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Bedminster
Bedminster Down, Headley Park, Southville & Windmill Hill

 

In which the 18 surviving contestants from the Brunel and Gerry Gow groups go head to head to head for the title of Champion of Bedminsters Got Talent 2011 . . .

Assembly Bell Inn Black Cat Coronation Hen & Chicken Imp Kings Head Little Grosvenor Lounge Cafe Bar Masonic Old Globe Park House Robert Fitzharding Rope Walk
Spotted Cow Tap & Barrel Three Lions White Horse

 

Round Two
 

Actually, we quite like
all of these three . . .
(Masonic vs Robert Fitzharding
vs Tap & Barrel)
 

Masonic

Brotherly Love

 
Robert Fitzharding

Bob de Builder

. . . but two of them have to go and sad to say the first out is Bemmy’s signature pub the Robert Fitzharding, a lively Wetherspoons tribute to the man (known to his mates as Robert de Berkeley, the ponce) whose family ran the Manor of Bedminster from about 1130 until 1416, during which hectic two-and-three-quarter-hours he also managed to build Bristol Cathedral. He’d have been so proud. The Masonic remains a firm favourite also, its proximity to the North Street launderette having made it @EasyMungo’s local during some challenging times a few years back: we apologise for deeming it the Big Issue-Seller of the Bristol Pub Community back then — and while we’re here could we also take this opportunity to apologise for insinuating that the landlord was portly the other day? All the more pity, then, for both to come up against avonpacket behemoth the Tap & Barrel . . .


The Changing Face of East Street
(Assembly vs Bell Inn vs Old Globe)
 

Bell

Bell, 1997. With div

 

 
Bell

Bell, 2001

 
Nelson: The Glory Years

Nelson, 1997. With other div

 


Its been all-change over East Street way in the past few years, with predictably-mixed results. Literally several pounds have been poured into the Assembly, for example, which is the bracingly-violent Nelson revived and unrecognisable after a lengthy and unproductive hiatus as a derelict old slum (followed by six or seven years boarded-up ha ha ha). However, this is another example of relaunches not changing things very much: as was the Nelson, this remains very much the pub of choice for Bemmys, er, special community, still dominated by gloomy access visits and Natch-addled gibbering. Though we dont think the staff beat people up outside any more (hi Simone!): is that progress?

 

Quinns Cafe Bar

Bell, 2008

 
Bell Inn, 2010

Bell, 2010


And what a shame that the
the weirdly schizophrenic Bell Inn never managed to shake off its strange mix of scowling skinheads and brawling pensioners. It’s not much no-one tried: there was a succession of relaunches including a surprisingly pleasant last hurrah as Quinns Cafe Bar, run by a lovely man who told us hair-raising tales about the Hartcliffe hordes de-bussing across the road before laying waste East Street with fire and the sword every Saturday night.
 

Assembly

Welcome to Upward Shopmobility

 

 No, rather it’s that the unintended effect of all this modernising effort was to suck out the last what little life the poor old place ever had, so that its now given up the old pub game altogether and become an Italian, or possibly Spanish, restaurant called Il Grano, which means Oh Bugger It. Or something.
 

East Street, yesterday

Some things don't change . . .


And that
s why its pip-pip and sombreros aloft to the Old Globe, whose resistance to change sees it comfortably through to the semis. Theres a lesson in that somewhere, regrettably.

 

North Street

North Street: the good ol' days

“If you want a fight”, wise old Bedminster cases used always to tell us, “go to the Hen & Chicken”. Not now though, ’cos they’ve gone makeover mad down shabby old North Street too (though they’ve done it a sight better at the Spotted Cow). Most egregiously of all, they’ve actually got themselves one of those wretched Lounge Café Bars, of which avonpacket has quite had its fill, as you can discover here, here, here and here.

Lounge Cafe Bar

Strictly for dickheads

 

Posh North Street,
who needs it?
(Hen & Chicken vs Lounge Cafe Bar
vs Spotted Cow)

Hen & Chicken

Wanna fight? Not any more

In fact if we’re in the business of naming pubs after rooms, may we take this opportunity to summarise this striking example of the bizarre and contagious delusion that installing a Hoegaarden tap — incidentally operated by the least competent bar staff we’ve ever encountered — and laying on a few dog-eared board games magically transforms a run-down charity shop into the Llandoger Trow in one simple word: toilet? We thank you.


Southville Isn't Bemmy
(Coronation vs Imp
vs Little Grosvenor)

Several of the pubs in this competition aren’t really in Bedminster at all. Some of them are actually in Southville . . .

Welceom to Southville's Theatreland

Southville's cultural heartland

 

 
Coronation

Not the Coronation Tap

 

 

The Cut, yesterday

A narrow salient separating Bemmy from the rest of Brizzle, many suspect Southville not to be a real place at all, just some social-climbing fantasist’s desperate attempt at pretending he doesn’t live in grim old Bemmy by creating some sort of genteel dreamworld south of the river.


