I tend to go away quite a lot – what with not really having a career I find myself bored a great deal.
So rather than sitting around cutting myself plotting the downfall of the west, I’ll go away to various places in Britain; this year I’ve done Brighton, Cambridge, Newark, Chester, Liverpool, Centre Parks, Saltburn-on-Sea, Newcastle (upon Tyne, not the other weird one no one knows about), Nottingham… actually that’s plenty – this is meant to be an interesting article rather than a list of places I’ve been. The point I’m getting at is, I like to do stuff.
However, times are hard and it’s not always feasible to go away and stay in a hotel and what-have-you. Herein lies the problem: I like a drink or 2welve. So either I stay over somewhere, or I don’t go at all. Which means there are occasions when I will try to have a couple of weeks of not going away, and then find myself bored. Or worse, angry at the world.
For example, I recently decided to have a pizza night in with my girlfriend, we watched some good films and it was nice, but we’d paid over £20 for some pizza’s from Dominoes that were just awful. Upon calling the Starbeck store we’d got them from, the manager at the time told me that they weren’t awful. I tried to explain to him the concept that as the consumer I was better placed to say whether or not they were poor pizza’s without the correct ingredients ordered and paid for, but he simply wasn’t having it. This shouldn’t be that big a deal, but unfortunately I’m not someone who lets things go particularly well, so I spent half the night sulking, every 20 minutes muttering “I can’t believe he called me a liar”. Even now, 2 weeks later, I’m hoping that by putting it into words, I can finally let it lie, however, I’m STILL in a mood about that handball goal Maradonna did once, so this seems unlikely…. The reason I was having a pizza night is because I work in Harrogate bars and clubs and I have done for 17 years. This means that whilst other people could, if they so chose, have a fairly low key night out in the town centre, I am somewhat limited as most of the time it just feels like I’m at work. EVERYWHERE I go in the town centre I will DEFINITELY bump into someone I know. MOST of the time that’s great, it is quite nice to see someone who I work with outside of a time when we are both actually meant to be doing stuff for a living…. However, not only does it mean that even a “quick pint” tends to end up in some bar at 3 am having blown “the lot”, also, could you imagine going out in town knowing that in EVERY SINGLE BAR you go to, you are going to meet a “work friend”? It’s not ideal. Particularly given that when I’ve had a drink I am a miserable angry at the world grumpy old bloke that no one really wants to speak to in the first place. So from all of these contributing factors, I decided upon a plan: go out in Harrogate, but NOT to places I normally go. So where to do that?
Recently I went out in Leeds on the infamous Otley Run. It’s basically all the pubs on Otley Road running into Leeds city centre, all the way from way beyond Headingly train station. This is a good pub run in that there are a variety of pubs on it, however for me, at my stage in life, it’s kind of unrealistic. It involves 18 pubs. This means I need to either only have a half in all of the pubs, or die. It’s also not really my cup of tea as there tend to be large groups of people in “wacky” fancy dress, which is fine when they actually make the effort ; for example, I saw a couple of excellently executed Wonder women. However, standing in a pub next to a university sports team of “lads” who have decided to dress offensively as dead celebrities to the lowest possible amount of effort : shoe polish + a curly scouser wig = Micheal Jackson – is not for me. I’m also getting a bit snobby “into” pubs now too, I really want to go to places and be in them long enough to get a feel for what they are like, rather than having to neck a luke warm fosters in under 30 seconds so you’ve got time to fit every other pub in. So I remarked at the time that we should invent a Harrogate-Otley road pub run, as it’s infinitely more doable. The Friends I was with seemed singularly unimpressed with the concept, fortunately however I have a girlfriend who loves to party, so when we had a day free we decided to have a crack at this. The theory being Harrogate has some excellent places I already know about, it would therefore stand to reason that in an area I don’t visit of the town, there might be more gems to be found….
