Six new-to-us Bristol pubs in one day

The Star & Dove

Our #EveryPubInBristol mission had begun to stagnate a little with hardly any new ticks in weeks. Then, the Saturday before last, we managed six new pubs in one go. As ever, this concerted attack was eye-opening.

We start­ed at The Assem­bly in Bed­min­ster, a huge pub with the foot­ball on at ear-burst­ing vol­ume and a sense that it was drows­ing, just wait­ing for Sat­ur­day night to kick off. The kind of place where the wood­work has teeth-marks. Jess’s half of Doom Bar came in a dain­ty stem glass, though, and did­n’t taste bad.

The Windmill

The con­trast between this and the next pub, up Wind­mill Hill on the oth­er side of the rail­way line, was pow­er­ful. The Wind­mill feels like the kind of place you might find in a mid­dle class out­er Lon­don sub­urb, all scrubbed wood, burg­ers and jazz. The cou­ple on the table next to us seemed to be on hol­i­day in Bris­tol and had appar­ent­ly come out of their way to get to this par­tic­u­lar pub – is it in a for­eign trav­el guide, maybe? It’s for sale, we hear, which might explain the faint­ly gloomy mood. Over­all, we liked it, even if it did seem to be look­ing at us down its nose, just a touch.

The Rising Sun

At the top of the hill, The Ris­ing Sun appealed to us imme­di­ate­ly: a Vic­to­ri­an orphan along­side a mod­ernist tow­er block, windswept by default, it brought to mind the Cum­ber­land at Byk­er. Inside, we found a lamp­shade pub with plush seat­ing and kitsch details. Blue­grass music played on the stereo and the young pub­li­can told us he was a musi­cian. Bohemi­an might be a good word for this pub and we can imag­ine detour­ing to get to it again.

The Brunel

Things went down­hill after this, lit­er­al­ly, as we tot­tered down a tat­ty alley­way between ter­raced hous­es to The Brunel, AKA The Engi­neers Arms – a huge pub extend­ed or rebuilt in the 1920s, despite its sup­posed 1897 found­ing date. It’s a Greene King joint so you can prob­a­bly pic­ture it with 80% accu­ra­cy if you’ve ever been in anoth­er any­where else in the coun­try. But we liked the cheer­ful staff, the stained glass win­dows and the remains of the old mul­ti-room struc­ture: the real drinkers were in what was obvi­ous­ly the Pub­lic. It’s not our kind of place but there was cer­tain­ly a buzz.

The Victoria Park

Next stop was The Vic­to­ria Park, a some­what famous gas­trop­ub in 1990s style, with Miche­lin stick­ers and more. We did­n’t expect to like it but the hill­side beer gar­den and Edwar­dian exte­ri­or were hard to resist, and inside we had no trou­ble find­ing a cor­ner to drink in. The oth­er cus­tomers were most­ly exhaust­ed par­ents rock­ing pushchairs or bounc­ing babies on their chests. This one, we thought, would fit an upmar­ket resort in Devon or Corn­wall, and the beer was most­ly Devon­ian, as it hap­pened.

The Star & Dove on the edge of Vic­to­ria Park has a fas­ci­nat­ing sto­ry. Ray’s been before, with his broth­er, when it was a full-on gas­trop­ub with slow-cooked pork bel­ly and so on. That ven­ture fold­ed, though, and in the space of a year or two, it’s revert­ed to being a nor­mal, down-to-earth drink­ing pub with some­what harsh light­ing and the down­stairs din­ing room locked. The inter­net seems gen­er­al­ly con­fused about whether it is still trad­ing (it def­i­nite­ly is) and whether it still has food at all – some­times, we think? Still, not often you encounter de-gen­tri­fi­ca­tion these days.

There’s some­thing about this par­tic­u­lar approach, every pub, that real­ly makes sense of the scene as a whole and how things fit togeth­er. Posh pubs are uphill, less fan­cy ones at the bot­tom; chains are some­times where the action is; and there’s almost no pub that’s not OK for at least one round on a Sat­ur­day after­noon.

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