What Arnold lacked in architectural interest it made up for in cheap dining options. Compared to Cambridge the many pubs and cafes were thriving on Wednesday lunchtime. The Spoons was packed with OAP diners, and even at £1.05 no-one wants to drink a coffee standing up.
The most attractive looking alternative was The Coffee Grinder, a coffee shop taken over by Blue Monkey just before Christmas. The entrance off the “High Street” is one of the most unattractive imaginable, but entering via pedestrianised Front Street is a delight which reveals it original use (till 2010).
In an enterprising move, Blue Monkey have taken over Bazaar @ Coffee Arnold, retaining a fairly basic café menu (burgers for £4) but adding some gleaming handpumps (perhaps too many).
It’s all very nicely done, and a cheap cappuccino was Costa standard. Most of the elderly patrons (you get the idea) were oblivious to the delights of BG Sips and 99 Red Baboons, and the lack of beer turnover would account for an average half of the former (NBSS 2.5).
Hopefully it gets more pubby in the evening, but then it competes with the award-winning Robin Hood and the Spoons for whatever real ale market isn’t absorbed by Nottingham central.
In the late ’90s Blue Monkey was a favourite of mind, particularly in the many free houses of the Amber Valley. They’ve acquired a few attractive pubs of their own, but I’ve found their beer in Nottingham and Newark a bit average. The pubs themselves attract a mixed crowd, but can seem a bit too quiet. The beer in Loughborough was superb, so I’ve no doubt about the quality of the source material.
I thought that the best route for small breweries was to own their own places to ensure quality, but this doesn’t always seem to be the case. Perhaps the specialist beer houses just have more commitment to quality, or attract more custom.