Sunday 1 November 2015

BRAPA - Robin Hood's Bay & Whitby (a Hallowe'en Special)

I've heard of deep fried Mars Bars but really?? 
A bonus BRAPA trip on Thursday gave North Yorkshire 4 more ticks (I've now done 92 for the 2016 Good Beer Guide) to see it very much cement it's place in second spot.

The day set out damp and chilly, with a bit of watery sunshine as I waited for the bus from Scarborough to take me up the coast to Robin Hood's Bay which had two pubs I 'needed' to do.  The double decker (not deep fried) was full to busting, with goths, southern tourists and half term brats all in attendance, and it soon steamed up so nobody had a clue where we were.

Trusty Google Maps helped but it was chucking it down as I found a coastal footpath to save me walking up the very steep hill to the Dolphin.

A nice coastal walk in RHB.
I was at the Dophin 10:45am, it said 11am opening, but if the door is open, I'm obliged to ask the question.  Okay, so the place was in a state of chaos but the answers of "no chance" and simply "hah!" from the large hairy barman was never going to endear me to the place.  Especially as I returned, soaked to the skin by now at 11:35am only for toothless cleaning lady to tell me they still weren't ready!  Well why are you smoking outside then and not working?  This is probably the main tourist trap pub in down with it's picturesque exterior on a hill in the heart of town, so to not be open on half term week in these circumstances simply isn't acceptable.  More on there later.

Rewind a bit, and I'd walked back along the coastal path to the first pub of the day, an 11:30am advertised opener.  Again, I could get inside as the tea room was open(!) so despite being 10:55am, I took my chance.....

720.  Victoria Hotel, Robin Hood's Bay

And what a difference a pub makes.  I found my way to the bar room from the corridor and stood there for 2 minutes, it didn't look good.  A woman appeared and I explained I knew I was earlier but.... and she found another lady to serve me!  I made sure I was grateful and sat in the large room, supping a nice Sonnet 43 pale from Durham.  Some tourists who'd presumably stayed the night were having coffee and breakfasts, some shrieking kids unfortunately but the room was large enough for them to be kept at a distance.  A smiley old woman read her Phillipa Gregory book whilst her husband looked at his laptop, occasionally breaking off to chuckle and tell her something that was happening in the news.  It was all very serene apart from a nervous Dad dropping all his change at the bar, whilst a couple of males members of staffed chatted in the doorway and stopped anyone getting in or out.  My ale took a bit of getting used to, but I liked it once the initial bready taste had gone.  They sell something called "beer bats" where you can get 6 third-pint measures, very fitting for this time of year!  The room was lovely wood panelling, had a really nice old 19th century feel.  As I left, one of the men who'd been lurking in the corridor made a big play of making me go out the bar way, rather than back through the tea room which was a bit odd, but he seemed friendly enough. A good pub to bring up my October target of 720.

"I'm the left side, I'm the left side, I'm the left side Vic Hotel!"
Back to Ye Dolphin farce, and having tried unsuccessfully to get in twice, a third rejection would have just been embarrassing so after a quick phone catch-up with Dad, I lurked in the rain across the street and "watched".  Never stalked a pub before.  Anyway, a couple went in so I followed close behind...... it was 11:52am!

721.  Dophin, Robin Hood's Bay

There was no time for sarcastic slow hand-clapping as I noted a couple with big dog already sat in front of the welcoming fire.  And there was no way around them.  The couple who I followed were struggling to get served as our big hairy host was taking his time, breathing heavily and toothless wonder was nowhere to be seen.  Then two big groups followed and it was chaos in the little bar room, and I had to just keep my place at the bar.  Eventually, I was in, and sold my soul to a gimmicky LED flashing pint of Hobgoblin, the beer of this time of year.  It was pretty good, but I think I was already looking on this pub with less than rose-tinted specs.  I sat in the main bar and soon, a second barmaid appeared, a very jolly friendly happy woman which this place needed but it was too little too late as everyone had been served (though most returned to place lunch orders).  Lobster Thermidor at £14.95 summed it all up really.  The 'decor' was obligatory Hallowe'en, mainly fake cobwebs which begged the question "why did they just not bother cleaning at all, then we could have had genuine cobwebs and 11am opening?!"  To be honest, the pub was very much like some of York's old famous ones, a kind of mash-up of Black Swan, Golden Fleece and Red Lion, with slightly better beer quality.  Don't waste your time, head for the Vic instead.  

Ye Dolphin, overrated tourist nonsense.
I took the bus up the coast to Whitby now, a bit of a cliche to come here on half term week at this most haunted of times, but BRAPA doesn't discriminate.  Well, only against rubbish pubs.  It's nearly 13 months from my last fairly disastrous trip here and it's amazing how nice climbing the 199 steps can be without a broken toe, even if a little girl managed to "out-count" me on the way up.  

Whitby Abbey, nice and bleak at the top of the 199 steps.
After one of the nicest freshest pieces of fish I'd ever had, I nearly got run over by some crazy steampunks with goggles chasing each other down the street.  It was pub time!  

