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St Pauls

 

One of the places we most enjoyed playing back in the early days of the band was the Sunset Rendezvous club down in St Pauls. This was an old-style dance-hall venue attached to the back of a pub . . . I don't think they have many folk acts down there any more, but we always used to go over gurt well, and that's why we chose a Saturday night there to record our In Concert album, 'Live From the Inkerman Clubroom'. Unfortunately I suffered a recurrence of my spasm on the night and could neither play nor sing, so Bronco had to take over a lot of the lead parts, for which—him being a woolly monkey and everything—he probably wasn't really suited. I think the record did pretty well considering . . . Extract from Man About Town with Timothy Cocksfoot (avonpacket Productions in association with Radio West, edition broadcast 10 April 1987)

 
Portland Square

Portland Square, tomorrow

Lets kick things off with one of those Fortean weirdnesses avonpacket is delighted to uncover every now and then: the Duke of Sussex. Not what you were expecting now is it: Life on Mars, St Paul’s style.

Duke of Sussex, one Sunday evening in 1973

Bristol's weirdest pub

   It honestly is one of the most peculiar boozers we’ve ever been in. Managed apparently just for a hobby by the former landlord of Bemmy’s bracingly violent Full Moon (who seems to have to shuffle mysteriously into the cellar between every flippin’ round), as is clear from our picture not renovated since 1973, hardly ever open and rarely populated by more than the pair of wraiths you can see sitting up at the bar (on office furniture you’ll notice: no we have no idea why either) . . . we simply cannot compute the continuing existence of this place at all, particularly in modern, edgy old St Pauls. And the way they looked at us when we walked in, apparently a pair of visitors from the far-future (though actually celebrating finally getting a beer in the legendarily-reticent Star & Garter) . . . well, lets just say we recommend a quick one here unreservedly, for we truly will never see its like again.

Meanwhile, heres few of the Duke’s best bits. Enjoy!

Oldest cig machine in Brizzle

Star Wars! On VHS! Illegally!

No comment

 

Bristol Cider House – Cosies Wine Bar – Criterion – Duke of Sussex Jamaican Inn – Prince of Wales – St Nicholas House

Anyway, back to business. Edgy it might be, but everybody knows St Pauls isnt what it used to be dont they? And while it could hardly be described as gentrified (see above for one of many examples), it does sometimes feel a little bit flat for tastes piqued by swashbuckling tales of Uzi-toting Yardies and midnight drugs-busts.

Take the Black & White Cafe, for example. Well, they did, didnt they, and now its gone dont you just miss the old place? Feuding Chechen drug lords and all? Anybody ever try the food?
 

Black & White

 

 

Or how about the Jamaican Inn, the Black & Whites erstwhile drinking n smoking buddy over the road. Does Bristol have a more notorious boozer? Or one which has shown more tenacity, clinging on and on by its grubby fingernails in defiance of almost weekly arson attacks and the unwavering attentions of the local constabulary?

 
Jamaican Inn

Is Sunset Rendezvous still going?

 

 Well, if we may briefly break through our fourth wall of cynicism and adolescent wit, probably no and no, but it does seem as though tenacity might just be winning the day here. It remains a rough and ready old place, but you don’t have to be buzzed into the toilets any more, and once they get those beer pumps working and the landlady overcomes her fear of vegetarians . . . well, all we can say is that there is absolutely nothing that would please avonpacket more than for this place to succeed and for everybody to be able to enjoy this legendary Brizzle venue, as well as those painfully engorging Wray & Nephew rum ads so beloved of West Indian boozers.

St Pauls

Autumn Renewal

 

 There is a delicious symmetry in the resurrection of a name that celebrated the exploitation of Jamaicans to announce to the world that the business in question is now being run by them. Meanwhile, only Cliftons Alma Tavern and the frankly-miles-away Lord Raglan continue to wave the Crimean flag for Brizzle. But then who gives a fuck about the Great Game now eh?

 

If theres a sour note to this inspiring tale its that we cant help regretting the change of name: the Inkermans totemic status was to us as much to do with its glorious name as with its somewhat inglorious recent past. However, we also recognise that that the new name is doubly appropriate: first, because as even a cursory visit will confirm this is, and has been for years, indeed a Jamaican inn; and second, because this is in fact a return to the buildings original name.

 

St Nicholas House

Bristol's unitidiest pub

Elsewhere, a visit to St Nicholas House was always a bracing experience too, until it was boarded up early in 2006 after the wallopers turned up a stash of Class As that would have had Pete Doherty clutching the table for support. We were just surprised that they actually managed to find anything amongst the mountains of clutter that used to distinguish Bristol’s Untidiest Pub. Given the council’s usual attitude in these matters, we don’t expect to be hearing from the St Nics again (see Sugas Bar for startling evidence of a firm line firmly taken) which is a shame, and we do wonder who might be next to fall in the name of zero tolerance . . .

It won’t be one of these two though will it? One of the striking things about St Pauls, I think we can all agree, is that it is a land of contrasts . . .

Bristol Cider House

Drink up ye zoider

 

Harmless body shops stand cheek-by-buttock with burnt-out crack-dens, trim little maisonettes stand shyly opposite the tented madness of some long-forgotten protest, and the tottering prostitutes of Portland Square lurch past the almost Cliftonesque Bristol Cider House (the former Surrey Wine Vaults reopened and renamed for the avoidance of confusion with Cosies Wine Bar) as if there were no more natural an apéritif to a lunchtime half and a restorative ploughmans than a bargain-bucket gob-job behind the York Street pay-and-display.

Cosies Wine Bar

Its a bit like Clifton innit?

 

Cosies, incidentally, we find a particular pleasure, not only boasting Bristols finest smoking shelters, but also every time we visit smelling thrillingly of chip fat. They certainly know how to make friends of avonpacket . . .

 Back on Ashley Road, the Criterion is an odd one. Ice-cool by night, where on our last visit a pleasingly multi-racial crowd got down (please excuse our hopeless patois here) to some seriously hot decks action from a bloke in an electric-blue trilby, it transforms itself by day into a gloomy, and less-than-completely welcoming, old mausoleum where a bunch of sullen old gits stare at horse racing on the big screen and murmer hostile imprecations whenever anybody they haven’t seen before walks in. No such problems over the road in the Prince of Wales, thankfully, where another of St Pauls’ terrifically friendly landlords stewards hardcore sessions of dominoes and Red Stripe with glowing, if often quite incomprehensible, serenity.

 
Prince of Wales

Dem bones, dem bones

Criterion

We love you too

 

Further off the beaten track meanwhile (and actually in Montpelier if we’re honest) the Star & Garter
is . . . well, as we said, it’s in Montpelier, so check it out on here.
 

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