I stayed in Cheltenham last night, largely so that I no longer had the embarrassment of not having been to the National Pub of the Year. I also wanted to get to grips with a town that never seems as posh as its reputation, particularly if you’ve even been to Whaddon Road or the Adam & Eve.
I booked into Central Studios near the station. £29 for a room with shared WC, reminiscent of the rural Hungarian hostel Mrs RM and I enjoyed once. Perfect.
A walk along Honeybourne Line, the path of the old railway, is only moderately scary at 7pm, and the street art a bit half-hearted as you approach the High Street.
It may be the least attractive High Street in the country, along with Durham. I know that’s because all the interesting (and smart) shops are in Montpellier, but that doesn’t make it any less grim.
As the chain names peter out, you enter Cheltenham’s own little Mill Road or Ancoats at the bottom of the High Street. Alongside the Beer Guide pubs, there’s this gem;
Back in the chain-land, I had a very pleasant hour (really) in the company of a professional drinker in the best of the two Spoons (his view as well as mine). Over a £1.85 pint of Gloucester pale (NBSS 3.5) I heard his entertaining complaints about the closure of Spoons drinkers pub in Gloucester, and the falling quality of Curry Night.
Despite an excellent barman who promoted his beers in an engaging way, the Bank House had no diners I could see at 9pm, which is a worrying sign.
My own mission is to find a good Chinese in every town of course, and the west end of the main street revealed this classic. I was drawn to the Wah Dou, a takeaway version of Pontfaen’s Dyffryn Arms, complete with lovingly handwritten menus and black & white TV. A classic, straight out of the Northern Quarter curry café textbook, or so I thought.
While waiting, I noticed the Adam & Eve (top) was around the corner and couldn’t resist the much lamented Arkells. This pub was a classic back-street local when in the Beer Guide until a few years ago, under another octogenarian landlady.
Dot may have gone, but it’s is still very close to the archetypal community pub, with skittles, darts matches and a disco as well as determined drinkers. Four Arkells beers on the bar, of which I’d only heard of Moonlight (NBSS 3). What’s happened to 2B and 3B ? I loved it.
My notes say “tinge of ginge“, but I’ve no idea what that means. Simon Everitt will no doubt solve that riddle.
The Wah Dou produced the first really disastrous Chinese takeaway of the year by the way. They’re not on Trip Advisor.
I did see the attractive parts of Cheltenham in the morning, but why bore you with those ?