Monday 17 July 2017

BRAPA - Summer Special Day 5 : Frolics in Falmouth

Falmouth doing it's job
Sunday was my last full day in Cornwall for 2017 GBG Pub Ticking, and I was determined to make the most of it after only four ticks the previous day despite being out and about for 12 hours!

With three pubs in the Guide, Falmouth seemed like the Cornish real ale capital, but despite being mid-Cornwall, I had to change at both the familiar Par, plus Truro, to get on a line going south.  Of course, I needed more than just 3 ticks so after having a sly word with the driver, we stopped at 'request stop' Perranwell which had a pub about a 10 minute walk.

Annoyingly, a man who'd tried to run over my foot with his bike got off at the same place, and speaking loudly into his phone, he walked his bike behind me all the way into the village.  Luckily, he didn't join me in the pub, and I'd been singing "Ignorant" by Gimp Fist at him all the way down the road, making me perhaps the first person to combine Darlington with Perranwell.

1186.  Royal Oak, Perranwell

This pub screamed community local like no other to date on my holiday, the small corner bar seemed almost more like a shop counter, and the locals performed a Cornish 'Poznan' to jealously guard the real ales from this interloper's view.  A local man then announced "Who's watching Poldark tonight?" in an excitable voice, I looked at him like "stop being a Cornish stereotype and let me see the ales".  The young bar girl seemed nice, giggly and a bit flustered, dropping my change, forgot what she was doing - I'd like to think it was my presence but perhaps the thought of a topless Aiden Turner walking into her pub after a day in the fields had been a bit too much.  The locals laughed at her regardless.  One local Gandalf character had tried to push in front of me, he was sternly told that I was first by the other locals, I was warming to them!   A few people were making vague noises about Sunday lunch, so I retired to an outside bench in this serene and pretty village, thankfully very tourist free unless you count me which I wouldn't.  As I wondered whether the local "Moomaid" ice cream tastes more like fish or beef, a Truro taxi pulled up and a round bald chap rushes out straight into the pub, holding his gut.  I'd just been thinking "how the hell can I get to another village with this lack of phone signal and Sunday bus service?" so this development seemed heaven sent.  Trick was, watch like a hawk for his return.  I waited, and waited.  A jolly local with a happy face came out, glared at the taxi (in a smiley way) and said "unbelievable, that taxi driver has just come in here for a jimmy riddle.  I'm gonna give him a right rollicking when he returns!"  Those of us outside nodded sympathetically.  I still waited.  Eventually, he returned with the air of a large man who'd evacuated his bowels - this was no jimmy riddle!   Not sure he got a rollicking, but I ran across the road and collared him - "if you gimme 10 mins to finish my pint, can you take me to Stithians?"  Yes he could.  I then made friends with a local and I could see taxi driver glaring back, as if to say "drink up lad, don't get too comfy".  I didn't wanna take the jimmy riddle, so I drank up!

Moomaid sign and a pint of "Wolf in Sheep's Clothing"

There's a man having a poo somewhere in there!
 We sat in silence for 9/10th's of the journey, he seemed to be basking in the silence of a man who's had a monumental shit.  I didn't mind.  Soon we got onto BRAPA, but we were pulling up at the pub anyway.

