As promised, this trail took in a mixture of popular and less well-known pubs in and out of town, linked by the fact they are of architectural interest. My trail began the night before – a prequel stop off at the Café Bar Contemporary, which had been turned into a club for the evening. This RIBA Award winning building holds the popular gallery, and there’s a range of draught beers and good wine in the bright and airy bar downstairs. The building was designed by Caruso St. John, the architecture firm behind the builds of many galleries nationwide. I initially thought it looked odd squatting box-like on the edge of the Lacemarket, but it’s grown on me – probably because the gallery is fantastic.
Part deux started later than planned, unsurprisingly. With three willing companions I hopped in a taxi to the Victoria Hotel in Beeston. ‘The Vic’, as it’s known to those fortunate enough to call themselves regulars, was absolutely the best pub on the list. I could have stayed all evening. There’s a great range of beer and food, and the interior is comfortingly Victorian and brown – in a good way – a mix of gleaming wooden floorboards, furniture and faded vintage advertisements. Built right next to Beeston railway station, the trains pull up alongside the garden. One of the few pubs to offer real cider, I had a half each of something strong.
We directed the next cab to the Test Match in West Bridgford. An Art Deco Grade II listed building, it was more beautiful inside than out, and is listed on CAMRA’s National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors. This Greene King pub features the full range of their ales, and there’s a decent wine list. My troupe and I agreed that the interior was well worth seeing, but that it deserved to belong to a cocktail bar or a dancehall.
The Vale, built in 1935 by Nottingham architect T. C. Howitt was next. This was a bit of a trek again – the amused cab company knew me by name now. This pub is very standard drinks-wise; happily, the ones we’d already consumed were enough to keep the conversation sparkling. Neither were we impressed by the Five Ways, a short-ish walk away. The ‘brewers’ Tudor’ exterior was a lot less attractive than the green and pretty garden, which would be great in the day. Drinks: boring again, though the pints were cheap.
Another cab to the Rose of England took us back into town, with a fair selection of draughts beers and ales. This was designed in the classic Neo-Gothic style of Notts’ own Victorian architect Watson Fothergill. This pub certainly stands out, but the inside is not quite so romantic as the exterior might suggest.
I love our next destination, The Malt Cross, which was originally built as a Victorian music hall and skating rink. It has great drinks on offer, a beautiful glass ceiling, and cosy booths on two levels. Things get hazy here, but I probably chose a Belgium beer from the fridge, and swiped the remaining Saturday supplements lying around.
We called it quits at the Round House, I’m sad to say. We’d started too late to cover the distance before closing. This is an excellent pub, another creation of a Victorian architect, and I’m sure you can guess the shape of this old wing of Nottingham General Hospital. The remaining two stop offs I do happen to be familiar with, however. Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem (another Greene King pub) is cut into the sandstone rock below Nottingham Castle, and claims to be the oldest inn in England. The Canalhouse is part of the Castle Rock family, and has an internal canal basin running through the venue. They are best in winter and summer, respectively.
FYI, this could be done on public transport, but if there’s a few of you then taxis are easily the best option. Even in a car, some of these stop offs are really quite far apart, which makes the trail a bit more effort than most would be willing to make a few pints in. I’d suggest skipping The Vale and Five Ways entirely – and perhaps giving the Vic and Test Match a bit more time, by sticking to those parts of town and visiting the other good pubs in their vicinities.
Rosy has moved to Nottingham after three years away, and is really happy to be back. She’s particularly enjoying the charity shops, the new record stores and exploring the area by bike. Follow her on Twitter @HowManyRoses.