This traditional Victorian pub, which retains its original exterior, was frequented by D.H. Lawrence during the period in which he was writing 'Lady Chatterley's Lover'. Locally known John Harvey, a former Nottingham University professor and die-hard Notts County fan was a patron here until his death. The Victorian interior still includes frosted windows, leather sofas, plush furnishings and dividing curtains between rooms. The carved, wooden bar is central and located behind a partition wall on the other side of the entrance porch. The walls are decorated with large, ornamental photos of bygone days. The bar includes 6 hand pulls with a variety of interesting options namely Theakston Best Bitter, Butcombe Bitter, Hobgoblin and Golden XPA from Caledonian Brewery with 2 of the pumps not currently in use. After a bit of a wait to get served due to the fact that it was busy and there was only one person serving, I received my pint of Caledonian XPA (4.3%). This was golden in colour with a soft, hoppy aroma, a smooth, fruity taste and a dry finish. I took a seat opposite the bar and wondered where everybody was as we had agreed to meet around 6.30. A few minutes later Matt appeared and escorted me to the rear smoking area, situated on the external fire escape, where he and Jess had been sat from the start. I might have known this if I'd been able to get in touch with him but he is still without a phone and I don't have Jess' phone number. We were soon joined by George, who was running slightly late and conversation quickly turned too my new job and the recent trip to Yorkshire. With George's arrival being when it was, we opted for a second pint here and this time I went for one of Matt's favourites, Butcombe Bitter (4.0%), originating from the valley near where his parents live. I'm pleased to say that it was in excellent condition!
Our next location was a toss up between the Golden Fleece and the Nag's Head, which has recently reopened after a period of refurbishment. The look from outside swung us in favour of the Poacher though as The Nag's Head seemed to have more staff in it than customers. The Golden Fleece is a pub that I've visited previously and I've heard reports that the food is awesome.
One of Nottingham's oldest licenced premises is a red brick traditional structure with a traditional interior and a roughly square central bar. There is wooden furniture and traditional soft furnishings as well as a considerable upstairs smoking terrace with heat lamps, located on the roof. The bar contains 4 hand pulls featuring Doom Bar, Bombardier, Harvest Pale and Old Rosie. After a few moments deliberation Matt and I both went for the Doom Bar which surprised me with how high quality it was. We opted for sitting in the terrace area and were intrigued by the conversation that soon developed between George and guy at the adjacent table who decided that we needed to be made aware of the benefits of the sound of rainfall as a sleep aid. As interesting as his points were, they were also slightly odd for a Saturday night pub conversation especially when white noise was mentioned. George has since tried, successfully, to get to sleep by listening to rain fall but has yet to try white noise, which is probably for the best.
After a second pint, we moved on again, this time to the first of 2 Castle Rock pubs on the trip, The Lincolnshire Poacher.
The next location on the trip was a place that Matt had often recommended but somewhere that I had never been personally, Fade or, to give it its proper title, Fade and the Hard to Find Café.
Fade is a café/bar with a glass fronted façade that gives way to a brick interior with decorative features and a nice, minimalist approach to décor. At the rear there is a large smoking area, accessible through a maze-like set of corridors. There are 2 hand pulls on the end of the long bar that occupies one side of the room. Both ales are from Springhead brewery and the ones available on this occasion are Robin Hood and Maid Marian. The Robin Hood was my particular choice here and it was excellent, bronze coloured with a roast finish and undertones of subtle caramel. We stayed here for a good while, with the conversation going in the direction of dangerous territory and somehow spent a worrying amount of time focusing on feminism. Shortly, we were joined by Jade who was happy to partake in our unusual brand of discussion.
Our final stop was the 2nd Castle Rock premises on the road, the double whammy of The Forest Tavern/The Maze.
This hidden gem is a hub of diverse, colourful and thoroughly unique entertainment, boasting one of the most popular live music venues in the city in the back room behind the main bar. The bar, despite being relatively small, is well stocked with ales, continental beers and European lagers. The pub itself has a long history and this is reflected in the old fashioned exterior and design of the building. Inside, the bar is slightly off centre with a small amount of seating strategically located around the room. 4 of the 5 hand pumps are Castle Rock ales, specifically Harvest Pale, Elsie Mo, Black Gold and Preservation, with the 5th being Wyld Wood organic cider. Flagging by this stage, this seemed like a good place for the final beverage of the night (for me anyway) so I decided on a pint of Elsie Mo. It was served exactly as it should be and was thoroughly delicious! With the drinking done for another night, we headed off in our separate ways: Matt to join the earlier departing Jess at home; George to head off to meet other people before venturing to Rock City and Jade and I to catch the bus back to Long Eaton, where we were house/dog sitting for her mum. It had been a thoroughly enjoyable evening and reaffirmed the quality of ale pubs in this particular area of the city. One of the oldest thoroughfares in Nottingham is certainly living up to its reputation as a haven for real ale drinkers. Whilst the pubs mentioned in this entry don't appear to have anything spooky happening in their gentle surroundings, Mansfield Road does boast a story from the mid-70s of a former antiques shop that was haunted by the spirit of a young girl around 10 years of age with a pale face and large eyes, wearing dark clothing, a white pinafore and boots with holes in the toes. This particular phantom allegedly vanished following a visit from a medium. Stories like this are suited to this area of the city and blend nicely with the history of this most ancient of roads. From a drinker's perspective, the pubs in this area should be treasured, respected and enjoyed by those in the city and from further out, who enjoy not just a good night out with great things and great beer but also enjoy the spirit of community that is all so prevalent in proper pubs.