Two local legends outside the Seven Stars Inn
1187.  Seven Stars Inn, Stithians

I was glared at by these two blokes outside as I approached, a beanie hatted Brian Sewell and a gayer version of Michael Portillo, immaculately dressed.  They made for a very amusing drinking duo.  I was confronted with two doors, "lounge" on left and "public bar" on right.  I broke with 2017 BRAPA protocol, and went right,  they both led to exactly the same place, the bar!  Before I'd even stepped inside, the ultra friendly barmaid was all "HIIII, WHAT CAN I GET YA?!"  Woah, quite an intro.  Her fellow bar blokes all said hi too, this was lovely olde worlde dark pub.  All the Perranwell locals told me there pub had a cosy community feel that Stithians lacks, but I'd disagree on this showing.  A lovely old corridor led to the loo, this was up there with the Countryman at Piece for the most authentic old Cornish pub I'd been in, even beating the likes of St Just and Mevagissey.  A little bit gaudy in a quirky way, loved it.  I still took my drink out though, Sewell and Portillo were intriguing me - "I can play the clavical too" was the first thing I heard.  The best when they got onto modern technology, as Sewell says "someone I know dropped a computer mouse in a glass of water .... " Portillo replied "did that mean he couldn't get WiFi?"  This has to be up there with the best exchanges I've EVER heard in a BRAPA pub, and boy I've heard some shite over these past 3 years.  Two blokes turned up and sat between us, one I instantly disliked.  He couldn't go one sentence without using the f word about 3 times, and he had the voice and manner of Terry Christian.  Their chat concluded as I waited for my next taxi to take me to Falmouth, the non sweary one saying "it's too hot, I'm off home for a pork pie salad".  Shortly after, Portillo tried to help Sewell out of his seat, he had walking difficulties, and fell arse over tit into the road, knocking over a pub sign.  T.Christian's response "fucking hell, does he fucking need a fucking hand?" but Sewell growled "LEAVE ME" and Portillo propped him on the stone wall and waited til he recovered.  What drama!  In the midst of all this, my taxi had arrived.

Wanted the Hophead, but had a Tribute to keep the "Cornish" ale run going.

And there was no let up from the craziness of today so far, as my taxi driver was a young crazy dude, risk taker, very lively, back problems, and although I had to ask him THREE times to drop me at the Boathouse first (nearest pub as we drove into town), he did AND knocked £3 off the fare as we'd had such a nice chat, maybe.

Phew, "...and breathe", I thought, as I photographed the next pub .....

1188.  Boathouse, Falmouth

Being in a modern, bare boarded bar with strange multi-levels and tonnes of light was quite a culture shock after what had gone before that.  And as I climbed the wooden stairs seeing a bar offering a wide range of interesting looking local ales, one of those "moments of contentment" struck, as I realised I'd done the hard part of the day, and now had three pubs to look forward to in the same town.  So why I didn't end up enjoying this place more is a bit of a mystery to me.   I thought I'd make friends with the dreadlocked surfy barmaid for a start, as she seemed a lively character, but had put all her energies into a Portuguese tourist group, one girl of whom bravely declared "give me the strongest cider you've got!"  Spoken like a true local.  Putting my vague questions about the different ales to shame, the one I wanted went off so I had to have a 5%er.  I went into one of the many side rooms, the one behind me locked and in near silence as an intense scrabble game was taking place.   The look of concentration on the face of the girl closest to me, little did she know that her opponent was working out whether he could get away with putting "Niroo" down.  I'm no expert but 'orion' may've been a better option if allowed.  The music was of a sort, first we had The Bangles, then The Corrs, then Ailsha's Attic.  Hmmmm.  The group in my room were irritating, but boring too, lounging around you'd think they were in an airport waiting lounge.    I felt bored, I must've been missing the rush of the Seven Stars Inn!

I ended up with a "Knill by Mouth" (second left) when the "Black Rock" (far left) went off.

Scrabble time, through the window.

The people in "my" room were the worst

I wandered into the town square, sat on a bench, had my lunch, it was another ridiculously warm day at odds with the generic 17 degrees and cloudy forecast.  At the far end of the square, to the right, stood a pub I'd heard a lot about......

1189.  Seven Stars, Falmouth

So my second Seven Stars of the day and I'm supposed to love it, right?  After all, it is the Grade II National Inventory pub of Cornwall (there might be more, I can't see them in the GBG).  I wandered in, stony silent atmosphere, properly old, perhaps feeling a little bit forced in terms of "trying to keep it as centuries old as possible" but you cannot deny some of the excellent features like the old "Off Sales" hatch, gas lights, amazing wood panelling.  Confused by the lack of ale pumps, "they're served from barrels behind" says the disinterested bar boy, signalling with his hipster thumb.  And in a nice moment of Tywardreath redemption, I spied Draught Bass, had to have it, and it was my fave pint of this since Dolphin in Plymouth.  But you know BRAPA by now,  all these lovely features and beer from the barrel are all well and good, but it's all cosmetic at the end of the day, you have to delve a bit deeper to find a pub's true character, and that's in what is happening in the here and now.  And I'm afraid poor staff and local attitude, biggest turn off for me in a pub, let it down greatly.  You know the type, we get it in York's shitter old pubs a lot - the whole "walk around with our nose in the air lauding it over the passing tourists - 'oh how privileged they are to drink in OUR pub', and acting like they'd be here every day since 1720,  I had nothing to do with them, I enjoyed my ale on a barrel shaped corner table, but it was irritating.  A Dad came in holding a ginger twild, as did a visitor with a rucksack - all wide eyed and excited to be here, like I was, but stand offish attitude of staff and locals led to rucksack bloke mouthing "hi" at me and glance like "sorry I spoke!"  He wasn't wrong.  Excitement finally came when we had a power cut in the final 5 minutes, barman asking locals where the generator is, much panic and fiddling of nobs (you could say the pub was full of them) before the dawning realisation that should a pub priding itself on such levels of history and basicness shouldn't really get too hung up on a power cut!  I left them with this conundrum, didn't return my glass to the bar either.  Bit of humility and this could be a wonderful pub.

