On the way out this Friday I was trying to explain that the story of this blog needed a slight tweak, so that we could justify our pub crawl along the ‘Route to Real Ale’, or rather I was trying to make an excuse for carrying my camera around all the time and constantly taking pictures of anything and everything that we eat or drink (I expect that it can get a bit annoying sometimes). I once said that I was only going to write about successful trips out, but really the hunt itself is often just as good a story. I can spend afternoons walking around the city, travelling up the tram, and driving around the countryside seeing loads of places to stop and eat. I usually make a mental note, and sometimes I do manage to go back, but often I do not manage to. So I decided that on occasion I will just write about the hunt itself, as maybe you will manage to get to one of those places before me, or you may even be able to warn me not to bother going. It will also help me to remember where I went as well.
The first stop of the night was the Bunkers Hill public house at 36-38 Hockley in Nottingham. It is at the bottom of the hill just opposite to the Sneinton Market and the Murat Food centre (of which I have talked previously). We met up here firstly as it is one of the pubs in the Route for Real Ale guide (Stop No.5) and the Nottingham Real Ale Trail (stop No. 2), and secondly as I had read that they served some quite good pizza’s in here. Sadly for us they do not serve pizza on a Friday, so it looks like I will have to make a return here mid week so that I can sample and tell you about those pizzas (and no that is not just an excuse, honest).
Well anyway in order to justify writing about this pub as a visit on the “Route to Real Ale” I will have to tell you about the beer that we sampled. One of their featured cask ales was the rather nicely named “Sir Blondeville”, brewed by the Nottingham Brewery and launched for St George’s day. It was not a bad pint, but it was let down by those missing pizzas. Never mind next time.
After Bunker’s Hill we headed out into the evening and up into the Lace Market, walking past St Mary’s Church on Low Pavement we headed towards the Kean’s Head pub. I sent Martin out up front, to add perspective to the photo, but really to get the first pint in. (That tactic did not work). The Kean’s Head is another one of the pubs in the Route to Real Ale guide (Stop No. 17) and the Nottingham Real Ale Trail (Stop No. 4), so we felt perfectly justified in popping in there to sample a beer and hopefully a small snack of some sort.
We were in luck, not only was there a nice pint of Harvest Pale beer waiting in the pump for me, there was also (as you can see from the board) a snack opportunity, which was a slice of homemade sausage roll for 1.50. Yes please! “Two of those kind Sir, and two pints of your rather excellent Harvest Pale”. OK I did not say it quite like that, it might of been more along the lines of, “They have sausage rolls…do you want a sausage roll?…I want a sausage roll…I am having a sausage roll..are you having a sausage roll? ..yes? Ok then” turns back to barman ‘Two sausage rolls as well then please’ The beer was excellent, as always, and the sausage roll was equally as good. Flaky pastry (you could taste the lard) a really solid filling, well seasoned pork sausage meat, filled with little chunks of black pudding and some patches of salty stilton as well. Really very good.
After the Kean’s Head there was then a brief pause at the “Cock and Hoop” pub which is attached to the Lace Market hotel, the pub is described as “A traditional Victorian alehouse, tastefully restored and right in the heart of Nottingham’s social hub”. I always forget that the Lace Market hotel also hosts the Merchants Resturant and it is another place that I really mean to return to. No food this time but we did sample one of their well named “Ay Up” beers from the Dancing Duck brewery. It was rather nice, lightly malty with a light finish, and almost a little creamy as well. This is stop No. 5 on the Nottingham Real Ale Trail
I am only mentioning the next stop at The Cross Keys so that I can tick if off the list of the pubs on the Route to Real Ale (Stop No, 7) and the Nottingham Real Ale Trail (Stop No. 3) . We had a nice pint of Navigation Ale, and we almost thought about having something to eat here, but to be honest the bathrooms stank so badly I lost all sense of appetite. It was so bad that I even tweeted it, and I am not usually that mean.
Neither of the next two stops are in either of the guides, but both are in the Lace Market. The first stop was the excellent Brew Dog which I have already blogged about, we just got a beer there. I got a “Clown Juice” an India Wit Ale at 7.0% from the UK based Magic Rock brewery. It is described by them on their site as ‘A decidedly light hearted take on a European classic. An extra pale body and subtle bitterness set the tone letting the speciality Belgian yeast shine, while Curacao Orange and Coriander add fruity, spicy notes.‘ It was really quite strong and did have all of those fruity flavours. I really got the orange taste and it was really quite yeasty too. I was only going to able to drink one glass of this, luckily it is only served in a 2/3rd pint sized glass. Once again though we were failing to find any food.
We then heard that we might be able to get a sandwich next door at the Lord Roberts so never having been in there (actually I had never heard of it) we decided to give it a whirl. It was not really my sort of pub, but they were quite a friendly bunch in there. There was no hot food on offer at that time of night, but the barman said that he could rustle us up a couple of fried egg and bacon cobs. Well I was not going to turn that down. It was a pretty good bap as well, even a bit of salad as well. I think that it was only a couple of quid as well. Then it was time to move swiftly onwards.
Dylan Thomas once said “A horrid alcoholic explosion scatters all my good intentions like bits of limbs and clothes over the doorsteps and into the saloon bars of the tawdriest pubs” and that was how I felt standing on the doorstep of the Rose of England at the bottom of Mansfield Rd. It was only the previous consumption of beers that persuaded us that it was a good idea to start picking random pubs that we had never been to before. I was convinced that it was not in any guide that we were following and also that there would be no food on offer, but nevertheless we crossed the threshold and then in the distance at the bar amongst the random football shirts and tatooed forearms I saw the Harvest Pale Castle Rock Beer Pump and we were back on home territory.
In the end this was quite an entertaining pint, we were treated to a step by step demonstration of the development of a tattoo by the girl on the next table, through photos taken on her phone. We never found out where that tattoo was though, we each got a Rockin Ralph beermat, and we played guess which one of the fishes in the tank was plastic and which one was real. Plus another one of those Harvest Pale ales.
Now more often than not, you just get treated to the edited versions of the food hunt. There are lots of other distractions along the way, false trails, missed bites, and sometime bits that are just best not told. The bare bones of the end of this hunt were that at some point after leaving the Rose of England, one of us (I think it was me) wrote my website name on the table in a towny pub with salt, and I think that one of us or both of us may have ended up getting a pie from Greggs the bakers. Sadly the evidence of my camera cannot lie.
All in all a good hunt, a nice sausage roll at the Keans Head, a good egg and bacon bap at Lord Roberts, and a few more pubs on the various real ale guide trails ticked off the list.
The following morning via text message the conclusion was that the next Friday night food hunt will have to start with a decent meal and at least some element of serious food hunting, otherwise it is just a pub crawl with snacks. (amen to that)