“For the casual
visitor the absolute joy of his time spent in Bedminster—a city within a
city, locked within the embrace of Bristol’s Georgian splendour—is to be
found in the wonderful people that inhabit this vibrant and exciting
suburb . . . never in all my travels have I encountered a population
more effusive in their welcome, more diligent in their attentiveness,
more concerned with the well-being and enjoyment of those that pass
through their magnificent city: what is it in their imprisonment that
has set these fine people free?”
Timothy Cocksfoot Bury Me in BS3: Life and Love in the Southern
Suburbs (avonpacket Press, 1934)
The first thing you
need to know about Bemmy is that it is enormous. Big enough to be a city
in its own right, Bedminster stretches from Southville
at its northern tip via Windmill Hill and all the way down to the edge of vile
in the south. Basically, it’s
all of this:
stares into the abyss
Forty-three pubs for you
to choose from, so where to start? Well that’s
here for: in true Bemmy spirit, we’ve
basically brought everybody together and started a mass brawl, a
Royal Rumble if you like (but this is avonpacket, so
categorised), from which Bemmy’s
Finest Boozer must ultimately emerge triumphant. Cool!
Now pay attention ’cos
this is a bit complicated. The draw has been made for the First Round of
this curious contest and, owing to the sheer dizzying size of Bedminster’s
pub community, has been split into two equivalent groups, the Brunel
Group (below) and the Gerry Gow Group (this
way), as follows:
Plough & Windmill
Princess of Wales
Gerry Gow Group
Hen & Chicken
Tap & Barrel
Of the original 43
contesting pubs, 18 winners will emerge from these two groups to contest
two further knockout rounds and the Final. And then you’ll
be able to tell everybody you meet that the bestest pub in Bemmy, by
possible we may mean the Bemmiest
pub in Bemmy, is the . . . But we’re
getting ahead of ourselves.
– Brunel Group
Pubs Which Are Startlingly Jolly
(Jolly Colliers vs Princess of Wales vs Robert Fitzharding)
Next up it’s the pits, so to speak,
Jolly Colliers and a lexicographical triumph, for while
it’s not unusual for a pub to append an adjective to its name,
it’s rare indeed for such an exercise in vanity so effectively to
capture the true essence of the place, as it does here. Well
done to all concerned, especially the Silver Fox, who’ll
sometimes pop in and sign fivers for you.
then with a trio to send the first-time Bemmy
visitor’s spirits soaring, however briefly and misleadingly,
although we can’t help wondering whether the enormous,
borderline hysterical crowds we always seem to encounter at
Princess of Wales haven’t
been trapped for years by the enormous slobbering hound that
guards the front door and
are just trying to keep spirits up.
Either that or it’s a religious thing.
The winner in the Startlingly Jolly
stakes, though, and the first through to the second round, can only
be the Robert Fitzharding,
a ginormous Wetherspoons lagermarket wherein an effusively friendly rabble neck
cut-price Anschluss (pound a pint!) amidst a shambles of dirty plates and
discarded newspapers. Surprisingly lovely.
And now, by way of contrast . . .
vs Barley Mow vs Little Grosvenor)
Which leads us, perhaps not
unexpectedly, to . . .
Pubs Where We've Watched Old
Men Scrapping Over A Pint
(Red Cow vs Bell Inn)
have though that both of these would have closed down eh?
of dilapidated care-in-the-community theme pubs that do
absolutely nothing to detract from the cider pub’s reputation
for serving putrid cloudy yellow gunk to rotting derelicts who
give a whole new meaning to the concept of the Living Dead, the Apple Tree and the Barley Mow
make their fellow traveller in synaptic suicide
the Little Grosvenor
seem like the
Llandoger Trow by comparison.
Inn was a bit of a stop-start enterprise for years, if we’re
honest. Cursed by a location not only at the top of the (once)
ludicrously over-pubbed East Street but also, lethally, immediately
opposite the very bus stop from which
Hordes would erupt every Saturday night to wreak their unique brand of
murderous pillage, it was never the most promising of propositions.
what was the point in knocking down the Red Cow? And
building a B & B in its place? Surreal.
Anyway, we are truly sorry
for our loss here
because we really used to love this place. It had a
quaint little tiled roof above the bar for one thing, as though
trying to convince us that our fizzy half of bass was being
drawn from some ancient well rather than a factory in Poland. It also
a pushchair count
which was high even for this part of town, and if you were lucky on a Sunday afternoon you could
enjoy the sight of a pair of pie-eyed pensioners slowly brawling
in the public bar. What wasn’t to like?
