casual, and comfortable, surroundings.
Not really my personal cup-of-tea (no real beer) but fine as a meeting place and the menu reads well and so I might give it a shot for a bite to eat on another visit.
The problem with writing tips about pubs is that they always seem to be in a state of flux, especially these days when they seem to be closing down at an increasing rate of knots. The Spinning Wheel, I’m pleased to say is an exception.
It’s been here for years doing what it does best - live music.
It has an enviable seafront position with a large outdoor patio which caters for families during the day and then turns over to a music venue in the evening.
Although I live in Paignton I have no affiliation whatsoever with The Spinning Wheel so when I say it’s a great place to see live music in the town believe me when I say that it is.
Music venues can sometimes be trouble spots but I’ve never seen any trouble here in all the years I’ve lived here. It’s just a great laid-back type of place.
Don’t expect to see any big names on the list but if you choose your evening to coincide with your musical taste then I’d be amazed if you didn’t enjoy it.
I’m knocking on a bit now and so hitting the town doesn’t always quite fit in with what my brain is telling my body what it should do but I would hate to see this place close up.
If there's one pub that should be allowed to keep going then it has to be The Spinning Wheel. Don't miss it if you come to Paignton.
Dress Code: Casual
Situated right next to Preston Beach The Boathouse is primarily a summer/beach bar and has a casual atmosphere which is how a place like this should be.
It doesn’t have a decent cellar so consequently doesn’t serve any real ales, which is what I prefer when drinking beer. Having said that they do serve up the local Bays Brewery beer in bottles.
Being a summer bar that’s not normally a problem because the vast majority of people love sitting out on the patio overlooking the sea with a nice cold fruit cider which always seems to go down a bomb here.
The food seems popular but I have to confess I only come down here for a drink so can’t comment personally.
The interior is light and airy and has a nice feel to it and there’s usually music on a Sunday with extra sessions in the summer months. Hours are a bit more restricted in the winter so if you come out of season it would be best to check the opening times but whatever time of year you come nothing beats being next to the sea which is what The Boathouse is all about.
Dress Code: Casual/ Beachwear
If you fancy watching a film while you’re in Paignton then the Vue Cinema (formerly The Apollo) is situated on Paignton Green.
Right next door is The Flagship pub/restaurant and may seem like the obvious place for a pre-film drink and a bite to eat - and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t come here, but I think it’s worth pointing out that The Flagship comes under the All Inns umbrella which is an unashamedly family friendly pub with a ‘Fuzzy Ed’s Fun House’, so if you fancy a drink and a bite to eat after the kids have come off the beach or the Geoplay Park then you’re in the right place but if like me, you don’t want a ‘fuzzy ed’ before watching a film then you might want to consider finding somewhere else - after all there’s plenty of time to get a fuzzy ed after the film’s finished - over in the Spinning Wheel.