0117 972 0645

Welcome to Tangent Books, Bristol's leading independent publisher

The Bristol Booze Odyssey #6

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

Episode 6: Bag of Nails, St Georges Road, Hotwells

I made a terrible mistake this week. Randomly picking a pub from my list of Pubby Pubs compiled by my dodgy Bristol mates, I chose The Bag of Nails. It sounded like it was going to be a heavy metal bar. It’s not. I walk in and the entire establishment is infested with cats.
It’s only a bloody cat pub!

I come from a long line of dog people that goes back to the early days of trying to convince a wolf to fetch a stick. However, much like Ross Kemp as he had a bag placed over his bald head and got shoved in the back of a van on his way to meet the Taliban, I suck it up and persevere. I see a sign on the wall declaring that PUSSY JOKES ARE NOT FUCKING FUNNY. There’s at least one thing that I and the proprietors can agree on.

There’s a terrific selection of 14 ales on tap. If there wasn’t as many cats, I’d be really impressed. I ask for a bottle due to obvious fur ball concerns. The cat-loving barman tells me they have over 40 to choose from. I ask for a generic IPA. He gives me a look and disappears. At this point, I notice a sign behind the bar stating PLEASE DO NOT ASK FOR AN IPA UNLESS YOU KNOW WHAT AN IPA ACTUALLY IS. I know that the mysterious booze is as delicious as it is unknowable. As soon as I spot this second sign, I notice all the rest. They’re everywhere. The place is plastered in pub rules. Many are just bugbears that clearly annoy the landlord. There’s one beside the IPA one simply warning NO SCIENTOLOGY.

The petulant barman returns. I’m being as fake as I can muster but he can clearly sense that I’m a dog person. He opens the bottle and picks up a glass and makes to pour it in and my perception of the world slows down. I can’t explain why there’s a reality-bending personal crisis whenever I order a drink. I just wish I wasn’t so constantly thirsty. As quick as I can, short of diving over the bar in slow motion, I tell him I’d rather just have the bottle. He insists on putting it in a glass. He definitely knows I’m a dog person.

Utterly defeated, I go to find somewhere to sit and spot a record player on the go with a good selection of LPs and several signs advising you to STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM MY RECORD PLAYER. If not for the pride of tiny lions, I’d love this. IF YOU DON"T LIKE JOHNNY CASH, SHUT UP OR GO AWAY.

The pub doesn’t smell like you’d assume. In fact, a lot of pubs that aren’t infested with cats smell a hell of a lot worse. There’s a large selection of board games peppered about the place. I see a young couple in the corner trying to play Jenga but with the feline saboteurs, it’s like the good people of downtown Tokyo trying to build a sky scraper while Godzilla and that giant butterfly thing battle for supremacy.

I take in my surroundings DON'T START MOVING THE DAMN FURNITURE WITHOUT ASKING OR PLUG OUT MY BLOODY LIGHTS. The landlord’s personality and presence are everywhere in this pub. NO STILETTOS AS THEY PLAY HAVOC ON MY FLOOR BOARDS. He’s clearly an eccentric and wacky tyrant. NO STUPID CHRISTMAS JUMPERS OR STUPID INFLATABLE ANIMALS OR FISH.

The one about the Christmas jumpers is still up and I can’t imagine the place being swarmed by inflatable fish despite there being an aquarium down the road. This place is as big as a tiny pub can be without graduating into a small pub. If a miniature, live action rendition of the power struggle in The Lion King wasn’t going on around my ankles, I’d love this place. The landlord isn’t here but he is clearly as mad as a box of frogs.

NO ANNOYING SCREECHING

ALL HOLOCAUST DEBATE MUST BE FACTUALLY BASED

KEITH MOON WAS THE BEST

These rules are plastered everywhere, some printed on A4, some scrawled on scraps of paper. I’d need a lab to prove that some were written in human blood. If there wasn’t a truculent tabby eyeballing me, I’d be utterly charmed, and this would be my new local.

So, my boozy conclusion – If you like cats, flat shoes and Johnny Cash, give The Bag of Nails a whirl. If you like dogs, high heels and inflatable stingrays, don’t.

Leave a Reply