Bass at last!  The Cornish record run is over.

The ginger twild , pre power cut.
So onwards and upwards, and I got a bit lost trying to find the final pub, and am still sat here wondering if it has a proper entrance.  I eventually worked out that because it was called 'Front, maybe it was actually on the front!  It was.   Oooops!

I think there's a pub in there somewhere!

 1190.  'Front, Falmouth

"Falmouth's Favourite Ale House!" said the sign, a brave claim but one I'd definitely agree with.  Like a pub that has listened to feedback about both the Boathouse (bright, friendly), and Seven Stars (authentic, olde worlde) and combined them into one great pub, with none of the negatives.  An amusing gaggle of locals gathered on the left corner of the bar as I surveyed the incredible range of weird and wonderful local ales, served by friendly staff who knew their stuff (whether I wanted to know the 'stuff' or not!) The locals were having a Cornish sea-faring equivalent of 'my one is bigger than yours' contest.  "I sailed around Grimsby in a storm once!" claimed some beardie bloke, probably in oilskins (it was a fairly dark pub and I'm not sure how authentic these characters were supposed to be).  "Well I went to Hartlepool on a Tuesday night in the middle of winter, beat that!" cried another to howls of laughter.  "I threw a man down some steps", wailed a big tattooed lady (or was it a long haired bloke) to more roars of laughter (I was being served at this point so missed some of the thread).  I tried to look at them in a "I'm from the North!" kind of way but ended up looking a bit needy, so skirted quietly around the perimeter of the pub (I was shit scared to be honest) and drank a pint of some grapefruit thing at a low table in the corner, wondering if the whole thing was some theatrical stage production.  Main thing was, happy pub with everyone enjoying themselves.

It was back on the train (even if the guard did make us get on, just so we could go from Falmouth Town to Falmouth Docks and back again, which seemed pointless unless you are some kind of station ticker).  Frustratingly, there was only one train remaining to Newquay so that put pay to Luxulyan (couldn't afford another taxi) so I had an hour to kill in Par.

Falling asleep in Falmouth
So I went back to the Royal Inn, again there was a topless goon sitting on the same table (singing to himself) but not a Brummie this time, I ordered a pint of something average and sat in a courtyard where two groups compared dog breeds and complained about the food not being to the required standard / what they ordered.

Back in Newquay, I paid £7.10 (waaaah!) for some fish & chips which were at least amazing (despite being a bit bony and the staff having attitudes to make Seven Stars in Falmouth blush) , and ate them under the shadow of Bendor Grovesnor (ooeer)  and co on "Fake or Fortune" before my final night in this sauna of a Travelodge!

But I still had a final Monday 'hurrah' trick up my sleeve before the flight back to L**ds /Br*dford airp*rt...... I'll send out that review on Wednesday as I'm away tomorrow night.



  1. So which of York's old pubs have that "up themselves" attitude, then? ;-)

  2. Ah well, you know me Mudgie, I'd never name names - but go on then.

    We are talking (either now or at various points of the recent past), Ye Olde Starre Inne, Black Swan, Punch Bowl Stonegate, Old White Swan, Golden Fleece, Golden Slipper, Royal Oak.

    Basically, the older, more haunted, touristy ones that could be utterly amazing if they were run properly!