722.  Granby Hotel, Whitby

Thankfully out of the main tourist reaches, I found this cracker of a pub building next to a posh crescent of B&B's called West Cliff.  The pub had two sides, so typically of me, I entered the one with no people in it but this time, the right decision as some goths in hysterics were watching Neighbours and generally not being very stereotypically goth in the small upper right hand side.  I had the whole lounge area to myself, even if the fire was giving off no heat at all.  The landlord seemed a nice chap, and I ordered an Old Peculiar cos twice today I'd seen adverts for it which is peculiar(!) and I thought "if I see it, I must order it, it must be a sign!".  Nursing a pint of warming barley wine in a quiet lounge bar was exactly what I needed at this stage of the day.   The most peculiar thing really was, on doing my pub research, is that this pub is a genuine freehouse but always puts on three Marstons, Theakstons and Cameron's Strongarm.  I'm not anti the bigger names as a rule but it still struck me as very queer.  A massive dog walked in next and reminded me that pub calm can't be maintained forever, especially as it looked like it wanted to kill me when everyone else came in and commented how lovely he was.  As I left, he shone an eye at me very much like the evil baddie Transfer in Willie Fog's 80 days around the world. 

The Granby - ignore the Banks's sign, a bona fide free house (below) with a twist! 
723.  Little Angel Inn, Whitby

Back towards the harbour and station, there was no surprise to see this pub heaving, despite the mid afternoon hour.  What did surprise me though was a wide range of guest ales from micros.  I'd previously been to five Whitby pubs, and found the beer range rather disappointing.  I squashed in at the bar and ordered my second Sonnet 43 ale of the day, "Another Is Cried" which I described as red and delicious at the time.  I found a nice big table all to myself in the side room despite the people standing at the bar (grrrr! pet hate!)  and this was good news because by happy coincidence, my sister and her boyfriend were visiting BRAPA's favourite Whitby resident Lucy Williamson, and the trio joined me for a drink.  My sister Lu had just got a fringe, so my opening comment "I thought you had a wig on!" was never going to go down well.  I tried to insist it was a compliment.  Anyway, we had a nice drink after that though the hot water tap in the gents, deary me, really needs one of those "caution - almost boiling water" signs as I suffered third degree burns almost.  Meanwhile, Andy was pinning a BRAPA card to their noticeboard to help increase my appeal!   Sadly, I had to dash off for the 4pm train just when I could have settled down to a proper drinking session.

The Lucy duo prove they are no little angels in the Little Angel.
A typically excruciating slow stopper to Middlesbrough ensued, but I had an hour before the train back to York so it was pre-emptive time.  

Infant Hercules, Middlesbrough

I've said it before and I'll say it again, the micro pub revolution is needed nowhere more than a town like 'Boro.  I judged this one (of the five) to be closest to the station, so took a chance and wasn't a long walk when I got my bearings.  This was a pleasingly small micro, like a box, well a rectangular one and a few locals and our bearded host who looked like something from an American new wave folk band were setting the world to rights.  I ordered a nice but unspectacular pint of Jeepers Creepers, the 3 or 4 beers on were mostly Hallowe'en themed and the barman was so quick, I had to ask a kind old chap if that really was my pint, it just seemed to materialise on the bar!  Wooo.  Spooky.  Boro' had beaten Man Utd on penalties in the cup the previous day so there was a lot of pride about that, and the comment "it's nice to see some Championship clubs in the quarters" had me agreeing wholeheartedly.  The next comment "Man City should walk it from here" did make me grit my teeth a bit, but guess it's realistic.  And here's to a semi final trip to Boro' so I can sample three of the remaining four micropubs, if we don't do them in the league that is (we might leave the Twisted Lip for a quieter time, I have my reasons).  And I wouldn't mind popping back in here either.

Pre-emptive, Micro, friendly, football chat - can't fault this pub!
And I'll be back later for a report on Saturday's trip to Milton Keynes. 





  1. Your deep fried chocolate list is nothing. I have come across places that will deep fry any chocolate bar you like. I don't like them, I had a deep fried mars bar once, two sweet even by my tastes.

    If its any consolation, I was getting soaked to the skin at work rather than waiting for a pub to open on Thursday morning.

    We will win at Manchester City. The Hull City way is we will get to the semi final beating all these big clubs and then lose a home game in comical fashion. Those saying Manchester City will walk it from here shall eat there words (if you identify them I will happily arrange for that to be literal). In return, when I am inevitably wrong and we lose heavily at Manchester City I shall literally eat my words. I suspect it will be pre-Bristol City.

    Middlesbrough there are lots of options. Pre-emptive or out of the box but already in the guide, that is the question. The guide pub can be done easily anyway.

    As a matter of interest, where / how did you obtain your tickets. What were said pieces? I have been having thoughts on a tangentially related matter.

