An ABC guide to Sheffield and its pubs – Ales, Baltis, Cocktails and (Ronnie) Corbett

An ABC guide to Sheffield and its pubs – Ales, Baltis, Cocktails and (Ronnie) Corbett

The text from Mr W back in December read, “Mr T and I have arranged a day/night out in Sheffield on 4th February. You boys up for it?

Sheffield water feature

Sheffield was an obvious choice as Mr W’s eldest son has chosen it as his preferred University. However, I was unsure by ‘you boys’ as we are now all in our mid-forties, having lost the bloom of youth many years earlier. What would be in store for us?

And so Mr W, Mr T, Mr H and myself set out to research the city on behalf of Mr W junior. Thanks to the support of the knowledgeable Twitter universe, we had a bit of a list of boozers to try. But that soon went out of the window and we decided to take a more freestyle approach.

12.15pm – The Sheffield Tap

We were arriving on three separate trains but managed to co-ordinate arrivals that were only 25 minutes apart. The famous Sheffield Tap was the obvious meeting point. Arriving first I ordered a Tapped Rodeo and managed to bag a table while I waited for the others.

Sheffield Tap

Each arriving team member was exactly five minutes late. For once this was nothing to do with the trains. Upon arrival at the platform we all headed for nearest door – only to find that they were temporarily closed and we would have to make our way around to the outside of the station to gain access.

The range of ales on tap was impressive. Being in a station, and on a match day, the crowd ebbed and flowed as departure times came and went.

Sheffield Tap

Before Mr T arrived I informed my others of his recent interest in beers of a more acquired taste. We had a small wager as to his choice here – we were not disappointed. Dazed and confused it was. As it was for much of the day to come!

Dazed and confused

Overall: A-

13.30 – Hilton Hotel, Quay Bar

We took a ten minute stroll from the station to the Hilton Hotel passing the Ponds Forge sports complex and navigating the overpass maze atop Park Square. To our left we spied the rather traditional looking Norfolk Arms pub – more on that later.

Norfolk Arms

Check in at the hotel was speedy and we used the stairs to arrive at our second floor rooms, passing the Quay Bar with pool table on the way. The rooms were spacious and clean and a corner was located for the dumping of bags.

Hilton Hotel

Mr T took the opportunity to use the ironing facilities and make his ‘shirt’ more presentable. Note for future dress code queries – it’s only a shirt if you can put it on without it having to go over your head.

We passed a pleasant hour or so playing traditional British 8-ball pool (yellow and red balls rather than the fancy multi-coloured variety). Once again I had to dispense with the varifocal glasses and my game improved vastly as I could start to see the balls. The pockets were tighter than those of Mr Scrooge and the quality of play across the four of us was no better than fair to middling – Mr W excepted.

Pool

We managed to achieve a bit of balance when it became apparent that Mr T’s lager was somewhat less than tasty, in fact it was downright rancid. Exchanged without fuss, the new drink went down well, as did the standard of Mr T’s cue action!

Overall: B+

14.50 – The Bankers Draft

We advanced towards the city centre via Exchange Street, home to the rather aptly named Oblivion venue.

Oblivion

Another photo opportunity presented itself in the shape of a pre-loved retail outlet by the name of ‘One Careful Owner.’

One careful owner!

The first drinking hole we were to stumble upon was The Bankers Draft, a former financial institution and a part of the Wetherspoon Empire. I’d never give a Wetherspoon pub more than a C- as despite the cheap and varied drink selection they are usually dull as ditch water. And yes, despite our advancing years we still brought down the average age of what was a full house by about a generation. It’s a bit like going in Marks and Spencer.

But we will remember The Bankers Draft for a couple of reasons. Both of which can be attributed to Mr T. Firstly, as he pointed out more than once, you have to be impressed with any pub that doesn’t just have an upstairs area, but actually offers a ‘mezzanine bar.’

Secondly, in what turned out to be the funniest moment of the day Mr T stated his surprise at the notion that Ronnie Corbett might have been Scottish. (Ok readers, it was obviously a day short on laughs)
He then proceeded to argue, rather sarcastically, that the attire adorned by Mr Corbett in the photo below hardly pointed towards his Celtic roots.

Ronnie Corbett

As the conversation descended into farce we wondered if Sir Ronnie of Corbett was indeed dead or just another fake news story peddled by the ‘lying press‘ (© Donald J Trump 2017).

Comedy and politics over we decided to find a venue that could provide food in addition to liquid replenishment – none of us had eaten since breakfast.

Overall: C+

15.35 – The Church House

The Church House looked quite enticing from the outside and the menu on display got the collective taste buds active. Dark and atmospheric with jazz emanating from the speakers, we thought that we had stumbled across a little gem. We approached the empty bar and waited.

