A day out in Clifton

Or: King Street ventures up the hill

There was no match on this Saturday. When this happens I often look to watch Bletchley play Rugby or find somewhere to sample new pubs. The boys were to lose in Bicester so I had made a good choice to follow the local real ale nose and totter down the hill from Clifton to Hotwells. Here was an ulterior motive. Two of King Street’s finest had ventured further afield with recent new pub openings. The Royal Naval Volunteer has refurbished what was the Hophouse and reopened this week as the Nettle and Rye. Meanwhile the folk from the Small Bar had reopened the Adam and Eve at the bottom of Granby Hill.

We normally meet at 12. We were due to meet at 1 at the Hophouse. The new super-dooper bus service has an inconvenient break between 10 and 12 so I decided to go back to catching the 10.55 train from “the Beach”. I was in remote control mode. I realised my school boy error when at 11.15 I walked to the bus stop with a whole 1 ¾ hours to make the 5 minute trip to Clifton on the number 9. I avoided the temptation to jump on an 8 and go the long way round, or, more shockingly, walk. The automatic sign said one was along in 6 minutes. They tried their best to delay things by arriving some 25 minutes later. I was sitting to a late breakfast in the Primrose café in Clifton arcade at 12.

The Nettle and Rye

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Time for a second as they still haven’t arrived.

You can recognise the FRNV touch when you see one of their infernal boards running along one side of the pub. What appeared to be a professional photographer was trying to get his take on it for at least 20 minutes. They still can’t have the basic gumption to indicate the real from the keg. For future reference it is the right hand board of four that is real. Oh for a simple pump clip. The Northern Monk Chennai Porter was a top, top beer. It was that good I had a second. This was also needed because by 1.30 the other chaps had yet to arrive. Nothing new there then I can hear my regular readers say. Coventry Bob and Rambling Ronnie ambled in at 1.30. Their excuse? They couldn’t find the pub. Pathetic with a capital P, I say. The internal décor is good. Nothing really has changed much in design terms i.e. wooden floors and open space being the obvious touch. The bar has moved to the rear of the room. That will be fun in busy times when the inevitable board to bar shuffle is in full swing. The pub is in my opinion expensive for what it is. The yummy mummy crowd were coming in. looking at the new menu, no doubt noting the headlining £13 burger and walking out again. I am glad I visited but, like its parent pub, this will not be one of my destinations of choice.

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The Albion

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Ed has a just giving page at Eds Bloodwise page

Just around the corner is this classic and famous pub. Those parents with buggy savvy were already taking every table. We retired to the yard with our pints of St Austell Tribute. By now the chaps were on more familiar territory and we were able to tentatively plan an afternoon. We were all agreed. One pint would suffice and we should head off. I should point out that by now I had convinced them to take some photos for the site. I was sporting my Bloodwise T shirt. My good friend and former colleague Ed Jones raises stupid amounts of money each year for Leukaemia research through his gigs in Milton Keynes. I cannot go to his 10th and apparently final concert but I wanted to show my support by raising some limited awareness of the cause and joining in his T shirt selfie campaign. If you live in MK I urge you to do likewise. That’s you lot my ex Denbigh friends.

The White Lion

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This pub has a significant location. It has a garden that overlooks the Avon Gorge and Clifton Suspension Bridge. I have not been here for many a year so it was worth the visit for research purposes. It was a Saturday afternoon. The big screens were in full use. The single beer came from the Butcombe stable. The pub should have been at least o.k. It was grim. I couldn’t get my head around the screaming kids and colouring book mentality of parents. The may have wanted to sit in the garden where at least Johnny black pen might have coloured in a table or two. No they were inside, spreading their cutesy bonhomie to this ever grumpier beer drinker. Take kids to pubs by all means but please don’t abdicate all responsibility for their management. No I take that last bit back. Leave Kids to the full force of Charlie Chalk or Chef and Brewer. They have at least spent time designing spaces for these flat beer inducing monsters.

The Portcullis

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Two minutes along the road came some joyous relief. The Portcullis is part of the Dawkins group. Maybe I was still in a grump but I walked straight in to another bit of personal controversy. I should have sampled first but the beer was signed as a Porter. No notes to suggest the sweet taste that hit the first sample. In my opinion the beer, first served on Thursday, was near its final flourish and “turning”. I asked a chap at the bar what he thought. Was this how the beer was supposed to taste? If he had drunk it before, perhaps yesterday, it would have a similar sharp taste by design. It is all part of the confusion created by those pesky Crafty Beery types. What used to be a beer that the brewer would send back to the water supply is now often sold as something rare and crazy by design. I was reassured by this kind gent Andy that it was a special celebratory brew. I took his word for it but the next pint would be decidedly different. Andy kept his council for now but joined in my juvenile ranting on subjects from good pubs, CAMRA and the Wimbledon FC saga. It turns out for now that Andy was / is a fan of some Northern side. We found out later that he had some serious involvement with one of my favourite pubs, the Beer Emporium. We left urging him to join us down the hill. You know, as well as I do, that when he said he would follow us down in ten minutes or so, this rarely turns out to be true.

The Adam and Eve

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Simple: Beer board behind the bar, pump clips for real ale. Oh and knowledgeable bar staff.

At one minute to 5 we walked into the pub. Rose was to soon join us as did Andy and his partner Gemma. I know you also know that I count Matt, the boss as a beer friend. This was by far the best pub of the day. The Small Bar finesse of recent weeks involved introducing their trade mark 2/3 pint glasses and a simplicity of furnishing. The menu looks impressive for both beers and food. The prices are realistic and thankfully, the pub has beer clips to read at the bar. The Tempest Elemental Dark deserved a re-sample it was that good. I was later diverted by the board into sampling a keg beer by mistake. That beer was all you might expect, cold, bland, fizzy and non-descript. It was the very reason that CAMRA should be reinvigorating its anti-keg campaigns. It was so bad I cannot remember the particular garage in which it is claimed to be brewed. Top six pubs lists were compiled, CAMRA taken to metaphorical task. Plans made for our next trip. By 7 Rose and I were on our way home. I was left wondering why the folks at the Colston Yard would ever want to lose Matt. He is, and will always be, a leader not a follower in the beer scene. I genuinely wish the Adam and Eve well.

Beer of the day: A close call but the Northern Monk Chennai just wins it.

Pub of the Day; No contest, The Adam and Eve

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