Pub/Bar of the Month
The Black Boy, Winchester, UK
When it comes to eccentric pubs, there are few crazier than the Black Boy in Winchester.
This quirky old place takes a bit of finding, in a residential area just out of the city centre, but, pitched on a small hill, it looks welcoming and down-to-earth with its slightly scuffed, white-painted façade and hanging baskets.
Disarmingly, the website describes it as a ‘traditional back-street boozer’. Step over the threshold, however, and you realise you’ve entered a bit of a madhouse.
Structurally, the pub is focused on a central bar. You can walk all the way around – up a few steps, down a few steps – and discover five or six discrete drinking areas. For a pub enthusiast, that is often satisfaction enough.
Sense of the Absurd
At the Black Boy, on the other hand, it is just the start of an adventure as whoever is responsible for the décor and furnishings certainly has a sense of the absurd.
As the front door clicks shut behind you, your eyes are drawn to the hundreds of miniature whisky bottles that swing from the old beams.
There are rugs on the stone floor and a fire crackles in the hearth but more striking are the stuffed boar, the old wooden cask ends above the bar and the dead bird in a cage on top of a harmonium.
As you start to explore the rest of the pub, things don’t get any less eccentric. One small area looks rather like a second-hand bookshop, with tattered paperbacks crammed into bookcases.
Next to this is a sort of a dining area with exposed beams and bare brickwork. In one corner is an old cider press and, tacked to the walls, hung from above or squeezed onto cluttered shelves, you can find anything from a camel’s head, an elephant’s leg and an alligator to primitive telephones, model aircraft, sporting racquets and a collection of classic film posters.
This area doubles up as a gin bar at weekends. Shutters in the back wall are thrown open and the emphasis turns from ale to spirit.
The flagstoned-floored back room is kitted out with old church pews and seems to be a bit of a sanctuary from the more bustling areas of the pub but the insanity continues as you work your way through to the last drinking area, passing a collection of fire buckets, an array of galvanometers and a vintage Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut machine.
A leopard snarls from the top of the bar and, to top the lot, there’s a monkey in a kilt.
After all of this, you’re more than ready for a drink. With five handpumps, the pub is a Good Beer Guide regular, majoring mostly on local Hampshire beers such as Flower Pots Ale, Andwell Ruddy and Cheriton Porter, with the odd cross-border raider such as Hop Back Summer Lightning.
Taking a few draughts as you sink into your seat, you’ve plenty to keep you amused. This pub is mad, yes, but wonderfully entertaining.
The Black Boy, 1 Wharf Hill, Winchester, Hampshire SO23 9NQ.
Tel. (01962) 861754
Opening Hours: 12–11; 12-midnight Friday and Saturday; 12–10.30 Sunday