We began off at The Pine Martin. The Harrogate Arms has shut down again, so without inserting a 2 mile hike into the route this seemed like the most common sense place from which to commence our pleasing proceedings. It’s gorgeous pub inside but as an added bonus it was still warm enough for us to have a drink outside in the courtyard area. This is a nice space and I was gutted I’d forgotten my pipe, which I sometimes like to use to make me feel like a proper grown up. However, as smoking is undoubtedly terrible for your health, even if it’s a pipe that you are effectively using as an affectational piece of dandyism, I decided to keep to my more typical methods of damaging my health, such as having a 2 pm beer. The range they have there is really very broad, the type of back bar I eventually expect we will be seeing in more town centre places. I opted for a bottle of Vedette, which is the more accessible beer from the Duvell Brewery. It’s a bottled pilsnerish lager and is the kind of thing you usually can see me looking for as I scan endless shelves of Boredwiser, Fusters and Yawnnoff Ice with a disappointing look on my face in pubs that I think are going to be shut down in 6 months. At The Pine Martin however I was actually spoiled for choice, as they also have a good range of hand pull ales on too. So in direct contravention of my poncey mantra of trying something new I opted for something I have whenever I see it’s available. That’s right Trev, spend ages saying places should be challenging you with a world of options, then go for something you know is a safe bet. My girlfriend Hanna however, who normally goes for Reikorderlig DID decide to shake things up by having a sparkling rose wine of some manner (look, I may have delusions of pomposity, but I’m not going to start writing down the names of wine’s that my bird drinks ok?). Inside the pub is decorated to great effect, sort of half way between a shooting lodge and a country house hotel, so after ordering some food we moved inside to enjoy what I believe people call “the ambiance”, or I call “the nice looking stuff and things”. We had baked Camembert and some other bits, we weren’t exactly hungry, we were more peckish, and we’d seemingly also decided that money was no object and ordered a couple of Kir Royale cocktails. Everything was delicious and already I was feeling as though it was mission accomplished: this is the kind of thing I normally travel miles to do, but was having a great time doing IN HARROGATE as to be honest, we could have been anywhere you choose to imagine in Britain. It’s not cheap, but the food and drinks arrived quickly with really friendly service. Also, to top things off in an area of great importance to me, the toilets were very clean, immaculately presented and the hand soap smelled so good it made me sniff my fingers as I came out. This action,however, got me a weird look from a passing lady, so we decided to move on.
The next stop was The Harlow Inn. I’ve not been there since the days of it being called The Shepherds Dog. I actually think I went there during my 3 months of actually going to college, eventually stopping college as I realized that A) pubs were more fun, and 2) I was kind of just going to college cos it was the thing to do and I certainly wasn’t going to continue doing school work if it was not legally required (still, look at how well that’s turned out for me…. I suppose I’m doing well enough to be able to afford to go out on all day drinking sessions and then write about them, so it’s not all bad, but hey, STAY IN SCHOOL KIDS). I digress, it’s been a long time since I’ve been to this pub, so was interested to see what they have done to it. I would say, as refits go, this is pretty much spot on. I have no idea when it was last done, but they nailed it. The pub is modern enough for someone picky like me to be happy there, but at the same time retains enough of it’s traditional “pubbishness” to keep locals and regulars happy. I’m assuming they are locals and regulars, the place certainly had a decent number of people in for the time of day. The atmosphere was nice and very welcoming, which having walked into loads of “locals” on my travels I know can sometimes not be the case, so this was ace. The bar maid was lovely too, up for a laugh and very happy in her job. The range of beers was a little bit more mainstream as you’d expect, but they had 3 real ales on, one of which was Copper dragon’s Golden Pippin. This is usually very good, however, I can unequivocally say that this was the BEST pint of Pippin I’ve ever had. And I’ve had loads. I suspect it’s what the landlord drinks, as when a place has a beer SO right it’s usually cos the boss is like “if you don’t get that right you’re oot the door”. I’m very much like that with my girlfriend over certain things and – listen – because there is a strong possibility that her mother will read this – I’m talking about things like cups of tea and egg sandwiches…. Anyway, armed with a great jar we decided to play pool, which is always the best way for me to get total value for money out of a pound. Essentially I just move the balls around on the table in a seemingly random manner until, by virtue of the law of probability, all the balls have gone. We had 3 games and in the end I managed to crush Hanna like a paper cup, 2 black ball games to 1. There was some good banter with the locals too and all in all this was a really pleasant stop off. We had however, due to our awesome skills at Pool, taken somewhat longer than we had planned. This meant we had to rush our next pint of call.
