These are a Few of our Favourite Pubs

Over a few beers the other week we found ourselves making a list of pubs we love and find ourselves longing to be in.

It’s not The Best Pubs, it’s not a Top Ten, it’s just some pubs we like enough to feel wist­ful for. We’ve been tin­ker­ing with it since and decid­ed to share it.

Brains bitter at the City Arms, Cardiff.
The City Arms, Cardiff

10–12 Quay St, CF10 1EA
This is, in fact, the pub where we had the con­ver­sa­tion. It was our first vis­it but love at first pint. The per­fect mix of old school, new school, cask and keg, it just felt com­plete­ly right to us. Worn in and unpre­ten­tious, but not cur­mud­geon­ly, and serv­ing a rev­e­la­to­ry point of Brains Bit­ter. (Not SA.) Is it an insti­tu­tion? We assume it’s an insti­tu­tion.

The Brunswick, Derby.
The Brunswick Inn, Derby

1 Rail­way Ter­race, DE1 2RU
We loved this first time, and it’s still great. Flag­stones, pale cask ale, cradling cor­ners, a view over the rail­way, and the mur­mur of love­ly local accents. Worth break­ing a train jour­ney for.

The Rutland Arms pub
The Rutland Arms, Sheffield

86 Brown St, S1 2BS
Sheffield gen­er­al­ly, of course, but this pub in par­tic­u­lar appeals more every time we vis­it. Young staff stamp their per­son­al­i­ties, but that does­n’t seem to put off old­er cus­tomers who load the juke­box up with dis­tinct­ly unhip oldies. Local beer, worn wood, stained glass, and stained car­pets. And that dif­fused light that sits just right with a pint at two in the after­noon.

The bar at the Royal Oak pub.
The Royal Oak, Borough, London

44 Tabard St, SE1 4JU
Look, when we say Har­vey’s Roy­al Oak is the best pub in Lon­don, we’re sort of jok­ing, and clear­ly express­ing a per­son­al pref­er­ence. But also, it is the best pub in Lon­don. Per­ma­nent mild and Sus­sex Best, salt beef sand­wich­es, sag­gy-trousered cock­neys telling ram­bling anec­dotes, and vio­lin­ists sip­ping at post-rehearsal halves. A pub that feels as if it ought to be a few more miles out, and a few decades ago.

The Ship & Mitre, Liverpool.

The Ship and Mitre, Liverpool

133 Dale St, L2 2JH
We were drawn to this one by the beau­ty of the build­ing, a grub­by grey inter-war incisor tooth stick­ing up at the side of a fly­over. Of course it turned out to be a great pub every­one else already knew about. There’s cask ale, keg, Bel­gian and Ger­man bot­tles, and a hatch chuck­ing out junk food. It’s not posh, it’s not rough, just straight­for­ward­ly decent. We don’t hes­i­tate to rec­om­mend it when asked for Liv­er­pool tips and so far nobody has com­plained.

Ceiling of the Marble Arch, Manchester.
The Marble Arch, Manchester

73 Rochdale Rd, M4 4HY
We can’t go to Man­ches­ter with­out pop­ping in here, just like every oth­er out-of-town beer geek vis­it­ing the city. The inte­ri­or is leg­en­dar­i­ly beau­ti­ful, the beer has a cult fol­low­ing, but the pub is also a local booz­er, even if the peo­ple who use it that way don’t always live near­by any­more, as a bloke called Pad­dy once explained to us from the next table.

Inside the Bartons Arms

The Bartons Arms, Birmingham

144 High St, Aston, B6 4UP
We keep think­ing about this pub even though we’ve only been once. A cathe­dral. A leg­end. A land­mark. The beer was good (Oakham) but the real joy is know­ing it sur­vived against the odds, a Vic­to­ri­an work of art sur­round­ed by bad post-war devel­op­ment; and in its details: Snob screens, mosaics, tiles, stained glass, paint­ings… Every sur­face is a delight.

The Star Inn, Crowlas (exterior)
The Star Inn, Crowlas

TR20 8DY
What more can we say about this one? We love it, and we miss it. We espe­cial­ly miss Trink and Potion 9.

The Cumberland Arms

The Cumberland Arms, Newcastle upon Tyne

James Place Street, Ouse­burn, NE6 1LD
With a whole city to explore we could­n’t resist going back here mul­ti­ple times in one week. Again, there’s a plea­sure in its incon­gruity: an old pub cast adrift from the com­mu­ni­ty it once served, but still love­ly and live­ly. Dog walk­ers, teenage domi­no play­ers, hip­pies, hik­ers, ordi­nary mums and dads tak­ing a break on the school run… Idyl­lic. (And across the road, Ralph Ersk­ine’s remark­able Byk­er Wall estate.)

