As a former chapel, brothel and premier palace of the best scuzzy rock nights Nottingham had to offer, the (Old) Angel has been servicing our citizens in one way or another for hundreds of years. Definitely due an update, it has now reopened as the Angel, but Ben and Steve have done more than just give it a lick of paint. Downstairs has been gutted and redone, with the upstairs venue due to open soon too, plus various other smaller spaces, and even their own onsite microbrewery. Once the home of Annie’s Burger Shack, they continue to do a nice line in food too – and veggies will be happy to know that pretty much every dish on the classic pub grub menu, from fish and chips to burgers, is available as vegetarian and vegan-friendly tofu and tempeh versions too. Those angels. It also helps that it’s stumbling distance from the LL office…
Junk Bars didn’t cast the net too wide when looking for a new venue to sister their first venture, Junkyard. In fact, their new pub The Herbert Kilpin, in the old Rhinegold restaurant in Bridlesmith Walk, shares a wall – and back yard – with the adjacent craft beer haven. The thinking behind it was to take elements of Junkyard, like the awesome beer range, but give it more of a traditional ‘pubby’ twist. The decent range of cask ales change, but last time in, there were showings from Wild Beer Co, Tiny Rebel and Black Iris, with more fearsome keg brews also on tap. Their food game is pretty strong too, with bar snacks like whitebait and posh sandwiches, and more substantial snap including mussels and pork belly. ‘Who’s Herbert?’, you may be asking. Local history buffs may know this moustachioed former Notts butcher’s boy as one of two men who struck out to Italy in 1891 and ended up founding Serie A giants AC Milan. Ben fatto, duck.
Your old uni pals/cousins/cellmates are heading to Notts for the weekend, and you have to think of something to do that combines a day’s boozing with at least some small scintilla of culture or history. Solution: The Trip. You can literally smell the history in this ancient rock-hewn pub (and that’s not just the lingering aroma of last night’s stag do boozily marauding through). Claiming to be England’s oldest, dating back to 1189AD, other towns around England may reckon they have older pubs than the Trip, but they tried to claim Robin Hood as their own too, and they’re not gonna win that fight any time soon. Hewn into the imposing bedrock of Nottingham Castle and caves, and just round the corner from the famous Hood statue, it’s always abuzz with groups of tourists as well as locals, thanks to decent beer, quality pub food, and one of the best pub gardens in the city.
The earliest record of a public house on this site is 1799. Meaning they've been serving up ales to thirsty Nottinghamians for 217 years. It's not always been a pub though and when it was being converted from a Barclays Bank they found over two hundred tankards with the name ‘Bunker's Hill’ etched on them. Hence the pub was given the name Bunkers Hill. The most recent refurbishment in 2016 has created an airy, modern feel but retaining the proper pub vibe. Offering ales from Adnams, in Suffolk and Sharpes in Cornwall. The ubiquitous Harvest Pale and Fuller's Frontier offer lighter ABV options. They've also got a huge range of craft ales from niche suppliers across the UK and beyond.
Another historic Nottingham pub, The Cross Keys is smack bang in the middle of Weekday Cross, once Nottingham’s marketplace, and dates back to 1799 or thereabouts. Operated by Great Northern Inns, expect to find a good range of Navigation’s real ales and craft brews on draught (from New Dawn Pale Ale to English Rebel Pilsner and Twisted Genius dark beer). The bar/lounge area is bright, comfy and perfect for a post-shopping pint, Nottingham Contemporary visit or place to catch the match, while there’s a large dining room upstairs if you’re making a trip for a sit-down meal (proper pies, steaks, burgers and Sunday roasts). Look out for Rikki Marr’s awesome painting Lord Brian, a portrait of Nottingham’s pre-eminent poet mashed up with the legendary big ‘eaded Forest gaffer.
Tucked away in the Lace Market under the shadow of the impressive St Mary’s Church, The Kean’s Head is a proper old-school pub – a simple, single room of traditional wood and tiles. Operated by Castle Rock/Tynemill, you can always expect a good few beers from the Castle Rock stable, interesting ales and selected craft brews from further afield, some of the most filling pub grub portions in town, and an always friendly atmosphere. There’s no garden, but it’s probably one of the cosiest boltholes in town on a cooler evening, and an essential stop-off for beer lovers.
Sticking with Castle Rock, but heading down to the waterfront, and you have the Canalhouse – certainly the only pub I’ve ever been in featuring its own indoor canal, bridge and moored narrowboat. Among the major pluses going for this pub are: a) its location, close to the train station which is very handy for killing time before a journey; b) the huge canalside back garden, providing a perfect waterside vista for a sunny weekend session (just maybe mentally block out the Mags’ court…); c) the incredible beer range. The Canalhouse boasts the biggest world beer range in the Midlands (more than 250), with ten craft beer lines, ten traditional ciders, and six real ale pumps. Yeh, you might need to make a few return visits.
When I lived just round the corner from the ‘Fleece, I always imagined it being the place I would retreat to in the case of a zombie apocalypse, Shaun of the Dead-style. What it’s got that the Winchester hasn’t, is an ace rooftop garden that lets you sun yourself while providing a handy vantage point for any undead folks shuffling up Mansfield Road. But until that day comes, it’s also a great pub in its own right. You’ll find a rotating selection of some of their sterling coin-based brews, including Golden Sovereign, Copper Penny, and Clippings IPA, and plenty of other ales, ciders, wines and more. Not to mention some great regular music nights.
The Barrel Drop was the city centre’s first micropub (like a normal pub, but scaled down, stripped back, and focusing pretty exclusively on beer). Dispensing real ales right off the barrel on racks behind a tiny bar, it’s a cosy, beery oasis smack-bang in the middle of town, but away from the hustle and bustle in Hurts Yard – perfect for perusing the paper or a quiet catchup. Lloyds No 1, this ain’t. The beer selection is constantly changing, with one LocAle and the rest from around the UK, so why not reward your particularly strenuous Saturday trip down Wilkos with a hard-earned half or two?
Read our full review of The Barrel Drop here.
Occupying a former antiques shop in Derby Road, ARWAB is the first pub venture from Scribbler’s Ales, the Stapleford-based brewery set up by published author and head brewer Richard Nettleton. They have eight beers on draught, three of which are brewed, or “published”, by Scribbler’s (Beeriest at Tiffany’s, Masher in the Rye, One Brew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest… you see where this is going), and the rest a selection of beers swapped and carefully selected from local breweries. It gets lively at the weekend but pop in midweek and take a seat in the large street-facing windows, surrounded by stacks of books, and under posters of famous jackets – perfect for a long, wistful gaze out of after taking in a particularly eventful chapter.
Read our full review of A Room with a Brew here.
If there’s one thing we love in Notts – more than mushy peas, Su Pollard, and hanging on to fading sporting legacies – it’s caves. And the ‘Hand has its very own sandstone cave in which it’s perfectly acceptable to drink, plus more history in the form of the original Victorian shop frontage. As a former Nottingham CAMRA Pub of the Year then, troglodyte or no, it’s definitely worth stopping in for a pint in the sunny conservatory, kicking back in the leather Chesterfield sofas and wingback chairs, or check out the bar or dinner menu, full of homemade, hearty pub classics done with pizzazz.
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