Weekly round-up

A week in pubs: w/c 26 April 2010

Pub visits this week: 9

As well as the usual places, this week Get to the pub.com has taken in a few pubs in St Albans. This place is the home, as Crap Towns memorably put it, of “malevolent stockbrokers in Porsches”. But it’s also the HQ of Camra and one of those places that claims to have more pubs per square mile than anywhere else.

Regular readers will know already that my adopted home city of Sheffield is another place with a superbly vibrant pub culture. Next week I’m spending a day in Burton-on-Trent, whose historic and ongoing links with the brewing industry make it another great town for pubs. What other places are particularly awesome for the pubgoer? Which places are especially useless for pubs? We’ve been a bit short of user input round here lately, so if you have a favourite or unfavourite town or city to go out for a pint in, do please shout up in the comments box below.

Walkley Cottage, Bole Hill Road, Walkley, Sheffield. Some pubs’ gardens can be over-elaborate and overpowering, while others are little more than a bleak expanse of concrete. The one at the Walkley Cottage is a happy medium ‒ a charming, unassuming little space which doesn’t try too hard, more like the well-kept back yard of a house. I have a book review to write and it’s a sunny afternoon, so I walk to the other end of Walkley to write it outdoors with a pint next to my netbook. Out here with me, a couple, mid-20s, her birthday, his mid-European accent. Inside the pub, half a dozen middle-aged men don’t look old enough to have retired, but must have, because they don’t look poor enough to be signing on. A Daily Mail on a table spouts its habitual bullshit about some TAX BOMBSHELL or other. I wonder if I’ve found the only Conservative voters in Sheffield.

Lord John Russell

Lord John Russell, Marchmont Street, Bloomsbury, London. This is the sort of pub London is very good at: full of atmosphere and character without even trying. A single room with big windows looking out on to the street, it’s a great place for people-watching. About eight of us meet here before a gig down the road and stay here as long as we can to avoid daft gig venue prices and enjoy convivial natterage. And we do. The Lord John Russell will always hold a commanding position in my memory for the time I was here in about 2007 and encountered a man with a strong Black Country accent and enough pride in his origins to have TIPTON tattooed across his forehead.

Scala, Pentonville Road, Kings Cross, London. Generally I don’t hold with bands reforming, but The Primitives sound great tonight. Scala is a fairly standard big venue, which means it’s not really to my taste. But the building used to be a cinema, which means it has some fairly interesting features such as wide staircases and mosaic floors. If you really must watch a gig with several hundred people in attendance, there are worse places to do it than this.

Waterend Barn, St Peter’s Street, St Albans, Herts. Lunch in a Wetherspoons. Yes, I know. It’s a fantastic old building though.

The menu at the Beehive

The Beehive and the White Hart Tap

Left: the bar at the Beehive. Right: mirror on the wall, the White Hart Tap. Top: menu at the Beehive

The Beehive, London Road, St Albans; White Hart Tap, Keyfield Terrace, St Albans. Every time we come to the Beehive, something else has changed. It’s a good, friendly, authentic pub with smiling staff and decent beer. But you do feel a little disorientated by the walls changing colour or the tables changing shape every time you turn your head. Not that it prevents five of us spending a couple of hours here tonight, of course. At length we move on to the White Hart Tap. This is another very fine and distinctive pub that’s only partly spoiled tonight by a really unpleasant smell. If I wanted the pungent whiff of fish forced up my nostrils while I try to enjoy a beer, I’d go out drinking in Grimsby.

Rutland Arms, Rutland Street, Grimsby, Lincs (featured here). Oh.

Sheffield Tap, Sheffield (featured here); Sheaf View, Gleadless Road, Heeley, Sheffield. It’s been a long day of travelling: from the south to the football in Grimsby and then home to Sheffield. Dan and Dobbie find me in the Tap, weary but exalted. There’s just time for a swift one before we move on to the Sheaf View for my first visit since I moved away from this side of the city. Here we meet four more friends and settle down for a long night in one of our city’s most loved pubs. That affection is justified. It’s a great building, with great beer, great decor, great prices and interesting people creating a great ambience. The Sheaf View is a pub that gets just about everything right. And tonight is everything a night in the pub should be: four solid hours with people you love, talking football, politics and rubbish, before you wander down the road to trough a great big curry. Bliss.


About Pete Green

Poet and musician. Sheffield. Maps, coastlines, walking, whisky, and potentially dangerous levels of wist. Grimbarian. Pedestrian. King of the impossible. Big girl's blouse.


3 thoughts on “A week in pubs: w/c 26 April 2010

  1. Man, Saturday was great wasn’t it? One thing that’s happened since I’ve moved to Sheffield proper is that I keep having nights out in the pub, as opposed to going to a gig or club night, and I’m loving it. Especially with all the brilliant pubs we’re lucky to have in this city.

