I reckon it would have an impressive roadside boozer back in the day, when the road went past the front door. Nowadays the Vat and Fiddle is on a bit of a spur road to nowhere in particular, alongside a busy dual carriageway. It’s not far out of the city centre, but you feel a little out of it because there’s not much else around, apart from industrial type premises.
Don’t let this put you off, because although the pub is not a full blown thirties stunner it doesn’t do a bad job, blending the remnants of the Art Deco style into a sort of poor man’s Art Moderne. Or maybe it’s a provincial British take on the style, a little more organic than mechanical, just not quite streamlined enough. I wish I’d seen it in it’s hay day.
For the detail slaves, it was originally called The Grove and designed by local architects Starr and Hall, in 1938, which reinforces my thoughts on it’s inspiration?
Inside the main bar follows the overall theme with tiled walls still, in parts. And why does superficial modernisation always look immediately outdated and incongruous? If you half close your eyes you can imagine what it would have been like once. I know cost is always an issue, but if I had a 1930’s pub then I’d have 1930’s styled furniture.
It looked like they’d been quite busy when we rocked up, either that or they only wash up every couple of hours or so? Most of the people were outdoors. I thought the bench/tables at the front were much better than sitting in the brewery yard at the back, or stranded on the grass verge at the side.
The roadside trees provided some nice shade for pedestrians, on a day that easily reached 25°C, even though they made it difficult to capture the whole of the pub in one image.
As we sat enjoying ourselves, I compared it with the other Castle Rock pub we’d been in. Even though it was at the side of a main road, in the middle of an industrial area, and there was no canal, I was much happier sat here than at the Canalhouse , good as it was.
For a start the beer was sooooo much better. We tried Castle Rock Harvest Pale, Screech Owl, Preservation Red and Fools Gold. All were an easy NBSS 4,5 and like nectar.
I can see why Roger Protz is quoted as saying Harvest Pale is the best golden beer he’s ever tasted, well that’s what it says on a poster they’ve got hanging up. Anyway, I agree, it’s a very nice drink and as good or better as any similar brew. I could happily drink it all day, every day.
Preservation Red ale is exactly what it says, and very enjoyable, leaning towards being malty with a touch of hops balancing things out; excellent beer.
Screech Owl? Fine beer, a little stronger, but for an American style IPA (their billing) there just wasn’t enough Screech for me.
Prices varied between £2.80 and £3.50 for the six Castle Rock beers they had on with a 20p per pint equivalent discount on top of that for CAMRA members. You don’t even have to look and see if there’s a CAMRA discount in Nottingham, they’re all at it.
There were four guest cask beers on and a nice selection of excellent keg beers too, which is nice to see side by side with good cask ales.
I enjoyed sitting watching the world go by outside the Vat and Fiddle. Like the chaps on the next table, we were having a nice time until one by one they were replaced by an altogether more pikey set of drinkers. They obviously knew each other but the whole atmosphere gradually changed, and like the displaced drinkers, we also decided we’d had enough.
Shame really, I fancied another of their excellent beers in their excellent pub, but that’s life I suppose.