And waited.

Two minutes later someone approached – another customer.

Two minutes later it looked a little more promising, but alas it was just a further customer.

We gave each other that knowing glance, turned and left. The Church House had just lost out on £50-£60.

Overall: F

15.43 – The Museum

Now very hungry we entered The Museum which unfortunately was packed to the rafters. A speedy meal looked unlikely but the fine range of ales on view meant that we could not leave without a drink.

The Museum

Mr W entered into conversation with a couple of more mature members of the gathering. As it turns out, they were all former co-workers celebrating a reunion. They were all headed off shortly for a meal…at The Chrurch House. We warned them of the staffing situation over there but they seemed a cheery, optimistic bunch and soon went on their way.

The Museum

Still no food but a few decent chuckles alongside the ale. As the crowd dispersed, we notice that there were floors both below and above us. Given the presence of a dividing rail, we ascertained that for the second time today we had encountered a mezzanine bar. Fantastic.

Overall: B

16.11 – Cubana

Across the road from The Museum was a more upmarket pedestrian square. For some reason we bypassed the Aagrah restaurant and tried The Botanist. Taking a look at the menu we quickly decided that it wasn’t quite for us and so swiftly decanted to Cubana next door.

Cubana

The drinks menu wasn’t that different but the atmosphere certainly was. The main difference was seeing so many of the people in there enjoying themselves. The Latin tunes had hips swaying including our own but we refrained from joining the masses on the dance floor and enjoyed the show while taking cocktails in the corner.

Cubana

Cubana

Cubana

Mr H had been saying for some time now that all he wanted was a ‘mojito and a burger’. And so he got the first part of his wish anyway. I went for the extravagantly named ‘La Estrella del Porno’ partly due to the extra shot of Prosecco on the side that it came with.

Cubana

We were now well and truly in the party spirit – thanks Cubana.

Overall: A

16.46 – Maggie Mays

We decided to move a little more down market, partly out of recognition that many more £27 rounds would leave the kitty looking quite bare.

And so we stumbled across Maggie May’s. It was barely 50 yards from Cubana as the crow flies but might has well have been on a different continent if not planet.

Maggie May's

Unassuming from the outside we entered a time warp. The sassy salsa had been replaced with gritty Northern Soul and what can only be described as an oddball crowd.

While I selected a bottle of the legendary Black Sheep ale, Messrs H and T decided they had a continued thirst for cocktails and went for particularly deadly concoctions.

Maggie May's

We didn’t stay that long in Maggie May’s. There was just something that we couldn’t put our fingers on but needless to say we didn’t feel like we belonged. Despite the obvious love that the DJ was showing.

Maggie May's

Overall: C+

17.06 – Dog and Partridge

For some reason we had temporarily forgotten about food. As we turned the corner we spied the Dog and Partridge – our home for the next hour and a half.

Dog and Partridge

We had been looking for a pub that would be showing the England v France 6 Nations rugby match. It was on in the D&P but we didn’t see much of it.

Despite its relatively small bar it had an intriguing range of drinks to choose from but again, this is not the reason we will remember our spell in there for a long time.

Dog and Partridge

Step forward young J – son of one of the bar staff and an absolute legend in the making. Having four complete strangers in the pub didn’t seem to faze him at all. In fact we spent the next hour playing darts with him and chatting about football, school etc (all under the watchful eye of mum).
I can assure you that young J is a star of the future. He was absolutely as bright as a button and a real credit to his family. The arrows from all of us were particularly poor but that mattered not a jot.

Dog and Partridge

As we left on a now desperate hunt for food, the young man came out to say his goodbyes and high five us all. Truly memorable.

Overall: A+

18.31 – Butler’s Balti House

By chance we encountered Butler’s as we started to make our way down to Kelham Island. A quick look on the Tripadvisor app showed a four out of five rating and within the top 100 of Sheffield’s 1000+ dining options. In all honestly we were that hungry that we would have considered the very last on the list at this point.

And so followed the usual exchange with front of house, even at this early hour.

Hi there, have you got a table for four?
“Have you booked?”
[To self] “No, we haven’t booked. That is why we have just asked if you have a table rather than saying we have a table booked in the name of X.

It always puzzles me why those conversations seem to follow the same pattern.

Anyhow, they managed to squeeze us in as it was less than half full. We were immediately intrigued by the empty but partitioned VIP area behind us, half expecting the appearance of Def Leppard, Arctic Monkeys, Sean Bean or somebody of similar standing at some point.

The curry was very, very good. I went for a Balti Garlic Chilli Chicken which was a delight. Apparently it was three showers later before the garlic was fully dispersed from my pores.
Unfortunately we were so ravenous that it was a number of scoops of keema naan before I remembered to take a photo for posterity.