    Rotherham (and Maltby especially) is rubbish for pubs. If you want real ale you need to go to a Wetherspoons or Sam Smiths, and you’re fairly likely to have someone “start” on you…

    Posted by Dan | 4 May 2010, 5:14 pm
  2. I refer you to your January 2009 post, mainly because I am memorising everything you ever blog. When I read about the staff’s attitude in the Sheaf, I thought ‘I remember when it was like that, yeah’ and ‘that’s what stops my friend Toby from liking the Sheaf when he should’. I thought then that that particular attitude was long gone. Good riddance.

    Anyway. Places with a selection of good pubs. Few places compete with Sheffield these days. I’ve been in the city for nearly ten years now and it’s improved quite a lot over that time (we’ve seen the birth or positive/real-aley rebirth of: the KIT, the Gardener’s, the Harlequin, the Riverside (I think that opened in its present guise around the time I arrived), the Bath, the Rising Sun, the Tap and several more). A few years earlier I had been living in York, which I found to be an oasis of real beer served in none-too-spoiled pubs. York still has plenty of ticks if that’s what you want, and whilst I still love boozy visits there (and there are some exceptions, including some absolute GEMS), I do feel that it hasn’t kept up quite like it could have, perhaps because York can rely on the tourist trade. Still, boasting the Swan on Bishopgate Street, the Blue Bell and the now-maligned-by-my-York-friends Maltings, along with the York Brewery outlets and c-er-azy new ideas like the Guy Fawkes along with old quirky-and-not-claiming-to-be-nowt-special favourites like the multi-roomed Minster Inn, you’d struggle to visit the highlights without boarding your train quite a drunk punter.

    Both Bristol and Bath offer plenty to the lover of a good pub. The Somerset countryside also competes with anywhere, with some downright weird but brilliant places (Blue Flame in West End near Nailsea being a favourite, along with the Black Horse in Clapton-in-Gordano and the amazing Crown Inn in Churchill). In Bath, the Royal Oak is spot on, the Star is great and the Bell is good-weird, with plenty of others which would be a big draw if elsewhere. In Bristol I’m no completist, but the Kings Head is ancient-ace and the Hope and Anchor a great city bar. I’ve been in numerous others whose names/locations escape me.

    It’s true that the East Midlands does well. Burton definitely, for the top class Coopers Tavern and the Burton Bridge, along with several commendable others such as the Cottage or the Devonshire; Derby for the near-perfect Brunswick, the Alexandra, the why-is-it-so-good-when-it’s-weird Falstaff, the rather-clean Royal Standard, the Dolphin and so on; Nottingham for putting on a good mix of modern, smart/old and scruffy/old with the ace bar at the playhouse, the long run up Mansfield Road, from the Peacock right to the Lincolnshire Poacher, the grubby Vat and Fiddle, the smart real aley places in town and the I’m-older-than-you squabblers around Maid Marian Way.

    Eee. Makes me want to plan more weekends away. Which I will.

    Posted by Moopind | 5 May 2010, 2:40 pm
  3. Unfortunately the outskirts of Sheffield arnt doing so well. I have been doing real ale survey in the Attercliffe and Chapeltown ares. Chapeltown has been really good with 10 out of 14 serving a least one ale and all pubs still trading! The Thoncliffe Ams and Royal Oak only do one ale but it is in fantastic condition. The Wharncliffe and Barrel Inn have a good selection with three to four ales on. The Commercial the Wentworth brewery tap is fantastic with eight ales plus real cider and continentals.
    Attercliffe is really bad with only 2 out of 19 serving real ale and only 5 more actually open. Since December the Cocked hat has closed and the Greyhound on my last visit had no ale on, which is a shame as it was looking like becoming a good pub. The Carlton is the only pub in the area worth a visit which has a good selection of micro brewery beers, but cant really compare to the best pubs in the rest of Sheffield.
    The Nottingham and Derby area is good as Sheffield. I have been really please with the Crown in Beeston recently which is not to far from The Vic which is as good as any pub. Boxing day I went to the Royal Oak in Ockbrook which was fantastic and obviously an actual active part of the community well worth the two hour walk each way through ice and snow. Round Ilkeston there is the Good old days, The needle Makers, Spanish bar and Dew Drop.
    Two pubs which really impressed me last year on the edge of Cumbria are the Prince of Wales in Foxfield, I want to go back now! Also Marton Arms Hotel near ingleton.
    I do find trying to find somewhere good to drink after a good walk in the National Parks can be a bit hit and miss. I think Cumbria as a whole is better than the Peak District but The Yorkshire Dales even worse.

    Posted by PCP | 5 May 2010, 4:29 pm
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