Pub/Bar of the Month March 2015: The Kings Head, Bristol, UK
The Kings Head, Bristol, UK
Bristol, as any local will tell you, is not short of a decent boozer.
If you're looking for a city for your next pub crawl, the unofficial capital of the West Country will not disappoint and you can take your pick from the latest metropolitan, minimalist specialist beer bars or opt for somewhere more historic.
I'm happy in either but settled on the more traditional offering the last time I paid a visit. The pub I chose was The Kings Head, an assuming little single-roomer, dating from around 1660, on a wide road leading into the city from Temple Meads station.
Squeezed into a terrace of shops, the frontage is modest to say the least. The building is tall but narrow with a single window at ground level. It's not the sort of place to turn heads, unless you know what lies behind the front door.
Inside, the atmosphere is immediately warm and inviting. Victorian-style floral wallpaper offsets a ceiling that's been stained brown over time.
To your immediate right are some seats to take advantage of the natural light from the bay window, some of which sparkles in the glass set into the ancient, ornate bar back.
Room Within a Room
What the room lacks in width it makes up for in length, continuing past the bar stool drinkers at the counter, down a narrow corridor created by a rather wonderful enclosed snug on the right-hand side.
This room within a room is known as the Tramcar Bar, presumably because of its elongated shape and curved extremities. The wall dividing it from the rest of the pub doesn't fully reach the ceiling, so it's not entirely separate, but you can close the door if you want more privacy.
Inside, a settle with red cushions runs along one side, its varnished old woodwork cracked over time but still featuring the bell pushes that once promised waiter service.
A mirrored wall on the other side feigns an impression of breadth and above it runs a gilded frieze that boasts the selection of drinks once popular in the establishment: 'Cordials, London Gin, Jamaica Rum, Irish & Scotch Whiskey, French Brandy, Port & Sherry'.
There's no mention of beer there but that's made up for by a splendid old panel behind the bar advertising 'Burton Ales and Dublin Stout' and also a collection of framed Good Beer Guide 'We are in It!' stickers that reveals the esteem the pub has long enjoyed for its cask ales.
Today, there are five on offer, with West Country breweries as fixtures. Butcombe Gold, Otter Amber and Sharp's ubiquitous Doom Bar are joined by guest beers – on my visit Exmoor Gold and Harveys Sussex.
The beer is clearly enough of an attraction in itself, but if you want to enjoy a little heritage during your city crawl, then The Kings Head is one pub you really shouldn't miss. At the very least it should be your first port of call as you head from the station.
The Kings Head, 60 Victoria Street, Bristol BS1 6DE
Tel. (0117) 929 2338
Opening Hours: 11–11.30; 12–11.30 Saturday; 12–2.30, 6.30–11.30 Sunday