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The Bristol Booze Odyssey #2

Tony Bolger continues his journey around Bristol's pubbiest pubs…

Episode 2. The Long Bar, Old Market

Beside The Stag And Hound and across from The Punch Bowl on Old Market roundabout is The Long Bar and I’m two minutes late. I find my friend standing outside the pub beside the wheelie bin. “We’re not really going in here, are we?” This isn’t an Aladdin showing Jasmin a Whole New World moment. I coerce her in with the promise of cheap booze. As the name suggests, Long Bar is as narrow as it is brown, with tiny individual booths opposite the bar so that you can still drink alone, haunted by the past even when the place is packed. We’re the only ones in there under 50 and not wearing chequered flat caps. This was already a surreal experience.

My friend was quick to notice that she was the only human female on the premises. She wasn’t as quick as one of the locals though. “What’s a lovely couple like you doing in a place like this then?” It was an excellent question. We were looking for a bargain and a proper taste of Bristol. This place is indeed a proper old man’s watering hole.

After running the gauntlet of seasoned cider drinkers and weaving through and jumping over the dozing bull terriers like a thirsty Indiana Jones, we arrive in front of the landlady surrounded on all sides by a wall of Monster Munch. Available on tap were several lagers including Fosters and Kronenbourg. Ciders included Thatchers, Cheddar Valley and Natch. Natch was also available in cans. For emergencies. Just in case.

“Two pints of your cheapest lager please”
“That’ll be £4.60.”
My experience at The Mardyke the previous week wasn’t a fluke. There are other bargains to be found in Bristol. For beer to be any cheaper than this, they’d have to be making it themselves in a bath in the cellar.

The back of the bar opens up in what feels like a wooden barn built by The Amish with a raised wooden ceiling. Fairy lights that are definitely up all year round decorate the rim. This isn’t festive, and Mary and Joseph surely would have tried their luck again for a last-minute cancellation at the inn.
Arms wrapped around each other, leaning over the duke box, three geezers sway in amiable comradery, howling out the lyrics to The Stranglers’ banger Golden Brown. One of them intermittently roars to the universe “I DIDN’T CHOOSE THIS LIFE.” The universe isn’t convinced.

It’s 4 O’clock on a Thursday afternoon. Across from the three juke box tenors is a fruit machine and beside that is a washer/dryer still in the original packaging.

The building was constructed in the 17th century and the exposed stone at the back is said to date back to the original medieval wall that surrounded Bristol. Unfortunately, this has all been painted mustard yellow which would have Tony Robinson from Time Team spinning while standing knee deep in an ancient grave.

Randomly, the toilets are all black tile, floors to walls to ceilings with futuristic, recessed blue lighting like something out of an 80’s sci-fi porno. I really didn’t see this coming but they’re perfectly clean and serviceable.

This is a scruffy boozer but not unpleasant. It’s full of characters and cheap booze. You’re guaranteed a bargain, an experience and Natch. No matter what happens, you’re guaranteed the Natch

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