It’s a grey day (yet another appallingly drab-looking external photograph, I’m afraid), and just about on the nose of the end of the working week, when we arrive at The Bedford Arms – first-time visits for both RealAleRocks and myself. Pausing only briefly to look at the Cask Marque signage next to the front door, we enter.
The bar is arranged as an L-shape, with the right hand side in a smaller, cosier room, and the corner and left of the bar in the larger main room. The smaller room has a few small square tables, a log fire, and bottles lining the lintels. Apparently, every other Wednesday they have a “bring a bottle, taste a bottle” night; the bottles of those beers which score well, are placed on the lintel above the fireplace; bottles of beers which score badly go on the opposite lintel. Or maybe it was the other way round.
On the bar (popping my head round into the main bar to see the full selection) we have: an empty handle, two handles badged up as Franklin’s ciders, but both marked as “coming soon”; taps for CW Triple Hopped IPA, CW Dry Hopped Lager, Young’s London Stout, Symonds cider, Fosters, CW Estrella, Young’s Special, Young’s Bitter, CW Burning Gold, Bombardier (I think?), Young’s Directors, and CW Firsty 15. And there’s a fridge, too: Young’s London Gold, CW Bombardier, CW Burning Gold (bottled), Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, CW Banana Bread Beer, Blind Pig cider, and a choice of Aspall’s cider. Not bad. We opt for the Burning Gold and the Firsty 15, at £7.25.
In the main bar, there’s more seating, plenty of windows, and a piano. Three men sit at the bar, chatting to the lady serving. The “real ales” chalk board has tasting notes, most of which are for the Wells & Youngs fixtures – in fact even the solitary “Guest Ale” is the CW Firsty 15. Definitely stretching the definition of “guest”, in my book.
Beyond the bar, a ramp leads down to a lower seating area, with black-and-white checkerboard tiling, a pair of comfortable-looking sofas, and another piano, this one topped off with a couple of small stacks of music books.
It’s more obvious in this photo than it is in real life, but the entrance to the ladies’ is well hidden. I even wondered if we’d been relegated to an outside lav, such was the trouble I was having trying to find it inside. The answer, by the way, is that it’s hidden behind that sofa on the left. There’s a sign saying “Ladies 👉🏼” painted on the mirror just next to the piano, but that’s about as useful as a chocolate fireguard, it’s so hard to spot. Like finding Platform 9¾. Also, it was bloody freezing in there.
Back in the bar, and music plays very quietly. There are wine lists on the tables, the last of the light outside is now fading, and it’s a little cooler in the bar than I’d prefer: I think I can hear a heater working quite hard somewhere. Near the end of the bar are posters advertising a traditional music session; vinyl revival; open mic night; and the beer-tasting I mentioned earlier.
We’re now down to just one man at the bar, plus us. The barwoman addresses him by name as they chat.
Office hours must be over: from the rear door, in walk a group of young, smart professional types: five men and a woman. Then a man and a woman, perhaps in their 40s, arrive; there are now some solo men sat in the other bar.
RealAleRocks and I stay for another pint. It’s now 7pm, and we’re pleased to note that the music hasn’t been turned up, and the lights haven’t been turned down. By now, the young smart group has gone, and there’s lots of good-natured chatter and laughter coming from the smaller room. Two more couples arrive.
Later on, things are getting quieter. On the way out, the landlord tells us more about the bring-a-bottle nights. It’s a friendly place here, that’s for sure, and in a handy location. The beer selection is what it is: don’t expect much beer other than Wells & Youngs, though the range available isn’t bad. Plus, there’s always those ciders. I wonder when those handles will be on?
Images by GirlMeetsPint, CC BY 4.0