And really, Southville is little more than a few rows of soggy (if unbelievably expensive) terracing strung out along the Southern edge of the Cut (an ambitious and wildly successful nineteenth century social/civil engineering project aimed at making Bristol entirely self-sufficient in glutinous mud), featuring a mere scattering of pubs — including that rarest of beasts, a pub owned by the council.

 

Ho yus; and while the Little Grosvenor seems to be following the prevailing trend in the area as a whole and undergoing something of a renaissance, these things are still extremely relative and it continues to offer everything you’d expect from a pub with such an unpromising provenance, neatly summed-up by our last visit on which we encountered a simmering atmos where the smoking ban was only very tentatively enforced and @christhewinter got poked in the anus by a dwarf’s nipple. Maybe that’s just what happens when you locate yourselves next-door to ASDA. That said, we can confirm that the deranged rabble of bibulous mutants which makes up Bemmy’s hardcore cider community and once passed for this place’s core clientele do seem to have given up on it (and can now be found, grumbling into their frightening orange pints, over by the City Farm in the Apple Tree and the Barley Mow), and that can hardly be a bad thing now can it?

White Horse 2012. Oh dear

Day of the Dead

 
Little Grosvenor

Dawn of the Dead

And then there’s the Coronation, an earthy old relic which makes a big old noise about serving beer which tastes like it’s come straight out of the aforementioned giant ditch, and is therefore unsurprisingly popular with the student diaspora, which itself is a far cry from the days when @EasyMungo was obliged to squat outside on the pavement in November because Gary was wearing his sister’s blouse.


 However, neither of these frankly stands a chance up against the wonderful Imp, winner of avonpacket’s recent street-least-likely-to-have-a-pub-in-it contest and deserved semi-finalist here.
 

Black Cat

Ebony and Irony

 

Does anyone drink in West Street any more?
(Black Cat vs Three Lions vs White Horse)

Sprightly fascist gerontocrat torturer and fine old friend of the West Deng Xiaoping once took a time-out from the brutalisation and murder of millions of his people to observe, in that characteristically Oriental sounds-profound-but-is-actually-fatuous kind of way, that “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice, a sentiment subsequently refinement by whey-faced moonwalking numpty Michael Jackson, who told us simply that “it don't matter if you’re black or white” — to which we can only add that it doesn’t matter if it’s the Black Cat, the White Horse, the Red Cow or even the majestically scary Three Lions, if it’s in the heart of old Bemmy you can be sure that there’ll be more thab a whiff of agricultural lubricant in the air and a tendency to close down for no apparent reason in the middle of the afternoon. And, in the case of the Three Lions, a wave-though to the semis.

 

You'll never bother with these ones anyway, they're much too far away
(Kings Head vs Park House vs Rope Walk)

 

Park House

Skinhead Supernova

Its a development of which the Rope Walk, way, way to the north and virtually in Redcliffe for goodness sake, has singularly failed to take advantage. Its odd really, since this place was one of the first signs of Bemmys tentative-gentrification (stock market updates on Teletext? In East Street?), but all it seems to have done is slowly but surely transform itself from smart-but-dull via scruffy-and-boring thru run-by-travellers (oh yes) to quietly-closed-down, somehow embodying the fact that though being in Bedminster needn’t drag you down, it generally does.

  Good news down Knowle way, meanwhile — and thats not something you hear very often — where the reliably vile Park House — several skinheads playing darts drinking strong lager at midday while a man with a dog on a piece of string sits at the window and fiddles with his false teeth, grooving with a pict — has done us all a favour and got itself closed down and boarded-up, if we’re lucky for good.
 
Rope Walk

Walk of Shame

 

East Street shops

East Street. Just made us chuckle

 

The loss of the Park House, though, does pose a problem for the, er, good people of Knowle, who’ll all have gravitated this way when they lost the Friendship, which in turn had briefly benefited from the demolition of the Venture Inn a couple of years before. If this goes on before we know it they’ll be boozing over in Bedminster Down at the Kings Head, and that really would be a shame.

Semi-Finals

 

Imp vs Old Globe vs Three Lions
 

Old Globe

Cannibal Holocaust

Happier times are to be had in the Imp, a sort of rest home for retired skinheads tucked away in a Southville side-street and quite relentlessly cheery despite the loss of the magnificent display of teapots that once so enthralled the casual visitor. How do you go about getting rid of a thing like that, d’you reckon? For some reason, though, its the skinheads-at-large that still say Bemmy (amongst several other things) most loudly to us, so through to the final goes the scary old Three Lions home of the City ‘Aaardcore, according to a luridly furious racist called Dennis we once happened ‘pon in, of all places, the Colston Yard

 

Shakespeare’s original theatre, painstakingly dismantled and hauled down the Avon on genuine Tudor barges (ie Anne of Cleves ha ha ha) to be rebuilt as a dazzlingly opulent pleasure palace next door to Cash Converters; the Old Globe has done extraordinarily well to come through as the last East Street pub standing, but it’s this far and no further we’re afraid, as its unrelenting drabness proves that even our legendary optimism where Brizzle’s scruffier outposts are concerned can only be pushed so far.

