While it’s often been wrongly maligned in the past, there’s no denying that Hull has always been a fantastic place for a night out, and an amazing blossoming of bars and eateries in the city’s Avenues area over the past 15 years or so has had the side-effect of spurring a renaissance for the pubs.
The city centre’s long-established traditional pubs have been supplemented by new boozers to create a circuit of determinedly unique drinking dens. Dave Lee takes a look at 10 of the best.
Ye Olde White Harte
Not many pubs can lay claim to being the location of the start of the English Civil War – and that honour belongs to Hull’s Ye Olde White Harte alone. It was in an upstairs room, in 1642, that prominent Hull citizens decided to refuse Charles I entry to the city, an edict that lead directly to the outbreak of the civil war.
It’s this history that draws visitors to the pub, the plotting room is still open and relatively unchanged and the décor of the rest of the pub hasn’t altered much in the past few hundred years, with even the scars of a severe 1809 fire – still visible on the wooden walls and rafters – only adding to the august atmosphere.
25 Silver St, Hull, HU1 1JG (01482 326363, www.yeoldewhiteharte.com)
Back in the fishing days, the Minerva was the best-known and busiest pub in the city. Standing, as it does, between the entrance to many of the old city centre docks and the Pierhead, there was no better-positioned pub for fishermen, visitors and those working in the fruit market.
It’s a huge, high and handsome pub with half a dozen different drinking rooms (including the smallest pub room in the country – all three seats of it!) and it even used to have its own brewery attached. It offers views of the river, the marina, the Deep and the Pierhead and has welcoming open fires.
Nelson St, Hull, HU1 1XE (01482 210025, Facebook)
Hop & Vine
Hull’s best kept secret. The Hop & Vine was established by real ale aficionado Stewart Campbell and partner Janet Rowan in a hard-to-spot cellar in an unfavoured part of the city centre, yet it is a sublime haven for any fans of local beer, honest food, good music and friendly company.
It might not be the most handsome pub you’ve ever been in (it was converted on a small budget from a bistro) and it’s certainly not the biggest (35 people is the maximum capacity) but it regularly wins CAMRA awards and has been Cider Pub of the Year more than once.
24 Albion St, Hull, HU1 3TH (07787 564264, www.hopandvinehull.co.uk)
Lion & Key
The Lion and Key first opened as a pub in 1817, then became offices sometime in the mid 20th century. It then reopened as an Irish bar in the ’80s, before the current owners returned it to its original name. These days it offers a selection of five mainly local real ales and three real ciders, as well as a sizeable offering of spirits from all over the globe and some imported bottled beers.
The bar staff know their booze and are only too keen to help you navigate through the options, and there are comfy corners or communal high tables to retire to with your weapon of choice. Unusually there are no quiz nights, no music nights and no other such regular events. The idea is that the pub is always the same whenever you pop in; you know you can get a decent pint, grab a bite and have a chat without the atmosphere being too quiet or too loud. An admirable stance which takes courage to maintain.
48 High St, Hull, HU1 1QE (01482 225212, Facebook)
The Polar Bear (like the Botanic next door) was named due to it standing opposite the former Hull Zoological Gardens, a forgotten Victorian attraction that stood on the corner of Spring Bank and Princes Ave. The Bear is one of the most notable pubs not only in the city but also in the UK, as it is one of only eleven to have retained a ceramic bar.
In the Polar Bear’s case it is a wonderfully impressive, huge, curved affair that is now Grade II listed along with the pub’s equally attractive stained glass dome ceiling. Coincidentally, one of the other ceramic bars is also in Hull, in the White Hart on Alfred Gelder Street.
229 Spring Bank, Hull, HU3 1LR (01482 221113, Facebook)
The Wellington is a proper drinker’s pub: everywhere you look there are bottles of beer. They are behind the bar (obviously), they decorate the walls, and they fill the glass-fronted wall-long chiller cabinet in the back room. The walls are also adorned with the clip pumps of the many hundreds of guest beers that have graced the cellar over the past few years.
For the less adventurous there’s…..erm….actually, there isn’t anything for the less adventurous. Walk in here and ask for a glass of something non-obscure and you will feel like a right plum – quite rightly, too. This is a place where you try new things and delight in the result.
55 Russell St, Hull, HU2 9AB (01482 329486 thewellingtoninnbreweryhull.blogspot.co.uk)
From the outside Wm Hawkes looks like something from a Dickens film adaptation (Mr Jagger’s office, maybe?) and, as there is no pub sign or chalk board proffering Sky Sports, it’s all too easy to walk straight by. Venture inside, however, and you are rewarded with a fantastic little, low-ceilinged, two room boozer with a choice of ten real ales and ciders and dozens of bottles of exotic spirits. The rooms are lit by candles and lined with as much antique nick-nackery as they will hold.
The pub was named after a gunsmith that used to occupy the premises in 1750 but, until a few months ago, Wm Hawkes was just a printer’s workshop – it had never actually been a pub in the 600-odd years it’s been here.
32 Scale Ln, Hull, HU1 1LF (01482 224004, www.wmhawkes.co.uk)
Ye Olde Black Boy
Though this amazing 18th century pub is known to have been frequented by slavery abolitionist (and quite a carouser in his younger days) William Wilberforce, its name has nothing to do with the slave trade. It dates from the time when the premises was used by a tobacco merchant, the ‘black boy’ being the pipe smoking American Indian which was adopted as a symbol by that trade.
The building subsequently became a wine merchants and it’s that décor that remained when it ultimately became a pub. Today it is CAMRA’s only Heritage Pub in Hull and has fascinating images of the city over the years decorating its wood-lined walls.
150 High St, Kingston upon Hull, HU1 1PS (01482 215040, website)
Built sometime around 1800, the Whalebone is probably the city’s last remaining example of a true docker’s pub; it has traditionally been frequented by them and most of the current clientele seem to be former fishermen. The pub makes no excuses, takes no prisoners and stands as a monument to the drinking culture of the average working men of the city.
There are two house ales brewed on-site (Diana and Neck Oil, both 3.9% ABV) which sell for a quite incredible £1.60 a pint. You read that right – £1.60! Be warned, though, the Whalebone won’t be to everyone’s taste. Food is strictly (and proudly) restricted to crisps, nuts, scratchings and pickled eggs; there is no dedicated parking and while the pub was once situated in a busy riverside street, the surrounding blocks are now populated with relatively unattractive industrial units. But if you like art deco windows, no-nonsense banter, living history and very cheap beer you should seek The Whalebone out and find out what Hull is made of.
163 Wincolmlee, Hull HU2 0PA (01482 327980 www.paul-gibson.com/history/the-whalebone-inn)
Not strictly a pub (it’s more of a bar, really) but Pave was instrumental in shaping the drinking culture of Hull and so deserves an honourary mention. Before Pave there were very few (if any) independently owned and run pubs in the city but when it opened, on the then-unfashionable Princes Ave, it proved such a huge success that literally dozens of bars, pubs, restaurants and eateries sprang up on all over the Avenues area.
Thanks to Pave, the drinkers expected more, the chain pubs in the city dwindled, the scene became about local entrepreneurs creating the kind of places they wanted to drink in and, in the city centre, more adventurous pubs appeared in the stead of the old corporate dens. Quite a legacy for a one-room bar opened by a couple of local lads with more sense than money.
16 Princes Ave, Hull HU5 3QA (01482 333181, pavebar.co.uk)
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