The Great Western, Wolverhampton

The Great Western, Wolverhampton

Corn Hill, WV10 0DG
Batham’s, Hold­en’s, bread rolls, pork pies, pork scratch­ings, and an old man in a flat cap star­ing into a pint of mild as if it was broad­cast­ing vital infor­ma­tion. Rail­way mem­o­ra­bil­ia on the walls. Some­where in the oth­er room, a long angry tale in which both par­ties kept turn­ing round to each and say­ing things, and then being turned round to and told they could­n’t turn round and say that. This pub real­ly did seem mag­i­cal to us.

* * *

So, that’s our list. Are there some com­mon char­ac­ter­is­tics? Maybe…

  • good beer, even full-on craft (def 2)…
  • …but almost coy about it.
  • A greater than aver­age occur­rence of mild.
  • And of pies, rolls, dirty great sand­wich­es.
  • Car­pets, cur­tains, dark wood, flag­stones, tiles.
  • Victorian/Edwardian.
  • Near rail­way lines, waste­land, indus­tri­al estates, main roads.
  • Unre­furbed, or wear­ing their refurbs light­ly.

Do feel free to post your own list below.

15 thoughts on “These are a Few of our Favourite Pubs”

  1. Great list. I’d be inter­est­ed to know what might be on one from you.

    I par­tic­u­lar­ly liked the line for the Rut­land “Young staff stamp their per­son­al­i­ties, but that doesn’t seem to put off old­er cus­tomers” . Real­ly get that, it’s why you might pick the Rut­land over the Kel­ham favourites.

    1. This was dead con­fus­ing for a minute until we worked out that you prob­a­bly meant “been inter­est­ed”.

  2. I remem­ber I and many oth­ers rec­om­mend­ing The City Arms to you when you were in Cardiff, so I’m thrilled to see it here. It’s oper­at­ed with a light-touch Brains tie for about eight years but before that it went through a peri­od of being a bit of a dive. Dif­fi­cult time, that, for the hordes of rug­by fans who pack the place out on match days. Insti­tu­tion is def­i­nite­ly the word.

  3. I like the Mar­ble Arch but can’t quite love it – it’s too far out of the cen­tre to drop in on, the food’s too posh, it gets too busy… lots of lit­tle nig­gles. I love the Smith­field, though – which is essen­tial­ly a craft beer bar that’s tak­en on the shape of a street-cor­ner booz­er – and the Crown and Ket­tle’s up there too, par­tic­u­lar­ly on the archi­tec­ture/­mul­ti-room lay­out front.

    1. Jess has nev­er been to the Crown & Ket­tle; I quite liked it when I went, but nowhere near as much as the Mar­ble Arch. Weird light.

      1. Yes – the entire pub is gloomy but in dif­fer­ent ways; even the rel­a­tive­ly well-lit areas are gloomy. Has that “am I in a pub or a small indie con­cert venue, dur­ing the day?” vibe that Firkins used to.

        It’s much more unas­sum­ing than the Mar­ble, which to me is a good thing – I like a pub that seems to wel­come casu­al sidlers, cor­ner-sit­ters and devo­tees of sec­ond-tier beers and brew­eries. Also it’s the only place I’ve ever had a Mumme (cour­tesy of a slight­ly deranged Tick­ety­Brew tap takeover). It’s not quite a go-to pub, but def­i­nite­ly a why-don’t-I-go-to-more-often.

  4. I’ve been to most of these, which is unusu­al for lists like this! A few I’d add which are of a sim­i­lar vein.

    The Moor­brook, Pre­ston
    The Grove, Leeds
    The Grove, Hud­der­s­field
    Fer­nan­des Brew­ery, Wake­field

    An hon­ourable men­tion has to go to The Gro­cers in Cadishead, Sal­ford. Every pint I’ve had in there reminds me of the first sip of Jaipur in Hud­der­s­field­’s Grove for the qual­i­ty. But as a microp­ub, no dingy cor­ners..!

  5. When I moved to Lon­don 25+ years ago, the Roy­al Oak would’ve been unre­mark­able; the city had loads of places like it- almost all Youngs’ estate was made up of sim­i­lar pubs. Some were posh, some were plain, but they were all unam­bigu­ous­ly, 100% PUB. (As were most of the fam­i­ly brew­ers’ tied hous­es across the coun­try before the Beer Orders.) All too rare now, esp. in the cap­i­tal, hence its appeal.

    1. Yes, that’s the real com­mon­al­i­ty, I think. Each of these still has the absolute undi­lut­ed essence of PUB. Yeah, beer and all that, but they real­ly are Pub­lic Hous­es. Places where you might EXPECT to talk to oth­er peo­ple. They are Locals, but of the kind where you feel like a local from the moment you step through the door. Good choic­es.

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