The Olde England is sort of an upside down, downside up, not a pub, but like a pub sort of place, but I liked it. So much so, I revisited it at the end of the official Northampton pub crawl, when we ventured back up Kettering road in search of something to eat.
I’d describe the locality as similar to Harehills in Leeds, all run down and a bit multicultural, hence the revisit for something to eat. I found it too in the form of Royal Sweets/Butts Savouries who served up some of the best homestyle Pakistani cooking I’ve had in a long while (lovers of thick creamy, rich sauces need not apply); Mutton curry, Chicken curry and Spinach & Potato with rice for £16.50 and more than sufficient for two. It’s not a restaurant, but they have a few tables. Everything is spotless and the two guys were brilliant. Highly recommended.
Getting back to the pub, there’s a tiny bar upstairs where you get served through a small hatch in something not much bigger than a confessional. The lovely Sam then disappears through some of those plastic flaps into the cellar/storeroom, reappearing shortly after with very excellent quality beer.
Sam recognised my accent as she’d lived in Ponty Carlo for a while and kindly gave us a tour of the establishment. To my surprise, the cupboard of a bar was stocked entirely with Pins of ale. Quite logical actually because a) they all needed carrying up the stairs and b) you can turn over 36 pints very quickly.
All the beer in the upstairs bar was served straight from the cask, as was the real cider. The little cellar was nicely chilly on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year, until the day after!
I think they had twelve different cask ales on altogether, plus a decent array of ciders, including several Olde England beers. Sam told me the pub was owned by Paul and Alyson Hepworth who converted the building into a pub about 4 years ago. They also run a brewery and have another pub in town, The Black Prince.
Interestingly the CAMRA discount only ran to 10% off the house ales, except on Mondays when it was 20% off everything. Retrospectively, I looked at how many of Northampton’s Good Beer Guide (GBG) pubs offered a CAMRA discount? The answer being 60%. That begs the question of whether you can buy your way into the GBG?
Over the Barrel the Northamptonshire CAMRA branch magazine lists twenty pubs within Northampton town centre offering CAMRA discounts. I thought that was a staggering amount for what is only a medium sized sort of a place. So, maybe the answer is, you can’t buy yourself into the GBG, but when everyone else is trying you have to have a go yourself?
Anyway, back to the beer £4.95 for a pint of Hopback Summer Lightning (£3.50/pint) and half of J. Church Gold Testament (£2.90/pint). The GBG tells me that the pub is one of only four outlets for both breweries. We could have had one of four Olde England beers, two from Digfield Ales, Hydes Lowry, a Hopback Stout, Phipps Bison or Pot Belly Crazy Daze.
Both beers were excellent and an easy NBSS 4. Other connoisseurs in the party were less impressed with their beer, particularly the flat, gravity pour, something that caused the southern contingent to make that, ‘don’t be silly’ face. Personally I don’t mind beer served like this, I wouldn’t have gone back for more otherwise, and anyway Summer Lightning was never meant to be pulled through a sparkler was it? Which was one reason I chose it, that and because I like it, and you never see it hardly up here.
At first I thought we were firmly in micro pub territory as there was only a single multi sex WC on the first floor. Sam then opened up the downstairs, cellar bar, to show us. Apparently it’s haunted and people have actually seen a cask of ale physically move on CCTV recordings, even though the pub was locked up. So, on the evidence of two pubs visited, perhaps you have to offer CAMRA discount and have a ghost to get in GBG in Northampton?
It didn’t feel haunted, but like any other cellar with no windows had that faint musty tang, not that it distracted in anyway. The undercroft was more like a proper pub with a bar and hand pulled ales, from the usual Firkins as opposed to the Pins upstairs. They have proper toilets downstairs too. The lounge area was quite impressive with it’s panelled walls and collection of original prints around the wall. If you are old enough to remember the quality educational prints that adorned the walls of so many schools, you’ll know what I mean.
The downstairs bar remains closed during the day, it was in full swing when we returned later in the evening, so we went back up to the large and comfortable lounge area on the first floor where there was a kitchen, but no sign of a menu or any food preparation?
Hard to describe the decor, not far off The Grove in Huddersfield, with ‘Barry’ the Boar hanging over the fireplace and Knights in armour stood to attention. I guess the ‘Gothic’ arch in the front door gives a little away. There was some interesting original artwork around the walls and some stout tables, around which the talk had turned to cats.
I’ve nothing against cats, apart from the fact I’m allergic to them and everyone else’s crap in my garden. On the other hand Pubcurmudgeon is quite partial to our feline friends and looked quite shocked when we started to put together our own version of 101 ways to get rid of cats.
All too soon it was time to move on, which was a disappointment in some ways because I could have stayed there all afternoon in the quirky, upside down, inside out pub with the excellent beer.