Wednesday 22 June 2016

BRAPA - Sheffield to a Finish : Part One

Bit of a strange city Sheffield, it seems so stretched out that you never really feel you are "in" a city.  Railway and bus stations excrete you from their backsides into two streets masquerading as the "city centre".  Before you can blink, you find yourself in one of the many urban wastelands of boarded up takeaways and second hand car dealerships.  The trams and taxis look at you piteously as if to say "this is no place for a pedestrian".

It's a bit like Stoke's town planners had a drunken orgy in the North, and then consulted Milton Keynes' committee on how to upset people on foot.  The redeeming feature of course is the people, a friendly down to earth lot (on a non-football day), even the tracksuit zombies will give you a welcoming smile.  And I'd take good people over city aesthetics any day.

Kelham Island might sound like the kind of place where flamingos dance in lily clad ponds with golden frogs, but it's not.  The pubs however all seem to be wonderful.

 A fine way to bring up the 950 mini landmark!

950.  Shakespeare Ale & Cider House, Kelham Island, Sheffield

And how on earth had I not been aware of this jewel of a pub before?  The CAMRA App GBG pushpin got me lost, before I found it hidden on an unlikely looking street.   I entered through an old corridor (always the best way) and found myself at the front bar, where I received a friendly welcome from a great blonde barmaid who looked like if Carla Bonner joined a hippy commune, got a pierced mouth and didn't wash for 2 years.  She was probably about 20 but still called me "luv".  It was time for my "pub tourist twat" routine I perfected in Scotland, this time I saw a businessman getting his pint topped up and demanded the same from blonde bar man, but mine was a LINED GLASS and I hadn't realised.  Schoolboy pub error.  At least we joked about it.  My pint of Shiny Pail was incredible quality, and two locals looked like they'd been placed here for the pleasure of my blog.  First, they moaned it was only getting darker now it was June 21st.  Then, they settled up a tab that had been running since lunchtime but with one more pint first (they did get a top up!) and then spied a bog standard mobile phone and were amazed by what a posh, smart device it was.  Meanwhile, it was nice to hear our blonde staff discussing pub/beer  strategy rather than relationship issues - take that Wraysbury!  Inevitably, a pub with such a fine range of both cask and keg beers is going to attract that vilest of customer, the BEER SNOB!  He slimed his way in, barmaid hated him from the off, he scanned everything for an age before sneering "hmph, well I'll try a Lime Dissection V2.0 Sorachi (I made that up) as it is the most interesting thing you've got on in THIS place!"  How NOT to endear yourself to folk.  He had a 'taster' before declaring it too interesting even for him.  He then slimed off again.  He didn't belong.  Superb pub.

Locals discuss the darker nights closing in.

My Shiny Pail, the background shows businessman and the blonde staff.
After a walk back in the general direction of the station, hurdling as many 'don't cross here' points as possible, I'd found a fairly short route to my second and final pub of the evening.

951.  Old Queen's Head, Sheffield Central

The overly wordy GBG description told me this was the oldest residential building in Sheffield still standing, and only just, judging by it's delightfully warped and creaky exterior.  I was a bit surprised to see a huge Thwaites sign as I wasn't in Blackburn, so I entered with caution and it was a bit of an anti-climax, with a modern interior, lots of shiny fonts, fruit machines, and a huge screen where a top heavy woman was gurgling because Northern Ireland were somehow only losing 1-0 to Germany.  I ordered the one Thwaites I didn't know, Summer Solstice, nice enough but not a patch on the Shiny pint.  I perched uncomfortably at the bar for two long minutes before retiring to a side room, so modern identikit it looked like a Lancastrian farmer had tried to follow an Ember Inns remit and gone slightly awry.  With the excitable strains of Jonathan Pearce echoing round the building, the football finished and Sheffield's answer to the Hairy Bikers arrived with what seemed to be fishing equipment.  They also possibly became the first people in the world to describe Robin Williams as "that chap off of Mork and Mindy".  It really was that kind of pub.

Promised a lot, delivered little. 
Train journey back was lacking in any kind of air, and a man with shades ate an apple very loudly in my ear'ole.  But I've got a taster for Sheffield now (yes, I need to do Hazlehead still!) and plenty more outer pubs dotted in impossible locations a couple of miles from the station, so may crack on with that over the next few Tuesdays.

See you after Saturday for my latest foray into Greater Manchester's mini towns of ill repute.


Waiting for the Edinburgh train.


  1. Can't believe Mudge hasn't asked if Stockport on your list of towns of ill repute, so he can rightly chastise you as it's Cheshire. Stalybridge ? Mudge will definitely know who Carla Bonner is though.

    I thought you had the Mount Pleasant in southern Sheff to do (the one that opens at 5pm despite what it says).

  2. Nope, never heard of Carla Bonner. All I watch on telly is documentaries about cats, 70s Rock and WW2.

    1. I believe Carla has connections, albeit loose, with all three of those Mudge.

    2. Oh Mudge, I'm disappointed. She's a living legend and sure she knows a good pint when she sees one.

      Martin, yes I still have quite a bit of outer Sheffield to do and last Tues was just the first of my quest to finish it.

  3. Mudge, if it's any consolation I've never heard of Carla Bonner either. Although I don't own a television and have no intention of buying one.

    I tend to find the best way to avoid being unwelcome as a pedestrian going to Kelham Island is to get on a tram. That said, I'm a lazy git and one of them still requires the attention of my red pen.

    Kelham Island is superb. I've never had any thoughts of it as anything other than a reduced industrial heartland that retains its pubs. It is possibly the finest district in the country.

    The blonde barmaid sounds classic Sheffield. The only failing most probably the piercing, still Sheffield barmaids can't be as perfect as Emily.

    I have said some things in my time about the Voyager shite, all of which are true, but even I would admit that they contain air. It may be overly warm air that, like the Kassem Stadium, smells of shit, but it is still air.