Before we get to the CBP ‘hit parade’, which this week will feature the top pubs of Chester from ten down to six, I’d first of all like to list the ‘honourable mentions’. These are pubs we consider to be outstanding in many respects, but haven’t quite made it to the top ten. It’s also worth mentioning at this point that pubs we visited ‘on tour’ during 2011 such as the superb ‘Wheatsheaf’ in Raby (tour 2) and the even better ‘Gallaghers Pub & Barbers’ in Birkenhead (tour 3) don’t qualify because they’re outside the city.
CBP Best Pub ‘honourable mentions’
- The Red Lion, Handbridge (No. 8)
- The Spital Vaults (No. 12)
- The Rake & Pikel (No. 13)
- The Cherry Orchard (No. 15)
- The Gardeners Arms (No. 16)
- The Lodge (No. 22)
- The Talbot (No. 30)
- The Mount (No. 32)
- The Little Oak (No. 33) & (Beer Festival)
- The Union Vaults (No. 37)
- The Cross Keys (No. 40)
- Oddfellows (No. 43)
- The Mill Hotel (No. 48)
- The Marlbororough Arms (No. 56)
- The Custom House (No. 65)
- Kash (No. 66)
- The Red Lion, Northgate St. (No. 85)
- The Golden Eagle (No. 91) & (slight return)
- The Coach House (No. 98)
- Bar Lounge (No. 102)
- Artichoke (No. 112)
- The Albion (No. 118)
- The Commercial Hotel (No. 119)
There’d be a strong argument for putting any of these into the top ten, so it gives some idea of how difficult our task was. It also means there are well over thirty excellent pubs in the city – and for a place the size of Chester, that would appear to be a lot. Anyhow, without further ado, here comes the first part of the CBP list of Chester’s best pubs:
10. The Brewery Tap (No. 42)
If the Amber Lounge (No. 107) & (CBP Worst Pubs) needs any clues as to how the fantastic architecture of Chester’s famous medieval rows can be incorporated into a modern pub, they need look no further than this place. Set inside a sympathetically restored Jacobean great hall, the pub interior is stunning. Ok, ‘Spitting Feathers’ ales might not be to everyone’s taste, but there are always plenty of other great beers on offer, with Welsh microbrewers being particularly well represented. Can get a bit ‘beardy’ at times. Still a great boozer though.
9. The Ship Victory (No. 100)
This excellent boozer stands alone, surrounded by car parks, the original buildings around it having been demolished a long time ago. It’s like a plug of hard volcanic rock that’s resisted glacial erosion. And the metaphor can be extended to cover the character of the pub itself, because this place is wholeheartedly ‘old school’. You will not find ‘Horseradish Stout’, ‘Walloonian Wheat Beer’ or ‘Blue Lager’ being served here. What you will find is an excellent pint of Tetley Bitter (CBP Best Ale Pt. 2), friendly staff, good conversation and a great atmosphere. They don’t make them like this anymore.
8. Telford’s Warehouse (No. 52)
Another great pub set inside a beautifully restored building, with food, live music and drinking all in separate areas within a single intricate space. The design of the interior is superb – as is the ale and service. Also, it attracts a wide cross-section of society – students, urban sophisticados, metrosexualists, grizzled misanthropes and real ale blerts* will all feel at home here and apart from when the odd rubbish band is on, it’s always a cool and vibrant place.
7. The Olde Cottage Inn (No. 25)
The reason this place has been transformed from a good pub to a great pub in recent years is the commitment of the team that’s running it - landlord and landlady, Trevor and Jean are proud of what they’ve achieved here – and they’ve got every right to be. They are bucking the trend – this is a community pub that’s always busy - and it’s not hard to see why. Most importantly, three real ales are always on and are always in good nick. Also, there are two (yes two) dartboards and in addition to the pool table, a bagatelle table has recently been retrieved from the midlands. Bagatelle is ‘the Chester game’ and it’s great. If you’ve not played it, try it. In fact try it here ! Don’t want to sound too poncey, but this is the quintessential local.
6. The Bear & Billet (No. 39)
The medieval frontage of this boozer is one of the iconic images of Chester and fortunately, after many years of neglect, what now lies behind it is worthy of its status. It’s probably the pub you would recommend to a tourist if asked – and most people would be impressed with it I guess. It’s a stunning building, the quality of the ale is first class and as a consequence, it’s always busy. I love drinking in here. It makes me laugh when I think about what it used to be like in ‘the bad old days’ though. Mind you, I loved drinking in it then as well !
* © Pete ‘the Mighty Wah !’ Wylie
…the FINAL blogpost of the CBP (maybe)