Perfectly placed on a corner slot and looking like everyone’s idea of great boozer I had incredibly high hopes for the Saint James.
I’d been called in to see the editor about how well the sales figures were going and apparently the audience on the interweb is rocketing too, so I felt a celebration pint was in order.
Entering through the corner door the first thing I noticed was one of the best real fires I’ve ever seen – it was roaring and made me feel at home immediately.
Then I was heartily greeted by the barman who enquired what I was drinking. I told him I was celebrating and he suggested a pint of his best, and most expensive, ale.
The first taste of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord told me all I needed to know – this is a pub that cares about its beer and knows how to look after it.
It isn’t overly strong at 4.3 per cent but it’s a great, deep-tasting pint with a perfectly rounded after taste, truly one to savour.
My barman was friendly, efficient and perfectly happy to share the time of day.
I moved across and took a pew alongside the perfect fire, where I noticed a large knife on a strange wooden sculpture – it must be part of the ritual involved in maintaining such a “grate” thing.
This is a real pub in all senses – a large hefty wooden bar, decorative old-fashioned mirrors, beautifully lit pillars and even a great old fashioned bell for calling time.
In among this old pub feel there are some lovely touches – nice lilies over the fireplace and the same orange sponging effect on the walls as my old lounge – no wonder I felt at home.
And, you’ve got to love a pub with a skull behind the bar.
There were a number of people, mainly in couples, dotted around the place enjoying everything the Saint has to offer.
There was a sign outside saying no children were allowed but that dogs were welcome – though the evening I was in no four-legged friends showed up.
At this point the efficient barman suddenly remembered he’d forgotten to put through the one food order he’d taken so far and scurried across to ring a bell on the back stairs and pin the order to the door.
The general hubbub was then broken by one local’s ring tone – though quite why she had chosen London Calling by The Clash I’m not sure. She seemed pre-disposed, if not angry, with the world in general and moved to other side of the bar to vent her spleen.
Her companion, a Terry Pratchett lookalike complete with hat, seemed delighted by a short break away from her.
I took the opportunity to retake a stool at the bar and was momentarily joined by a lovely fellow wearing a cap.
I was about to recommend the Timothy Taylor but he’d already recognised an old favourite from the award-winning Long Man brewery and had selected a pint of Old Man.
We joked this should have been the choice for both of us. The Old Man was the darkest thing I’ve seen for a while. It might only be 4.3 per cent but it deserves respect.
And, as my new-found friend commented, decent stouts like this one should not be sipped, they need glugging in full mouthfuls to appreciate the flavour.
Even the barman was turned from a hater into a lover with two decent chugs.
The man in the cap, now downing his Old Man at a fast rate in large lumps, said: “You should never sip a stout, large mouthfuls leave a better taste.” He went on to espouse: “Beer used to be awful, so awful in fact I had to drink lager for a decade.
“You know who we’ve got to thank for better beer? George Osborne for introducing tax breaks for micro breweries.”
I’ll leave the politics there and let you make up your own mind, but he might have a point.
What I can tell you is that the Saint James is a great pub and you should make every effort to pay it a visit during these colder winter months – the fire alone makes it worth it.
DJs are advertised to play every Friday and Saturday night and the posters on the stairs down to the toilets are fascinating. There was also the small fact there were 90 different rums on offer – maybe another time.
Source: The Argus