Even from behind my face mask and steamy spectacles, I could sense a hint of celebration in the air when I arrived at the Port of Call.
The smiling barman was proudly attaching badges to the shiny beer pumps and telling one of the regulars that the pub had just been awarded its ‘Cask Marque’ accreditation.
This prestigious award is a badge of honour for all publicans because it’s recognition that the cask ales they serve are in perfect condition. No cloudy, vinegary pints here, m’lud.
And there was certainly nothing to quibble about when it came to my pint of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, which was crystal clear and faultless in every way. It was a perfect pint.
Tucked away off Blackboy Hill, a stone’s throw from the Downs, The Port of Call has been serving beers since it opened in 1700.
I first visited it in the famously hot summer of 1976 as a child – I can still remember the swarms of ladybirds covering tables in the courtyard garden during the heatwave.
From the front, the pub has always reminded me of those ‘best kept secret’ pubs you find hidden in Cornish fishing ports.
It also still proudly displays a red Courage sign – a nod to the Bristol brewery that closed in the late 1990s.
Inside, the two rooms separated by the central bar stick to a similar nautical style with a porthole window in the door to the toilet, brass lanterns dangling from low beams and sea blue paintwork.
The brickwork on the walls is exposed and there are original inglenook fireplaces.
The enclosed beer garden was covered with a marquee when I was there on a grey, wet day, but I assume this is removed when the sun is out as it has always been a genuine suntrap.
As well as Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, other real ales on tap included Butcombe Original, GWB Hambrook Pale Ale and Otter Ale from Devon.
A blackboard menu behind the bar lists a range of bar snacks, from a £1 pickled egg to homemade chicken goujons with sweet chilli sauce for £4.50.
There’s also a homemade Scotch egg with sweet chilli jam for £4.95 and a range of ‘posh nuts’ on offer.
With the nearby Blackboy Inn closed and being turned into flats and other pubs struggling to stay afloat since the pandemic, it’s heartening to see the 321-year-old Port of Call still open, still busy and still being recognised for the quality of its ales.
As I was about to leave, the heavens opened and the rain was horizontal so there was only one answer – I had to stay for another pint.
Well, any port in a storm and all that.
Port of Call, 3 York Street, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 2YE. Tel: 0117 9730926
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