In my continuing mission to re-visit all of Gloucester’s pubs, I undertook my third pub crawl research trip on Saturday evening. The mission this time was the Docks pubs, which I last did on 7 February 2009. You can read about my previous experience on my website.
The timing couldn’t have been better: it was a gloriously warm, sunny evening and the date was perfectly timed for the opening of a new pub at the Quays: Portivo Lounge. I would like to say that this was good planning on my part, but if I’m honest I have to admit that it was pure dumb luck.
I had a good number of people lined up to join me on my mission, but I am beginning to suspect that in many cases their motives may not be pure in terms of their dedication to the research.
When I last did this research I had a separate route for Bristol Road, consisting of 4 pubs. Two of these, The Bristol Hotel and The Seymour have now closed. Of the other two I decided to add The Linden Tree to the Docks route and I will have to find an opportunity to visit The Avenue another time as it is a bit far out.
So we started at The Linden Tree, which is quite a trek from the centre but worth it. The Linden Tree has changed little since 2009, still selling a good range of Wadworths beer in a pleasant pub that looks like it should be out in the country. Unfortunately, as a cider drinker there was only the usual fizzy keg – this was to be a theme for the evening.
Next we headed toward town, stopping at Baker Street, now tucked into the shadow of the Quays development. Again it is a pleasant pub with a welcoming rustic sort of feel to it. They had a single real ale, Doom Bar, and a wide range of cider, but all of it keg. I went for the Squealy Pig, which as at least less common than the ubiquitous Strongbow or Stowfords. Being such a pleasant evening we chose to sit in the garden – a courtyard space alongside the pub and adjacent to the busy Southgate Street. Not the most idyllic spot, but better than it sounds.
Next we had a bit of a walk to get to The High Orchard. A new pub since my last research, built alongside Sainsbury’s and, as one of my drinking companions, Dick Sheppard, was at pains to point out, not where the High Orchard was actually situated, which was where High Orchard Street is now, running through the Quays.
I must admit that I did not have high expectations of the High Orchard, being a soulless new build pub, part of the Marstons chain and concentrating mainly on food. However, I was pleasantly surprised: the tables outside were thronged with people eating, despite the inauspicious setting alongside busy main roads overlooking Sainsbury’s and a tired industrial estate. Inside it served four real ales (but again only Strongbow cider). We sat outside and enjoyed the sun and, as the diners drifted away, the seagulls moved in to finish off their leftovers – an efficient waste disposal system, but I’m glad we were under a shelter.
Next we had to get to the Quays, so I thought a pleasant and cultural walk through the grounds of Llanthony Priory was in order. Sadly, when we got to the far side to come out onto the canal path the gate was locked. Somewhat annoyed we retraced our steps and went the long way round: what is the point of locking the gate at just one end?
This longer route took us past what was the Sir Colin Campbell, which has closed since my last research trip around the Docks and been turned into a children’s nursery.
Finally we made our way to Portivo Lounge, which is very nice. More a bar than a pub, it has pleasingly modern but traditional decor, a relaxed ambiance and a good looking menu, although we weren’t there to eat. It was quite busy as you might expect on its opening weekend, but with a pleasant seating area outside on the pedestrianised Llanthony Road it wasn’t packed. They sell a real ale called Toga Man, which is brewed for the Loungers chain by Bristol Beer Factory, but the cider? You guessed it…
The next three pubs were close together, back out onto Southgate Street. First the Nelson, and you could hear it before you got around the corner: it was blasting out reggae at loud volume. Sadly there were few people to enjoy it until my growing party arrived. Here there was no real ale or cider, but tere were cans of Red Stripe in the fridge to go with the reggae theme. A few people started to drift in after a while, but we didn’t loiter for long, beating a hasty retreat to our next stop: the Whitesmiths.
Here was a real change of pace. Not in terms of volume: it was still loud, but here it was pure disco. I like the Whitesmiths – it is a great building with an original fifteenth century roof. It also does a couple of Arkells ales on handpump (although still no real cider). I am not, however, a big fan of disco, so once again we didn’t dally for too long.
Next up was supposed to be the Tall Ship, which I like a lot, but was sadly closed. Inside lights were on giving the impression that, perhaps, it had been open, but it was only just gone 11 and it looked closed when we arrived at the Whitesmiths 20 minutes earlier. Hopefully all is well at the Tall Ship.
Our last official stop of the night was Doctor Fosters back in the Docks. Here I was expecting much raucous partying as they were hosting a Malibu party – Malibu really isn’t my thing, but I thought it could be some fun entertainment to finish the evening. Sadly by the time we arrived it was all over with just a few customers remaining, many bedecked in garlands, and exhausted staff.
Doctor Fosters sell the excellent Gloucester Brewery Ales and also had Old Peculiar on, so that went down well with my beer drinking companions. For me, I was still on the fizzy stuff.
Finally the exhausted staff had enough and we were thrown out at around 1230. Against my better judgement I made my way to Cafe Rene for a final drink: at least here I could finally get a real cider – Black Rat – although by this stage it may have been ill-advised.
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