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, 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 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.