Mrs RM and I only lived in Letchworth Garden City a couple of years before downsizing to Hitchin, but I retain some affection for the place. It was, after all, in the Arena Tavern that I had my first ever NBSS 4 beer, Flowers IPA. Sadly the internet hadn’t been invented back then so the score isn’t recorded on WhatPub.
On Thursday I met fellow #PubMan and Depeche Mode saxophonist John, who I last bumped into in Chichester ‘Spoons. John highly recommended the new Garden City Brewery Bar as a potential, possible, candidate for future Beer Guide status. Of course, Brewery taps are new and shiny, but it’s the beer that counts.
The Brewery Bar opens all day from noon, Thursday to Sunday, which I reckon is better that 11-1, 3.30-5.15 or whatever. I had time to reacquaint myself with the town, starting with our bijou residence opposite (Ebenezer) Howard Park.
The couple who bought it off us in 1993 have obviously modernised it a bit, but elsewhere much is unchanged along Station Road and Broadway. The two Chinese takeaways we single-handedly kept afloat somehow stand unscathed, and the Sagar Tandoori has clearly recovered from the loss of Mrs RM’s £8 a night Sambuca habit.
Against the odds, Letchworth has acquired a Tourist Office, next to a Premier Inn opening later this year. Visitors will be directed on a trail of surprisingly attractive properties, most notably the Spirella.
While the grotty Garden Square shopping centre remains, the town has finally acquired some independent coffee houses which every real city needs. No.12 Coffee is a bit of a gem, and David’s Bookshop continues as an oasis of vinyl, with Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” a bargain at a fiver.
Like Welwyn G.C., it has had an attack of the chain pizzerias though, and lunch options aren’t exciting so I settle on scratchings in the Brewery Bar later.
Pub-wise you’ve still got all your favourite locations from “The World’s End”, though the infamous Black Squirrel is no more. I never saw the creatures themselves. Broadway Hotel, the only licensed premises for many years, now looks more inviting than ever, especially with the addition of two Sharp’s beers.
The town has some of Hertfordshire’s best houses (home of Hospital consultants) and worst housing estates. So I was rather humbled by the art exhibition at Broadway Gallery, which reflected the pride shown by residents of Jackmans Estate in their home.
The Alternative Letchworth display shows how folk used to dress in the olden days, an alternative lifestyle that I confess passed Mrs RM and I by completely.
The Brewery Bar is a gem; a smart, friendly place that wins me over with a collection of pub books including the 1980 Good Beer Guide, which I found myself engrossed in while John talked about Northallerton micros. Sorry John.
It’s a chatty pub. Ten blokes around our age in there by 12.30, all bantering away about nothing. The house beers were cellar-cool and tasty, and spanned the range of styles.
This is the sort of micro Mrs RM would like as well; good design, proper seats, beer mats, strong keg beers. I might bring her here for our 25th wedding anniversary in June. Unless we’re in Cleethorpes Wetherspoons.