Imp

Back street beauty

 

Kings Head vs Spotted Cow vs Tap & Barrel

 

Three pubs showing off three very different sides of Bemmy contest our other semi-final. First, the  Kings Head is a solid old gaff way, way down along the Bridgwater Road which serves up the most enormous Sunday roasts we’ve ever seen. Lots and lots of Yorkshire puds is the avonpacket way, in case you were wondering, and this lot don’t let us down on that score. We were so impressed we might even try eating there one day . . .
 

Spotted Cow

Straight outta Clifton

 
Kings Head

Don't be a stranger now . . .

Over on North Street, meanwhile, the Spotted Cow has reverted to its original name after a brace of quickfire makeovers, the first of which (139° North) so brilliantly trounced its own upmarket pretensions by upholding that classic Bemmy pub tradition of allowing one side of the bar to be dominated by a slightly out of tune unwatched television blaring out children’s programmes. No such fooling around next time, though, ’cos its Clifton all the way down, we’re both glad and sad to say. Glad because they’ve created a real belter, raging Clearview Bastard and all; sad because it’s all in such contrast to the rest of Bemmy it just seems so exclusive, in the most pejorative sense.


Still, we suppose this at least lets the underemployed bar staff over at the Tap & Barrel get on with watching Big Break uninterrupted by urgent requests for six halves of purple nasty excuse me can I have some service please hey I was here first sorry nothing I’ll wait . . .
 

The Final
 

Tap & Barrel vs Three Lions
 

Rather as predicted, if we havent found the best two pubs in Bemmy, we think youll agree weve probably ended up with the Bemmiest however you might wish to interpret that accolade both of which are metaphors for Bemmy itself, if you think about it.
 
Three Lions

Refuge of Scoundrels

 

The Three Lions may be quickly dealt with: just look at our pictures. WYSIWYG. And so our champion pub is the Tap & Barrel, even though this venerable old institution has so comprehensively lost its way in a series of half-hearted relaunches which have seen it fall between every thematic stool going and driven away virtually every sector of the local boozing demographic. That’ll be the metaphor we mentioned earlier.

 

Smoking shelter at the Three Lions

Gimme Shelter

 

First they gave it a ‘90s spruce-up: in came the cushions and the wicker furniture and out went the funeral-home curtains and the blood-red ceilings and, unfortunately, most of the lager-fuelled dementors whose urgent need to conceal themselves in the impenetrable darknesses of its more distant corners always made a visit to the gents such an invigorating prospect. With punters flying out rather than in, the next move was a rebranding as the T & B Sports Bar, via the introduction of an exciting new US-style logo and hundreds of widescreen tellys blasting out Big Break at unbelievable volumes: fine if you like that sort of thing, only no-one really did and getting rid of the pool table seemed a particularly daring innovation. And so yet a third effort to salvage the place was made, this time by way of adopting a hesitant sort of suburban biker identity — principally by adorning the walls with tatty pages torn from Back Street Heroes depicting goose-pimpled slappers draped over Yamahas.

 

This finally broke the resilience of everybody who’d stayed loyal through the first two relaunches (other than a few grizzled old beardoes who’d been sat at the bar for the duration and wouldn’t stop drinking here if they started holding nightly beer-and-crème-egg competitions and renamed it Clifton Hill House).

 
Tap & Barrel, 1997

Happyish Days: T & B '97

 

 
Tap & Barrel, 2006

Lout & Slapper

 


And then it was over: down went the shutters, up went the To Let sign, and a Bemmy legend trudged sadly off into history. Or did it? You can’t keep a good pub down . . . and it seems you can’t keep the T & B down either
; and accordingly, this week the Tap & Barrel is painted blue. Still biker friendly though, from which self-congratulatory conclusion they seem to have inferred the right to be taciturn and uncommunicative with everyone else. Simone wouldnt have had THAT. And theres also, inevitably, a vile barky death dog.

 
Tap & Barrel, 2012

Gotta love those biker-friendly discos

 

 

 


So while this may not be the BEST pub in Bemmy, we think youll agree that it remains very much the Bemmiest; and even though we wont mind of we never have anything to do with the place again, we can be sure that it  will undoubtedly go on and on, labouring under the delusional weight of the next off-the-shelf gimmick, although whatever the future does hold it’ll be a far cry from the gothic porno lust that characterised the T & B’s late-‘80s heyday and saw it secure a share of the 1989 Pub of the Year title.

Allington Road

@EasyMungo's third-year house: Allington Road

 

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