I don’t think I’ve blogged about a Sam Smith’s pub before. Not for any particular reason, there’s nothing wrong with their no frills, no nonsense, bargain basement priced, traditional sort of old fashioned boozer approach; my own local is a Smith’s house.
The Golden Ball is an excellent example of a really nice seaside pub, well so long as you turn right at the bottom of the steps into the ‘grown up’ part. There are three drinking areas, but the moon has more atmosphere than the family room. And if the ground floor bar is ever open then it’s nothing special, on my last few visits, a peep through the window showed it to be in use as a semi-permanent store room. Anyone familiar with Sam Smith’s decor will identify the two signs, which greet you at the foot of the stairs, as ‘official’ brewery contractor supplied, undoubtedly at the direction of Humphrey Smith.
The much maligned Herr Smith actually does get somethings spot on, and I like the ‘No Children’ approach. The main bar here doesn’t suit kids, and I don’t want them in there! Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and a place for kids, and I don’t mind some kids in some pubs, just not this one. If you do have children then I’d give the family room a miss, my own offspring disliked it intensely when they were little.
The Harbour bar is something to behold though, it’s first floor vantage gives it a nice view over the harbour and Scarbro’s splendid South bay. The traditional Sam’s woody finish, the elevated maritime position, and nautical memorabilia give it the feel of sitting in a Captain’s cabin at the stern of an old galleon moored to the quayside, waiting for the tide. Well … that’s what it’s always seems like to me. Having said that, I’ve never, ever, been in any class of sailor’s cabin, so I’m no authority.
I don’t need to elaborate on the beer do I? It’s a Sam Smith’s pub, so it’s all their own beer (pop, crisps, spirits, etc). Thankfully this gem of a boozer still has cask OBB on the bar. Something a lot of the breweries pubs no longer have. In Leeds it’s disappearing rapidly, the excuse given that they are short, owing to flood damage, on the wooden casks that Mr Smith, rightly, insists his only draught real ale is dispensed in. To my mind it’s a poor excuse, Tadcaster and the brewery yard was flooded in December 2015, and OBB didn’t start getting taken out of a lot of places until well after then; for pity’s sake, they’ve even rebuilt the bridge now!
For me, the Golden Ball will always be a daytime pub, and it’s South facing aspect ensures it is nearly always bathed in golden sunlight. I’m probably a bit biased here because in my mind, Scarbro’ will always be perpetually bathed in glorious sunshine, unless it’s foggy of course. Essentially the Golden Ball is a pint and a sit down after a walk on the front, a perambulation around the harbour or along the bracing Marine Drive. A prelude to a bag of the finest fish and chips, before the journey home. You just can’t sit there drinking all day, everyone needs a chance to experience it!
On a Friday afternoon, it’s nicely busy with a mix of locals and visitors. Paint smattered overalls sat next to pensioners all regatta’d up in the modern day equivalent of the pack-a-mack. The window seats, and the pleasant vista, are at a premium, with those in the cheaper seats nervously eyeing who’s going to sup up and go next. We were quick enough to get a window seat at the second time of asking, but I nearly got trampled in the rush to claim it as we left.
The OBB was on good form, and looking at the bar top they had nearly every Sam’s draught product on, apart from the IPA and the wheat beer. I’ve only ever seen the wheat beer on draught in London, and it isn’t worth going all that way for; a bit like the 2.8% mild and lager. Despite deriding Sam’s, I reckon at some stage in the future Humphrey Smith will be seen as a philanthropist; cheap beer for ordinary folk in reasonable surroundings, whilst protecting his multi million pound dynasty. Yeah, I know that not all Sam’s pubs are as nice as this one, but he doesn’t close many down does he? (Quiz – How many pubs have Sam’s closed down in the last 20 years?)
Verdict; Go to Scarbro’, have a walk along the front, and a pint of OBB in the Harbour bar at The Golden ball where they are definitely achieving the 5% surplus on the Lager!