I took the Leicester-Derby train (22 minutes !) to visit the two new Beer Guide pubs and see how they’re getting on with demolishing the historic centres (quite nicely, thank you).
I seem to have left my annual trip to Derby quite late in the year*, probably because we haven’t yet had our big family weekend in Burton, which centres on the Coopers Tavern beers consumed in Balti Towers.
I was jealous of Simon Everitt’s recent binge in Derby, where he was able to visit two of the city’s great pubs for the first time, as well as beating me to the new entries. You really need an overnighter in Derby, and it’s not great for budget hotels yet.
So two new ones and one oldie for me.
The Exeter Arms has that rare combination of quality beer, bustling atmosphere, punk memorabilia, and proper food, so I had lunch there, just over the river.
This was one of the recommendations of Adrian Tierney-Jones in his excellent recent piece on Britain’s top pub cities, and made a deep impression on my first visit four years ago. It felt slightly more foody than on that earlier 4.30 trip, but it’s still no Arden Arms.
I always go for the fastest selling beer, which in this case is also the house beer, Ay Up (NBSS 3.5). Dancing Duck beers have impressed as far away as Beeston, but there’s always Pedigree (NBSS 4) from the pub’s owners if you’re a traditionalist like me. You can’t go to Derby and not have a Bass or Pedigree in it’s spiritual home.
There’s four distinct areas, each with their own character. I always like to sit near the bar so I can take photographs of old blokes and pick up conversations about joint replacements of course.
There were a few diners, and a few phone bookings (always a laugh), but the thing you notice is proper beer mats, not place mats.
The chap who runs it was in legendary ’80s punk band anti-pasti, whose memorabilia really adds to the place, as does an eclectic music selection. I don’t do food reviews, but the Moroccan stew was one of the best things I’ve eaten in a pub. It wasn’t cheap, but I didn’t need a Chinese takeaway after my gig in Leicester.
A wonderful pub, in a wonderful pub town.
* a Good Beer Guide year, from the issue of the new Guide in late August onwards