My 2nd Top 100 pub is probably the one I’m keenest to revisit, as soon as I can get Ryanair flight prices and 3 clear days aligned. I’ve been reading reports from Dusseldorf from City fans en route to Moenchengladbach for the match who have been raving about the Alstadt pubs, and feeling very jealous.… Continue reading TOP 100 PUBS – ZUM UERIGE, DUSSELDORF
Yesterday morning I had the joy of waking in Preston on a glorious morning (thanks for the bargain Sunday rates, Premier Inn) and explored the city as the sun rose over Avenham Park, a Victorian masterpiece. The avenue of trees on Avenham Colonnade was particularly gorgeous, leading to steep views across to the Ribble. I… Continue reading PRIDE OF THE NORTH
One of the most interesting recent developments in the pub world has been the opening of a rising number of very small pubs focusing purely on beer and cider, rather than food and entertainment. These “micro” pubs have been opening up almost weekly across the country, often taking over shop premises in much quicker time than traditional expensive Pub Company refurbs.
I’ve now visited about 50 of these micros, with many of them in the Good Beer Guide in interesting parts of the country such as the Isle of Thanet and, surprisingly, Southport. Even my neighboring village of Willingham has one, a converted bank. The Beer Emporium in beautiful Sandbach (pictured above) is typical, a converted shop inbetween a Chinese takeaway and barbers, just off the central area.
All of these micros are free houses, but there is a similarity between them that extends beyond the single room shape. Typically, furnishings are simple and include communal tables; beers are often served on gravity from a barrel, and breweriana abounds.
Custom comes largely from the middle-aged, though not necessarily middle-class; customers who enjoy leisurely beer and conversation with only simple bar snacks for sustenance. Many owners may have taken on a pub for the first time and left a more traditional career to do it; the financial commitment is more manageable and gives a measure of freedom – many micros have very restricted opening hours compared to the norm.
I enjoy visiting these micros; staff and customers are generally friendly and chatty (you can’t keep yourself to yourself), the beer is good, if not always brilliant, and pricing is very keen. I’m not sure that the expression “All human life is here” quite applies though.
As well as housing one of my 100 Top Pubs, Walsall is a very underrated place for a short break. We’ve stayed there many times since discovering it with a young family 10 or so years ago, when it provided excellent parks (the Arboretum), cheap Asian food in Pleck, and some family friendly museums, as well… Continue reading WALSALL
I regularly get asked what the best pub(s) are, generally be people who have no intention of ever going in a pub, let alone one outside Cambridge. I always reply “The Dead Poets Inn in Holbrook”, without qualification, so as to appear authoritative on the matter. The truth is, great pubs need to be… Continue reading TOP 100 PUBS – BLACK COUNTRY ARMS, WALSALL
It’s hard to argue that eating out hasn’t become cheaper, relative to income, in the last 20 years or so, but harder to argue that food is better or more interesting. The homogenisation of pub menus continues apace, with the same ten or so “pub classics” on most menus in both chain and free houses.… Continue reading BRUNNING & PRICE(Y)
It’s a while since I walked St Albans, a small Cathedral city generally characterised as both affluent and a hot-bed of late night rowdiness. In my experience, from having in the area, both are over simplifications. What is more true is that things change very slowly, if at all in St Albans. The best way… Continue reading NO CHANGE IN ST ALBANS
I retired early so I could get out of a mainly office-based job and enjoy fresh air and exercise. Some of that exercise is taken walking from train stations to pubs and back again. I tend to regard a 5 mile round trip to a pub as an ideal – 5 brisk miles is about 90… Continue reading USE YOUR LEGS
I picked up my first copy of the NME in nearly 3 decades today; FOPP were virtually forcing the now free paper on people. I stopped reading it pretty much when Paul Morley left, and it is unrecognisable from the paper that, along with Peel, used to point me to new musical directions each week.… Continue reading OLD MUSICAL EXPRESS
Walthamstow is a fairly unremarkable suburb of London, notable for it’s long-closed Racing Stadium and it’s highly regarded Labour MP. In recent years it has seen some impressive modernisation that made a repeat visit unmissable when I was in the area at the weekend. The main areas of interest are the vibrant High Street market, the… Continue reading E17