Sheffield suburbs for a Thornbridge trio

A Saturday to explore the suburbs of Sheffield. Well, to get out to three Thornbridge-owned pubs and bars. If I can leave the railway station.

It’s only 10:30 but the bar of the Sheffield Tap is already almost full. Football fans are passing through on towards grounds away from the city as well to watch the Blades later. Yet the splendidly-restored Edwardian dining room at the back is empty.

The panorama takes in ornate tiling and sparkling chandeliers, plump leather chairs and the buffed copper of the onsite Tapped Brewery. I sit at the back in a studded, oxblood-red, wingback Chesterfield, listening to the brewery splutter softly and sip slowly on a glass of Brooklyn Sorachi Ace. It’s difficult to leave it all behind.

Abbeydale Road goes by slowly; the bus stuttering past an almost never-ending parade of sleeping takeways (Noodle Love, Magic Wok, Deli Bellyz) and retail gems (Rhythm and Booze, the body-building supplement shop called MyWhey). Eventually, there’s a sliver of green; Millhouses Park leading down to a crossroads and The Beauchief Hotel.

It's easy enough to find Jack's Bar, through a suntrap garden and into a muted green room where lazy tunes are playing to no-one. Maybe seven Thornbridge beers between cask and keg. A sharp-moustached barman appears. Am I too early? "Never too early for Jaipur", he says, as he pours me a just-cold-just-so kegged pint. I sit down and look out over the garden; red carpet waiting for a bride later. Half a dozen bar and kitchen staff help shift a piano between rooms. As I leave, someone tries to tease it into tinkling.

One wrong turn, one ceaseless hill in a hailstorm and one late bus later, the Cross Scythes. Planked floors, wooden inlaid panels behind the bar, a hint of green glazed brick, striking wallpaper that's... foxgloves? A similar range of Thornbridge beers as before plus bottled gems like Heather Honey and Bracia in the fridges. Tzara on tap is itchy with a dough undercurrent. Jaipur on cask is sweeter than her keg sister but I'd still spend all evening with both of them.

A gentle ebb and flow to the place, buggies negotiated in and out of the billiard room, newspaper readers rise infrequently to the bar and back. My friend's Alsatian does an excellent impression of a large, dead Alsatian, stretched out across the floor. I'm too busy chatting to explore; to nose into the glass-fronted function room, to wonder if there are foxgloves on the walls of the billiard room too.

Then, a proper walk; downhill. We drop through Meersbrook Park where the south of the city stretches out up front. Where a man sits with his back to a tree and his hand down his trousers because, I am reliably informed by my friend, he is playing with his ferrets. Then through another hailstorm, across arterial roads, along evergreen avenues, to the Stag's Head.

A buzzier feel to this place. It's late Sunday afternoon and the Sharrow Vale set are out for a late lunch. We bag a large table by the window; hipsters and yummys and dinkys crowd the bar. Tzara continues to scratch a thirsty itch. Baize is indeed a mint chocolate stout but it's in the mould of Aero, slightly slick, slightly sticky, almost fatty. Chipolatas with Wild Swan are OK. Black pudding fritters fried in Lord Marples batter are slices of genius.

The geographer in me likes to put in the footwork and go discover a city. Not just its obvious treasures, but its backstreets and ginnels, fringe parkland and long views, rainy lanes and relentless hills. And in Sheffield's case, now more than ever, gems of pubs and bars.

1 comment:

  1. uncle woggly agrees, but don't wake his squirrel till after dark, you don't know what might happen!