I was heading out to the Robin Hood with Mr P earlier and spotted signs of life at the Shakespeare, which seemed to have been dormant until quite recently, following the announcement that it had been bought by the owner of the New Beehive, Bradford. Mr P spotted a sign announcing its reopening, and we added it to our list of venues for the evening.
Arriving about 21.00 we found the main bar packed out, and the room to the left empty but for its seating and a generous table of nibbles - although as noted by many, for a Sheffield pub launch, there were precious few items of cutlery available to divvy up the quiche....
Furnishings and fittings are basic tables and old chairs with bare flag floors throughout, making it quite echoey in places. This crisp resonance, along with the very real smells of fresh paint varnish and wood, means you can be in no doubt that this is a recently refurbished pub.
There were 8 handpumps dispensing local ales, including a new one from Welbeck Abbey brewery - more on that soon; and 2 real ciders in a box, as well as Continental draught beer including Bellevue Kriek. I had a pint of the Welbeck Red Leather and Mr P a half of a surprisingly dark Blue Bee Bee's Knees bitter, both of which retailed at a sensible £2.30 or so a pint.
The cosy fireplace in the wall feature behind the bar sadly seems to have disappeared, but there is another room to the right of the back of the bar, created by bricking up the former coach entrance on the right, and the loos are much improved; the smell of fresh paint possibly masked any lingering horrors, but i can safely say they were some of the worst pub toilets in Sheffield before.
Being launch night there were about 6 staff behind the bar, which is quite difficult to pull off, and i think i spotted the owner, but did not have time to ask him anything even if it were him. In the left hand room is a fabulous old clock and a number of pump clips all around the walls at dado height. The only potential downer is the fact that the Wards window in here appears to have been lost - perhaps broken ?
Its always a risky business reopening and working in an old pub with an unspoilt or old interior, and the loss of the window - its sibling still visible on the right as you look at the pub - is a real shame. That said, there is now a subtle and attractive new sign outside and the room gained on the right gives more space to what I hope will be throngs of drinkers visiting the pub from now on. There is also a large beer yard/area to the rear.
The pub was getting busier as we left before 22.00, and it looks like even at this early stage there is potential to make something of a business that successive pub companies failed or perhaps wanted to fail at making successful. Here's wishing the Speare (sorry) all the very best for the future.
As part of my succession of visits to the pub between now and August bank holiday, I continued tonight by taking Mr P to the pub at Little Matlock near Stannington. Luckily they had real ale on but only one, a very nice pint of Yorkshire Farmer. We sat outside defying the threat of rain for most of our visit before heading inside.
The beer situation appears to be that they get a delivery Friday each week, and put the beer straight on - not sure if this is ideal - and its clear that they are operating a hand to mouth ordering system, since on my visit tomorrow I will be having more beer from the same 9 on tonight if I am to get any at all. I understand the need to keep the cellar stocks light but this risks running out of beer, which, as mentioned before, if you don't do food Wednesday and Thursdays, is surely a key component in keeping customers there and buying ?
After we walked back along Greaves lane to the Anvil on Stannington Road. The makeover is complete and doesn't seem to have radically altered the layout i have seen on my last few visits. There are 4 beers on, Kelham, Bradfield Blonde, Lees Bitter with Black Sheep on soon. Not a life changing selection, but both the Lees and the Blonde were very well kept.
More info on Scotland and Welbeck Abbey brewery soon.