...but before I get to the final liszt (enters Ronnie Corbett ‘monologue’ mode)… I was only speaking to the producer the other day… and he suggested it would be a good idea, if prior to announcing the top 5 pubs, I listed the best, ie. the funniest postings. Who am I to argue, I thought. So here they are…
…voted for by a random selection of people in the street who’s cats prefer Whiskas and who can’t believe margarine isn’t butter… and not by me, I hasten to add… I think they’re all rubbish, [Enough Corbett] here is…
…the best of the CBP:
- The Piper (No. 9)
- Carriages Café Bar (No. 27)
- Bar 69 (No. 35)
- Off the Wall (No. 54)
- The Brewery Arms (No. 57)
- The City Arms (No. 58)
- The Anchor (No. 59)
- Revolution (No. 79)
- The Chester Bells (No. 92)
- The Falcon (No. 93)
- The Shropshire Arms (No. 97)
- Rheum (No. 101)
- The Waikiki Bar (No. 103)
- Watergates (No. 106)
- The Living Room (No. 109)
- Missoulla (No. 110)
- The Rectory (No. 111)
Tres drole, I’m sure you’ll agree, but now to the main event. In reverse order, from five down to one, here are the CBP top five pubs:
5. The Royal Oak (No. 20)
It’s a rare event these days to find a traditional pub that’s still in its original state with all the small rooms and snugs intact. It’s even rarer to find such a place which is also a healthy thriving business, but that’s exactly what we have here. And it’s not hard to see why. Despite being tied to a brewery, a wide selection of real ales is always on offer and the landlord and landlady are usually behind the bar themselves, ensuring the atmosphere is both friendly and lively, due to the happy way they go about their work and their clear enthusiasm for the job. Add to the mix the fact that there’s bagatelle - the Chester game, and a really nice outdoor covered seating area - and what you end up with is a superb community boozer that’s always busy. It’s a great local pub.
4. The Old Harkers Arms (No. 36)
What Brunning & Price tried to do with a derelict old canalside warehouse a number of years ago was to create a ‘city of London’ pub in the heart of Chester. What they’ve actually created is better than that – primarily because it’s not full of bankers ! Unless of course you count crumply-suited provincial mortgage consultants and pensions advisors, who along with estate agents, solicitors and various other ‘professional’ types seem to have made this place their second home. This is Chester’s busiest pub for a reason though. It’s very well run, the wide range of real ales is always in excellent condition and the atmosphere is usually lively. It can even be full on a Monday or Tuesday night. Downsides are the ‘aloof’ disposition of some of the staff, the draconian policy on closing (you’re often forced out of the door by 11:30 !) and the high prices. Still a fantastic boozer though.
3. The Carlton Tavern (No. 5)
Quite simply, this is Chester’s best community pub – a street corner boozer that’s been brought into the 21st century by a dynamic, hard working landlord who’s been given the freedom to develop the business by a brewery (Hyde’s of Manchester) which is perhaps a little more forward thinking than most. It’s a pub that’s popular with the locals but good enough to draw customers from a much wider area as well. This is particularly the case when one their famous twice-yearly beer festivals is being held. Excellent real ales from Hyde’s (naturally) and other Manchester brewers such as Marble and Allgate’s are usually available, as are beers from ‘Chester Ales’ – a Saltney based micro-brewer in which the Carlton has an interest. Across the river and up the hill – it’s well worth the short walk from the town centre, people.
2. The Cellar (No. 45)
We’re now in the realms of pub perfection and we had a very difficult job separating these last two. I was trying to find a word that best describes the Cellar – and I think the word is modern. This place represents evolution – maybe it’s even the forerunner of the next generation of Chester pubs. Whether or not the craft beer revolution will ever completely eclipse the traditional brewers is open for debate, but the Cellar certainly has more in common with a Brewdog bar for instance than the ‘Olde Dog & Duck’,* for here you will find beer heaven. On one side of the bar, there are three constantly changing cask ales, usually from local micro-brewers, which are always in perfect condition. These are complimented by an array of keg fonts across the rest of the bar carrying a wide range of imported German and Belgian beers, from black lagers and wheat beers to strawberry lambics** and unusual ciders. In addition, the fridges are well stocked with more Belgian beers and some quite frankly ‘wacky’ offerings from the rest of the world and beyond. Add to the equation, some high quality live music and late opening at the weekends and what you get is the perfect city centre pub. This is the future. Others will follow their lead.
* this place doesn’t exist – it’s a cipher – a stereotypical ‘traditional English pub’ reference point. Don’t look for it in the list. It’s not there !
** I’m making this up.
And finally ! If Harkers (No. 36) is a ‘City of London’ pub in the heart of Chester, then the Pied Bull is a ‘City of Chester’ pub in the heart of Chester ! If that makes any sense. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it epitomises Chester – ancient architecture within the famous city walls, staffed by friendly local people and it epitomises a modern English pub – focus very much on the traditional pint rather than, ahem ‘poncey’ beers, but with the net cast wider than the traditional brewers. The place was wrestled from the grip of the appalling PubCo, Punch Taverns a few years ago and the business has steadily been developed since then by focusing on providing quality real ales. This philosophy even extends to brewing beer on the premises. A small micro-brewery is in operation in the cellar, producing a range of ‘Pied Bull’ brews, one or more of which is usually available at the bar – and they’re not afraid to experiment either. For example, I think their ‘Raging Bull’ is the hoppiest ale I’ve ever drunk ! Apart from the micro-brewery, the other thing the Pied Bull is famous for is organising it’s own twice yearly beer festival at which there is usually a ‘meet the brewer’ event. These are not to be missed for any Chester based real ale fan – and for anyone who isn’t, attending one of these events is likely to convert you. The Pied Bull is still a work in progress – it could do with a refurbishment for instance, but we sort of like the rough edges to be honest. The fact that they brew their own beer is what swung the decision in the great Cellar vs. Pied Bull debate. Best of luck to them anyhow. Long may they continue to serve fantastic ale and long may they continue to brew.
Right then, that’s it. It’s been a lot of fun. I hope we’ve provided a few laughs – that’s been the main objective of chronicling this odyssey to be honest. I hope nobody feels offended in any way at the comments made – that certainly wasn’t our intention, although neither was it our intention to offer a flaccid uninteresting story. Maybe we’ve been a bit controversial at times, but we just walk into pubs on a Thursday night and ‘say it how it is’ ! I hope we’ve managed to stimulate some interest in the pubs of the great city of Chesterville anyhow – viewing figures for this site would indicate that we’ve been successful in that respect and hopefully that’s to the benefit of the Chester pub and beer drinking community in general.