  2. Hi, I just kept it simple and got York-Scarb single, bus to Whitby obviously via RHB (which was quite expensive I recall in comparison with recent bus journeys), then a whitby-boro-york train single. It was more about timing issues than cost when I decided to travel like that.

    I have never looked forward to Middlesbrough away more!

    The cup game is on Tue 1st December so after Bristol City. I will be there, trying to get 2 or 3 central pub ticks pre-match but not got any more hols from work left booo! But an hour or two's flexi-time is an option.

  3. I think the Grove in Huddersfield will deep fry anything that moves, judging by their bar snacks menu.

    Interested to read that the Smog has got so many micros already; as you say it's fertile ground with all it's closed shops and lack of competition. I like the idea of pre-emptive pubs, you can be fairly certain those micros will be voted in to the GBG in places like that, though quite a few have closed already.

    I don't know what Manchester pubs you've done, but I'd always recommend Crown & Kettle and Port St from the GBG. Piccadilly Tap is the pre-emptive to go for, and the're generaly happy for friendly away fans in there (plenty of Saints on Saturday).

    After the league game last season I wouldn't bet against you.

  4. You know Martin, I'm determined anyway to make Grove our 'Huddersfield away' pub of choice, deep fried snacks is the clincher!

    Very excited about Smoggies away too, for probably first time ever. Can't think why ;)

    I won't be at Man City tmw, too painful, well unless we win then I will kick myself but got a couple of 'ticks' lined up! Pic Tap is a good pre-emptive shout, really liked both the others you mention.

  5. I'm happy with Grove for the in the box Huddersfield option, rozzers and Sky permitting. However, in my usual way, I wonder whether there is any way to leave the box for the good of BRAPA. A pre-emptive perhaps, or maybe something like Penistone or Stalybridge for a train in, which would be a good Police avoidance move also.

    Middlesbrough away truly has got options now, both inside and outside the box.

    I also have heard good things about the Piccadilly Tap, certainly more than the potential pre-emptive that has opened up on Victoria. Potential for the journey home from Bolton perhaps. We'll pass through Manchester often whichever division we are in, aside from the Manchester clubs should we go up there are still the likes of Stockport and Bury should we go down.

    Rereading this, I note that tomorrow is the first time ever that I have a bet on Hull City. How heavy does the defeat have to be before it is classed as heavy?

  6. Tom, that is a very Tomesque first paragraph though unwittingly, you have mentioned the BRAPA word of the week which will become clear on Sarurday.

    Grove stands for Hudd. Dr Phil's is a must on Boro day. Twisted Lip is the only one I'm keen to avoid (SS).

    Yes I may save up Picc Tap thinking about it. I may be banned from Stockport pubs after my review of Arden Arms sparked much debate on Social media.

    So our 92nd min consolation meant we didn't suffer a heavy defeat.

  7. Could Twisted Lip work after the defeat at Middlesbrough? At this point, I will point out that, according to the price of football study, Middlesbrough are the only club in Yorkshire who fail my price criteria even with their cheapest ticket in the cheapest price category. Robbing Smoggie bastards.

    There will be a quiz on Saturday so I don't want to say too much but the survey meant the consolation wasn't required to avert a heavy defeat. Which I'm sure you are disappointed at in a way.

  8. Just like the 3rd Dexy's LP, this post reveals its greatness over time.

    Is there anything more frustrating than pubs not opening when they say they will, particularly if they promise to open before 12 (Wigan) and don't or shut early on a whim (Whissendine). New pub in Chichester just closed Sunday evenings without telling anyone.

    I'm often the "Dad" counting out his change at the bar Simon. At least I'm not the prat paying for a coffee on credit card or with a twenty. If bar staff told me how much it was while pouring, I've have right money ready. Grr.

    1. Thanks :)
      You know, I'm getting close to doing a Monday Night Special blog about the issues of GBG pub opening/closing times. It is my number one occupational hazard of BRAPA.
      Where, though, is Whissendine?

      Spoons pubs are quite good cos the prices are listed by the beers, I agree it's good to know it advance what it's going to cost. Brigantes does it too, but has weird pricing like £3.14, £2.97, £3.33.

  9. Martin, I echo your desire to pay with correct change. I want to be left with less coinage in my pocket, not more. Although at this juncture I should confess to paying with my contactless debit card in Weatherspoons, but only because the TSB give me 5% back for doing so. I hope I won't be burnt at the stake for such an act.

    This reminds me how much I'm looking forward to Huddersfield and Middlesbrough if you can manage the third beer day.

    Dagger for Duncan

    1. Simey Strategy lesson (I don't want to have to burnt you both at the stake) ......

      BRAPA strategy is to use a £10 note (£20 is excessive) for first two pints of day, get a nice fistful of change so you are prepared for bus issues you may not have been expecting (£7 single from Henlow to Shefford anyone?) and then when you've done the BRAPA 'hard yards', you can whittle down your change as the pubs go on or you want your Upper Crust sandwich in Kings Cross!

      Third beer day Tom? Am confused (as usual), sorry.