It hasn’t been the best of weeks for Bristol pub lovers.
Soon after news broke that the historic King’s Head in Victoria Street was up for sale, it emerged that campaigners had lost their battle to save the Adam & Eve in Hotwells from being turned into flats.
It’s enough to turn you to drink, although we seem to be losing so many great pubs that even that might prove tricky in the coming years if we’re not careful.
Like your children or pets, it’s wise not to pick a favourite but if asked for my preferred choice of Bristol pub, The Barley Mow would certainly be up there.
A short walk from Temple Meads station, this tucked away pub in St Philips – although there will be some Dings residents who might rightly claim it as their own – is a fine example of a community pub saved from developers.
Before Bristol Beer Factory took it on, it was closed and under threat but the Ashton brewery, along with former mayor George Ferguson, had a clear vision about this lovely Victorian pub. And their commitment and perseverance has paid off as The Barley Mow has become one of the best in Bristol and even scooped CAMRA Pub of the Year a couple of years ago.
Before it reopened, the surrounding area hadn’t been redeveloped and, interestingly, a brand new community has grown around this rescued pub ever since.
It should be used as an example of pubs being community assets when the next one comes under threat from greedy developers.
When I popped into The Barley Mow the other night, the place was jumping. The only seat I could find was a wobbly stool in the uncovered corner of the beer garden. Even though it had started to rain, I still didn’t mind.
The bar was two-deep with people waiting to be served and, despite the drizzle, a few people were making do with the uncovered benches outside.
As well as a comprehensive range of Bristol Beer Factory beers on handpull or keg – including Milk Stout, Well Above Sea Level, Fortitude and Notorious – there were at least ten from other breweries, most from Bristol or at least the South West.
These included Lost and Grounded Keller Pils, Electric Bear Wildest Dreams and Floods The Colours from Newtown Park Brewing, a brewery within short walking distance of the pub. This is clearly a pub that likes to keep its beer miles to a minimum.
With its stripped wood floors, real fire and abundance of original fixtures and fittings, this is a timeless-looking pub but it’s certainly not an ‘old man’s pub’ as the millennials might call it.
When I visited, there were as many twentysomething females drinking pints as there were beer-bellied blokes.
In the quieter early part of the week, it attracts customers with a Monday ‘Burger Madness’ deal (£13 for a burger and a pint after 5pm) and there’s a Tuesday night pub quiz with quizmaster Rich.
Head chef Jimmy Morton – under the banner of Jimmy’s Kitchen – serves an enticing and sensibly priced menu. Current dishes include small plates such as buffalo cauliflower bites, garlic and lemon dip, and beef chilli fries with Jack cheese and jalapeños.
The burgers are £11/£12 and include bacon cheeseburger, gherkins and burger sauce, and a vegan breaded oyster mushroom, green salad and sriracha mayo.
The Sunday roasts are seriously popular and booking is pretty much essential.
Under new manager Carwyn David, The Barley Mow is still the perfect pub and we need more of them.
And it’s not just the excellent beer, food and atmosphere – the pub even has an Airbnb flat to rent upstairs, maybe for those customers who simply don’t want to go home. Now, that’s what I call a pub offering a proper public service.
The Barley Mow, 39 Barton Road, St Phillips, Bristol, BS2 0LF. Tel: 0117 930 4709.
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