Butlers

And excuse the mess. I can confirm that it actually belonged to Mr H who shuffled it over in my direction leaving a couple of Balti splodges on my jeans.

Butlers

Overall: A-

19.37 – Shakespeare’s

Despite the early hour we were now on the homeward stretch but really wanted to see what the Kelham Island area had to offer. As we neared the area, Shakespeare’s came into view, yet another traditional looking watering hole.

Shakespeares

And once more there was a real variety of ale options to choose from.

Shakespeares

Not only that, but there was games room upstairs with an array of pastimes last seen on Indoor League. Needless to say we had an attempt at bar billiards et al. None of us knew the rules. None of us were any good. None of us cared. We all had a good chuckle.

Overall: B

20.11 – Kelham Island Tavern

It was getting quite cold now, particularly for Messrs W and H who had decided against the winter protection that a jacket affords.

Kelham Island Tavern

The Kelham Island Tavern was on our original list of recommendations from my Twitter acquaintances. It was also quite close and an ideal opportunity to get in for a warm. The building looks quite lonely as most around it have been demolished but it was far from lonely inside.
I had a pint of Farmers Ale which according to the glass, was no bull!

Kelham Island Tavern

Overall: B

21.50 – Hilton Quays Bar

Cold, tipsy and tired we decided to head in the direction of the hotel. As far as I recall, the journey back to our lodgings was fairly quick and uneventful, mainly due to swift availability of a taxi!

The Quays Bar and pool table proved too much of a distraction once again and we settled down for what was supposed to be a night cap.

After a while, Mr T and I started to get itchy feet, something of a second wind and the need for further exploration.

Leaving Messrs W and H to run up a tab, we set off on our additional quest.

23.36 – Norfolk Arms

We simply couldn’t leave Sheffield without visiting the Norfolk Arms, spotted earlier in the day. Strategically position on the corner next to the Ibis Hotel it was certainly an entertainment venue.
We perched at the bar watching the Chris Eubank Jr fight on a screen in the corner. A youngster came over to speak to me three times over the next twenty minutes, telling me how much he ‘effing hated Chris Eubank Senior’ each time with slightly more venom. It’s a good job I wholeheartedly agreed with him otherwise it might have been a little messy.

Then the live entertainment started. Not a band but karaoke. And very, very poor karaoke at that. I suppose that this was the one time that my current hearing issues came into their own. I may have a problem with volume but not tone. Any hint of applause for each act must have come from family members.

Norfolk Arms

And then there was the chap who had to be escorted from the premises three times. It got to the point where the two gents in the photo below sat strategically next to the door to prevent a further incursion.

Norfolk Arms

Dazed, confused and amused once more, we decided to move on.

Overall: B+

00.33 – Yorkshireman Rock Bar

We now had the thirst for music of a higher quality and thought that the centre was our best bet. As we walked past Bakers Hill we saw a set of stairs which looked like a potential short cut.

Steps

Upon closer inspection, barriers at both top and bottom hinted that all might not be well with said steps. Undaunted and full of fuel we clambered over nonetheless and at the half way point, noticed the rather large hole and 10ft drop below. With the impetuousness of youth in our veins we carried on and reached the summit relatively unscathed.

Fortunately nobody spotted us and used the police telephone box that Mr T soon came across otherwise I might be penning this from a different location.

Police box

By chance, at the far side of the town hall we spotted the wonderfully named Yorkshireman Rock Bar. This would be our final stop of the evening. The beer was fine. The music was certainly one million times better than that in the Norfolk Arms. And the crowd was typical of a late night rock venue.

We spent a good while people watching, but just not so much as to cause a stir with the more threatening-looking members of the clientele. Or indeed Santa who was resting in the corner!

Yorkshireman Rock Bar

Realising that we had now just about had enough, we grabbed some chips from a late night vendor and staggered the mile or so back to the hotel.

Overall: B+

The Aftermath

In a serious case of role reversal, Mr T was rather sprightly the following morning while I was feeling quite fragile. Messrs W and H were up and about and had partaken in a breakfast meal deal at a local Greggs.

With our trains all leaving between 12.15 and 1.30 we checked out and made our way past the famous Park Hill estate back to the station.

Park Hill

Sheffield has provided a sparkling 24 hours of fun and frolics. If young SW reads this then he will find that there is plenty to keep you occupied in the city. But we are 40 somethings. And most of the places we went were filled with 40 somethings. I suspect all the youngsters were somewhere else, probably anywhere else.

We had undertaken the trip in the sake of research. And like all good research we completely tailored it to our requirements with absolutely no objectivity whatsoever.

Mission accomplished.

Cheers Sheffield.

Txiki Stu

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