Pub visits this week: 8
I don’t know about you, but Get to the pub.com is feeling a warm breeze of optimism lately. The Sheffield Tap has been a huge success since it opened in December. Near my home the Royal Hotel has reopened and is crying out for a visit. And back in Sheffield city centre Henry’s is due to follow suit this Friday, with an emphasis on ales from microbreweries, it says here. Not only that but, as you’ll see below, my old sort of local the Broadfield seems to be getting back on its feet as well. What’s it like where you are? Is an end in sight to these worst of times for Britain’s beleaguered pubs, or are we just exceptionally lucky here in the Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire?
The Grapes, Trippett Lane, Sheffield. A quick and fabulously fresh and tasty pint of Abbeydale’s Absolution after band practice. The Grapes is either absolutely deserted tonight or there are lots of people watching a very quiet band upstairs.
The Broadfield, Abbeydale Road, Sheffield. Let’s give the Union a rest and have lunch at the Broady again, shall we? The very friendly girl behind the bar remembers me from the other week, which is pretty impressive, as is the Abbeydale something or other they’ve got on tap, once it’s had ten minutes to warm to a drinkable temperature. Sky Sports 2 is on the silent TV screens, showing young-ish women in sports bikinis performing exercise routines on rubber mats at an unidentified harbourside location. Believe me, it’s even less exciting than it sounds. When future generations re-examine the early 21st century for pointers on how not to run a society, this programme will be a case study on how we wasted our electricity and our lives.
Ordering a second beer, I get chatting and discover a couple of interesting things. One is that the introduction of three or four Abbeydale beers, to give an alternative to the godawful standard issue Old Speckled Hen and Abbot, has been a key factor in the Broadfield’s upturn in fortunes. Another is that the staff are even hoping Greene King don’t sell the place. Finally, in joyous contrast with the woeful meal I endured at the Anchor in Bristol last week, the veggie chilli actually contains some sort of spice, which may be chilli. Truly we live in remarkable times.
Rutland Arms, Brown Street, Sheffield (featured here). Lunch. Really good lunch. The Rutland has clearly found someone who can cook properly – as opposed to just following very dull recipes or warming things up, like you get at most pubs – and the result for me today is a bowl of soulful, velvety, spiced carrot soup with a lush melted brie sandwich. Marianthi’s Glamorgan potato cakes are majestic as well. A group of drinkers at the next table talk about wanting to try out the Sheffield Tap. Which brings us neatly to…
Sheffield Tap, Sheffield (featured here). My first visit in a few weeks, but the man from the bar still remembers me. Nice! They even seem to have sorted out the heating as well, which was hitherto the one less than perfect thing about the Tap. There are guest beers from the Dark Star brewery (I'm not going to link to them because it's an annoying Flash site), while Fairy, the drummer from my band, is drinking some bottled stouts from Brewdog at ridiculous strengths. They’re not very nice. The reason I’m meeting my band is that we’re on our way to play at…
The Stock Room, Leadmill Road, Sheffield; Rutland Arms, Brown Street, Sheffield. Going back to the Rutland counts as a second pub visit because I went home in between. It also seems like a sensible measure given the paucity of decent beer at the Stock Room and the fact that we arrive about an hour before we soundcheck. But with popshows this good, who needs decent beer?
The Broadfield, Abbeydale Road, Sheffield. Lunch again. Conveniently for my Tottenham-supporting girlfriend, their game is on the big screen. There’s another Tottenham fan who’s always in here when Spurs are on the telly, and who not only claps at the screen but bellows abuse at the referee and alternating encouragement and derision at the players, all of it in a ticklish “fackin’ ‘ell!” London accent. Is it just Spurs fans who are like this in pubs?
University Arms, Brook Hill, Sheffield. We’re here twice, either side of a curry round the corner at Butlers. First time I’ve been on a weekend night. I guess the downside, for a pub, of having a clientele composed so strongly of lecturers and postgrads is that come Saturday evening there’ll be no bugger around. Hence the attempt to draw people in with live music, I guess. A lone bluesman does his best to rouse some interest, but he’s fighting a losing battle.