Pub visits this week: 8
I went on a pub crawl this week. Five pubs. On a school night! A good pub crawl is an elusive beast. They never work if you say: “Right, let’s go on a pub crawl!” Just when you’re about to move on to the next pub, someone always gets another pint in. And then everyone else has to get one in because they can’t sit there without a drink. And you end up going to about two pubs instead of fourteen.
If your experience of pub crawls is anything like mine, then you only experience a decent one if it happens spontaneously. That’s what this one did. We just met up and went wherever the wind blew us. And it was tremendous.
Once again, then, the pub has provided an accurate metaphor for life. Or is it a microcosm? Whatever. You know what I mean.
Sheffield Tap, Sheffield (featured here); Rutland Arms, Brown Street, Sheffield (featured here); Henry’s, Cambridge Street, Sheffield; Devonshire Cat, Wellington Street, Sheffield; University Arms, Brook Hill, Sheffield. It’s funny what a quick pint after work can turn in to, isn’t it?
Far from a novelty that’s wearing off, the Tap seems to be growing busier every week. Cara and I stand stupefied by the window as a shower of sleet engulfs the station. Over at the Rutland I catch up with Dan, Ian and Jono and we talk a lot of politics. We move on to Henry’s, and the conversation moves on to the weirdest towns we know (Barrow-in-Furness, some places on the north Wales coast, most of Lincolnshire and our very own Sheffield; it’s the world’s biggest village, y’know). Henry’s seems slowly to be attracting more people. The staff are delightful, the street view from the huge windows pleasing, and the prices staggeringly low. The round I buy comprises four pints and costs (London-based readers might like to look away now) six pounds and five pence. A text message informs me that the Conservatives are forming a government. At least when we’re all destitute in a couple of years’ time, we can crowd into Henry’s for the cheap beer.
At Jono’s prompting we head for the Devonshire Cat. It strikes me tonight that the Dev Cat is the sort of pub the Brewery Tap in Leeds should be but doesn’t really manage. It’s a vast but low-ceilinged room with modern, untraditional style which means it can feel more like a branch of MFI than a pub. But it makes real ale – a wide, well-chosen range of beautifully served real ale – accessible to people who wouldn’t normally go near it. And even on a Friday or Saturday night, when it’s three deep at the very long bar, it never feels remotely threatening. It just pisses you off.
Finally it’s just Dan and me. We finish at the University Arms because it’s the right end of town for us to walk home from. The place is thronged with a gaggle of professors answering quiz questions that would be obscure enough to provoke a riot in any normal pub. We talk about girls, and about social class and how we don’t feel like we fully belong in either the working class or the middle class. Still, it at least gives us a good vantage point to chuckle at the poshest pub quiz in the world.
University Arms, Brook Hill, Sheffield. This time it’s lunch. Except it isn’t, because it’s about quarter past two and the food stops at two. Marianthi and I sit with a pint umm-ing and ah-ing while our stomachs grumble. Eventually we decide to move on to the Red Deer. Just a quick look on their website first to make sure they’re still doing food. Ah, they stop at three. Oh, it’s five past three.
The Stock Room, Leadmill Road, Sheffield. Those beautiful people at Pop-o-matic have put on another great night. This time it involves two excellent bands as well as three excellent DJs. Sadly, after the last Pop-o-matic night, the venue closed down. Sadly, after this Pop-o-matic night, the venue, we hear, will be closed down within weeks unless the building can be bought from the brewery, because the brewery has raised the rent beyond what the venue can afford to pay.
The Midland, North Parade, Matlock Bath, Derbys. A family and friends day out in a charming town that mistakenly believes it’s a seaside resort, punctuated by several alfresco pints of Swift Nick at the Midland. With one eye I watch a kingfisher skitter along the opposite bank of the River Derwent, with the other my young son grab at the flowerpots and scatter handfuls of compost across most of the garden.