Charlies Place is one of those venues that I’ve driven past loads and always been intrigued by, but never been to. I didn’t really know what to expect, but if I was to find a place like Charlies in another town I would be well impressed and stay there for ages! It’s got bags of personality, feels like a properly independent pub and is cosy, without being intimidating, which is quite a feat given that the regulars in here seem like they are REALLY regular. I, as you might by now suspect, already needed the loo’s again, which are kind of outside for the blokes. They are fine, clean and whilst a little old fashioned fit in with the quirkiness of the place, which once back inside feels distinctive and inviting. Covered with flags, photo’s and various bits and bobs to look at, with some great music on the system at just the right level of “you don’t hear it everyday” without getting into “what the hell…?” territory, Charlie’s Place is like a hipster town centre bar, bizarrely way out of town. The owner obviously has some manner of Harley Davidson fetish, which totally passes me by, but that’s fine, I can tolerate stuff like that and they always add character to a place. Just like if you ever come to my house and trip over a skateboard I’ve not seriously used since I was 16, you’ll see the funny side and be laughing all the way to A&E for your spinal traction. Fortunately non of the biker paraphernalia on display at Charlie’s Place presents any such health and safety issues, and the great tunes and atmosphere coupled with an excellent pint of one of my favorite ales – Daleside Blonde – made us wish we didn’t need to rush it here…. but time was getting on and so we needed to be also.
So! Bar was to be our last one on “the run” before we headed into town -an ideal final port of call as by this time we were ready to eat a full meal. We’d been at it for 4 hours and it was time to soak up some of the beery goodness with some food goodness. Hanna loves So! Bar in Knaresborough and I like it too, however sometimes it takes a little while for the food to arrive, mainly because it is always so busy… As we’d over run on our allotted timings, we were in a bit of a rush and I was slightly concerned about this being an issue in the Harrogate So!, particularly given that it was so busy when we got in there. You could say it was “Bustling” however that term always makes me think of a “bustling Victorian seaside town” for some reason, and there was certainly nothing dated or fishy about So! Bar. I would describe this as a “Trendy” place but that makes me sound as if I’m completely out of touch with reality and think that modern music is all hop-hip and screaming, so the word “Contemporary” springs to mind as a happy compromise. These kind of places like to call themselves “Gastro-pubs”, which for me is a bit of a stretch, nevertheless the concept of nice modern bars doing food that is a more adventurous than Scampi & Peas is definitely the right direction and there are a good range of choices on the menu. As it went, my concerns about not getting our food quickly were also unfounded as the service time was really quick, the staff seemed to be thriving on working hard and we saw off our scoobies in plenty of time to make it into our town centre mate date. The food was really very tasty, obviously though, as it is a higher level of food than you’d get in a traditional pub, it is a bit more expensive. However, I am proper Yorkshire and have one of those taste Card things that I would wholeheartedly recommend buying into, as they give you plenty of opportunity to save money, Harrogate being a place that accepts them at several places that are all really rather good. So we ate and enjoyed a cosmopolitan feeling glass of wine in the type of venue that I think we are going to be seeing a great deal more of in the future. So! Harrogate very much reminds me of an out-of-town centre Revolution, but on a less huge scale, adding a little bit more intimacy and a more personal touch, and it has to be said, as I made my 9th toilet call of the day (when I break the seal it STAYS broken) these were the best loo’s of the places we’d visited. These things are not so important to some people, but make or break a bar for me and the loo’s at So! Were so nice I could have curled up on the floor and slept there. However, I decided decorum was the order of the day and have left that eventuality for another time.
And then so the “HarrogOtley” run was complete, we’d achieved everything we’d set out to do and more:
had a day out in Harrogate that didn’t feel like we were in Harrogate;
discovered some excellent new places;
found what may well become a regular pub crawl for us.
It had pretty much everything we were looking for: 4 venues, each offering a different kind of experience – a posh upmarket kind of place – a traditional pub with “sports” action – a quirky individual bar and a “trendy” (alright dad) modern bar. We’d imbibed a good range of beers and other hard liquors, but at the same time had not gone mad so didn’t need either a taxi to the hospital OR an emergency meeting with the banks financial planner for hopeless drunks, and the evening was left for us to do as we pleased. One suspects that if you try this pub run you will, as we did, feel invincible by the end of it and choose your own route into town, we went to the theatre for a stand up comedy show which was great (if you fancy that check out this months Comedy Festival that is running there, as there are shows on pretty much every night for another week.)
I’m not sure if this will help you plan an afternoon of abandon or just give you something to read whilst your on the loo, as this was a purely experimental thing for me, I was hoping to find some more places to add to my list of hostelries I love in the area and I was pleasantly surprised to say I managed to get a success rate of 100%, proving to me if no one else that you don’t always need to go away to find something new, sometimes it’s just round the corner. Or up Otley road at any rate.
Thanks for reading, drink responsibly and don’t be loose with your affections.
Trev x x x