- Clarendon Arms, Clarendon Street
- This cosy two-bar pub has a "locals"
flavour scarce in the city centre (or just off it, in this case).
It's a rare outlet for
Greene King's tasty XX Mild and also has IPA, Abbot and a changing guest
from the Greene King list. The beers are invariably served in top form. The
narrow main bar is on two levels with the higher one being the more "pubby"
whilst, should there be a summer next year, the patio/garden will be the place
to be. I've never eaten here but the food (served every session except
Sunday evenings) always looks interesting and good value. On Mondays
between 6.30pm and 7.30pm you can get the special of the day for £7.15 with
a pint of real ale thrown in (not literally).
- Cricketers, Melbourne Place
- With such illustrious real ale pubs as the Elm
Tree and Free Press close by, it's much to the credit of the Cricketers that it
has such a good cask beer offer. Greene King IPA and Old Speckled Hen are
supplemented by two or three guests from the Greene King range. It retains a
"proper" public bar and also has an L-shaped split-level lounge and a
sheltered garden. On Sunday evenings there is live jazz from Andy Bowie's
quartet whilst Thursday sees an acoustic "funk/fusion/soul/jazz"(!) session.
- Vine, East Road
- Formerly renowned music venue the Boatrace, and before
that the Falcon, the Vine asks that "is it a pub or is it a bar?" question, given
its smart contemporary design and emphasis on fine eating. However, I've
never felt in the least bit uncomfortable visiting just for a drink and there's an
excellent choice of real ales - Tim Taylor's Landlord, Fullers London Pride
and Caledonian Deuchars IPA - three of the best beers around. The Vine
gets bonus points from me for having daily papers to read.
- Globe, Hills Road
- The Globe still describes itself as an "Ale House" though
the days when it sold eight or so real ales are long gone (that was when it was
still a Whitbread pub). Actually, now that it only sells three ales, the quality is
much better. I invariably plump for the Black Sheep bitter, one of my fave
beers, being a good old-fashioned English bitter ale. Greene King IPA and
Flowers IPA tend to be the other offerings. The open plan interior still has
some of the "ale house" look with its bare floorboards and unfussy decor. Live
music on Saturdays every month or so.
- Boathouse, Chesterton Road
- Another Greene King pub and another which
takes good advantage of the guests both from the brewery's own seasonal
range and from other regional brewers. There are usually two such ales
alongside the IPA. Older readers may recall this pub as the Rob Roy but even
before it passed to Greene King's ownership it had been transformed to make
the most of its riverside position by way of the conservatory extension and
remodelled garden. The rest of the interior is also light and airy, with the snug
("the Chuck Norris Lending library") being genuinely characterful. As well as
an extensive menu at "normal" times you can get pizzas at any time. A
comedy Club meets in the upstairs function room first Sunday of the month.
- The Eagle, Bene't Street
- It might seem odd to include the city's best-known pub in a list of "unsung heroes". However, from a real ale standpoint, I feel it has been neglected. I've never had a less than very good drop here and there's usually an interesting guest in addition to the Greene King IPA, OSH and Abbot. Not everyone approved when the pub was massively extended some years back but I really like the "new" bits, especially the wood-panelled room to the right of the front entrance.
There must be lots of other pubs both in the city and beyond which deserve mention in ALE for being reliably good places to visit. Let the Editor have your nominations and we'll give them a plug.