They should change the name to The First and Last pub because there were two visits to The Great Western on our tickers day out to Wolverhampton. Maybe there are some better boozers in Wolverhampton? If there were, I’m sure the esteemed company would have taken me. So it’s the best pub in Wolverhampton for me at this minute in time. And well up there in my own best ever pubs list. Obviously it’s GBG listed.
I think I had Google maps set to ‘driving’ mode when I walked up there and I got took the long way to the opposite end of Sun Street. Shame, because the approach under the gloomy arch that runs under the station is evocative of days gone by, almost a ‘Goodnight Sweetheart’ style time warp from now to somewhere a bit better.
Walking up the street, I could see the smoke from the fires, swirling out of the chimney of the main building and the stove pipe of the conservatory style extension at the rear. It’s hard to say exactly how many rooms there are in the pub? There’s the main bar which is obviously in the original building, a smaller room to the right of the bar, a sort of corridor bar area and then a long extension that runs into the conservatory at the back.
There’s a nice bit of original looking floor tiling in the main bar and wherever you go the theme is railwayana, even the bar has a station style canopy above it and there’s loads of interesting stuff dotted around. Fitting really when the mainline is only about 25m above you.
At 11.30am the clientele was a few old lads and us, that’s a few old lads then. My first choice was their own Holden’s Best (3.9%), cheap at £2.70 a pint, a decent glass of beer, proper stuff too. I rated it as over NBSS 3.5, and getting towards 4.
When I returned later I went for the stronger Black Country Special (5.1%), similar quality but, to my taste, so much nicer. A real premium English Bitter, is that an IPA these days? Whatever the difference, it had that traditional brassy taste and it was so good that, even after a day wandering around Wolverhampton, I had to have another one. I would have had another after that too, but everyone had gone home by then.
I could have had one of eight cask beers on offer, the others were, Thornbridge Hubble, Castle Rock Screech Owl, Holden’s Black Country Mild and Glow, Kelham Island Pale Rider, which is always tempting or Bathams Best Bitter, which prompted a discussion of why is it Bay – thums and not Bath – ems? The Northern contingent tending towards the latter pronunciation (remember folks, there’s no ‘r’ in Bath) yet acquiescing to the local version as being correct, despite it all feeling a bit Hyacinth Bucket.
It’s worth mentioning the food at this place. Actually the Hot Pork Baps at £2.50 a pop. And I can’t mention those without saying Paul Mudge in the same breath because he had four of them by my reckoning! Mind you I had two myself and beautiful they were, proper soft fluffy bread cakes and falling apart pork shoulder with a touch of gravy and stuffing. Proper pub food, I think Paul said and he would be exactly right.
If you’re not familiar with Paul, he’s a regular erudite contributor to What’s Brewing, CAMRA Discourse and other places like that. I’ve had the pleasure to meet him a couple of times now. And what a gentleman, such a lovely bloke, who’s forgotten more about beer and pubs than I’ll ever know.
I’ve always prided my self on being diverse and inclusive. Sadly, I still can’t help smirking whenever I see ‘Faggot and chips’ on the menu, something you don’t ever see in GOC, but at £6.95 it was decent value, a theme repeated across Wolverhampton. And it was all home made …
In the evening the pub was a bit busier and the clientele a bit more variegated, but the majority of folk were still drinking cask beers which is good to see. On both visits everyone was extremely friendly, staff and customers alike acknowledging us and bidding us goodbye. Again, another theme from my day in Wolverhampton.
One tip I picked up was not to go on match days, unless you want to stand three deep at the bar, as it gets very busy. It might get even busier next season because I can’t see Wolves slipping at the death.
The Great Western website proclaims it to be ‘the jewel in Holden’s crown’. You just can’t argue with that.