But honestly, even we can’t
let through a pub that’s been demolished . . .
then, Windmill Hill and Bedminster Down. Two of Bemmy’s
further-flung outposts, neither of which enjoys the most
glittering reputation in the cosmopolitan centre (by
which we suppose we mean North Street).
Pubs Which Are Friendlier Than
(Assembly vs Miners Arms vs
But before rushing to judgment, there are some bright spots
out here as well, perhaps the most surprising of which comes courtesy of
the Miners Arms,
which confounded our prejudices on our last visit by being
dominated not by the scowling skinheads we’d
conditioned ourselves to expect (so where’ve they all gone then
eh?) but by a crowd of excited yummy mummies preparing to hit
the town in their Saturday evening glad rags.
on The Hill (as no-one calls it),
Rising Sun, despite its challengingly-high wheelchair-count,
has never made us feel anything other than entirely welcome,
despite our (apparent) appalling attitude to the disabled. All
the more unfortunate for both of these, then, that they’ve
lost out to East Street’s
legendary Assembly, for reasons which will become clear
when we get to Round Two . . .
Pubs Which Are Unfriendlier
Than You'd Think)
(Black Cat vs London Inn vs
An unremarkable trio
characterised by being at all times heaving with rabid, dead-eyed soaks
and, in the case of the Victoria Park (back in its unlamented
own review by displaying notices exhorting the local children please to
stop smashing up the toilets. As for the London Inn, that
ornate (some would say pedantic) exterior conceals what may be Bemmy’s
quite a feat!
London looks like this. Nice shoes
say, they've not always got a balloon on the go here . . .
All of which means
that, as much by default as anything else (and pending our checking out
done anything to the Raymend other than change its
the Black Cat that makes it through.
Pubs Which Are Just As Friendly As You'd
(Enterprise vs Park House vs Plough)
enthusiasm for the Miners Arms notwithstanding, it really is hard
to think of
Bedminster Down as anything but desolate.
A funnelling of A
roads, some shabby business parks, a few scattered settlements so far
from the centre of Bemmy
that we’re virtually in the scary
badlands of BS4 (and beyond
that, Somerset, where dragons dwell) . . . what did you think the pubs
were gonna be like eh?
One of Bemmy’s
more boisterous boozers — if
also, surprisingly, one of its cleanest — this once-imposing old
mausoleum crossed its final
frontier some time in 2005 after one-too-many visits from the local firearms unit.
fact, two emphatically closed pubs dominate this barren
wasteland and we’re kicking things off down Hartcliffe Road — now
there’s a clue — with
This being South Bristol, that
could only mean one thing couldn’t
it? And they haven’t disappointed us either: step forward er,
some flats we don’t know the name of. Now who would live in a
place like this? No-one from round here, that’s who.
There then followed a lengthy spell glowering malevolently through shuttered eyes over the
smashed-up portables and burnt-out sofas which littered its
enormous empty car park, before there commenced some much-needed, er, renovation work.
There goes the
Just up the road,
meanwhile, the gothically decrepit Plough
has undergone a similar transformation.
below in what presumably passed as happier times, this place succumbed to the relentless march of, well, speculative
buy-to-let development (how did that go again?) at about the
same time as its bigger, badder neighbour.
However, where the
Enterprise was sort of thriving, this place had been
clearly failing ever since they decided to go head-to-head with
the intense West Street competition by laying on a lavish array of
entertainments including a display of Bristol City ticket stubs
and a portable TV showing cartoons.
Really, you spoil us. Or
rather, you spoiled us. We just wonder how excruciatingly bad our experiences in both
must have been for them to have lost out to
powerfully depressing (indeed, boarded-up) Park House.
Which Have Crushed Our Spirit
vs Old Globe)
Essentially the same pub in
competition with itself over
in the retail wonderland of East Street and
When the older of the avonpackets was a mere
boy growing up in Bedminster he was so frightened of the Old Globe — something
to do with pagans, as usual — that he preferred to
risk his neck in the terrifyingly violent Nelson
over the road . . . in the process completely overlooking the never-knowingly-cleaned and lavishly
depressing General Elliott, which has finally bitten the
dust (in fact is now a
chip shop) and left the Globe as the sole surviving representative of East
Street’s once-formidable gaggle of Saturday afternoon
horse-racing and access-visit pubs.
(Plough & Windmill vs
Over on West Street, meanwhile, and another
example of the same pub in competition with itself: the White Horse
just about edges it over the Plough &
Windmill, but since both of these are currently closed, who,
really, could possibly give a shit?
HERE for the remainder
of Round One
– the Gerry Gow Group