The assemblage Pub Guide


In this issue, our Pub Guide gives you two options, depending on which side of the world you're travelling to. For those of you heading for the cold and wet of north-eastern England, we have a guide to Durham. For those of you visiting a slightly warmer and sunnier part of the world, we have a short guide to Melbourne.




Durham: a UK University Town.

Durham is a small city, but still manages to boast a wide selection of different pub types. Most tastes are catered for and the size of the place means you can easily stagger from a pub at one end of town to a pub at the other in about ten minutes (fifteen if you've had more than a few). Here follows a selection of the assemblage team's recommendations:

University bars: an orientation.

Durham is a collegiate University and every college has its own bar, so you have a choice of 12, not including the Student Union bar. The college bars are generally rather nice and quaint, but are obviously deserted apart from conference-goers outside termtime and are full of young 'uns engaging in drinking competitions during it. Never mind, the hardy tourist who perseveres will enjoy the sights and sounds of college idiosyncrasies.

The colleges are split into two locations: the hill colleges are all out of the town centre, up beyond the science site. They are the more modern colleges, with '60s architecture and more roomy bars. If you find yourself in 'the hill', then most bars are much of a muchness: Van Mildert has the most bizarre glass decor and a pond; Trev's is octagonal so you'll know when you're in there; Grey is done out like a traditional pub and probably the nicest of the hill bars, but let's hope their rugby team has calmed down a bit since the last time I was there; St Mary's is a Beatnik cellar; and Aidan's is just too far to contemplate visiting.

The other group of colleges is the Bailey group, all located along the Bailey which surrounds the Cathedral and Castle. Included in this group is Castle college itself, and their bar is wonderful: a Norman undercroft down in the bowels of the ancient castle. Unfortunately, there is a lack of seats, but it's worth a visit. Also along the Bailey are John's, Chad's and Cuth's, for which you will need a resident student in your party to gain entry to. Cuth's in particular was famed for it's 70p-a-pint policy in the past, but a recent spate of alcohol-induced accidents has led to the prices being raised in the name of responsibility. The other Bailey college is Hatfield, home of the 'rugger bugger' and always packed, but their toasties are great. Lastly, not on the Bailey but out on its own on the river, is Hild-Bede, the largest college. Always in competition with Hatfield for lewdness points, their 'Diced Carrots Chundering Club' hit the headlines a few years ago and they're still very proud of it. Theirs is a large, airport-lounge type bar with a very ferocious professional bar manager.

In general, the college bars are pleasant and intimate, but you really need to be with someone who is at Durham University, or has been, to find your way around them. The beer is usually decent and very cheap, cheaper than the bar in the Student Union building (Dunelm) which is called the Kingsgate Bar. Prices there are still cheaper than in most other student unions -- the Northeast is a very cheap place to drink in general -- and they have lots of pool tables. All university drinking holes are shut until at least 6pm, and some (such as John's and Chad's) close at 10pm.

Flat-cap-and-whippet.

For an Olde Worlde quiet pint with a clientele of long-established regulars, the Half Moon on the corner of New Elvet and Old Elvet Bridge is a favourite. It's a Bass pub with a wide range of ales and it's not normally so busy that you can't find a quiet corner (except on Friday nights, when young local pub-goers queue out the door). Its only nod towards catering is a cabinet full of cheese sandwiches which you can have toasted. The atmosphere is friendly, relaxed and earthy, completely without theme or pretension.

A similar atmosphere, in a pub of slightly more cult status, can be found at the Dun Cow (named after the famous cow which decreed the siting of Durham itself) on Old Elvet. It's very small, so pay attention when looking for it. Again, it's an old-fashioned, smoky, cosy sort of place, boasting a champion selection of beers, but also the worst toilet facilities I have ever seen. If this doesn't put you off (and I hope it doesn't, because it's a lovely pub), you may wish to attempt the famous Dun Cow Challenge. This involves drinking a pint of every ale, in the order they are set along the pumps, in two hours (no vomiting, no eating). There are about twelve beers to get through but it's the combination that kills you - Guinness follows cider which follows bitter and so on. You may opt for the Dun Calf (halves) or the Dun Bull (all the way down the bar and then back again) to vary things. Please note: if there is someone else doing the challenge, especially if they look like a rugby team of some sort, you are in for a gaudy night.

There are two unspoilt, Rovers Return style pubs with pool tables, but sadly both are a bit out of town: the Woodman's on Claypath and the Queen's Head on Gilesgate (which does Durham's best pint of Scotch -- a dark, crisp beer found only in the Northeast) are about five and ten minutes walk from the town centre respectively. Hild-Bede college and several bed and breakfast hotels lie between them and they're both worth a visit if you're staying in the vicinity. The Woodman's does pizzas and hot bacon sandwiches all day, but the Queen's Head only serves food -- traditional plates of pub fare -- at lunchtime.

Theme Pubs.

Several Durham pubs have recently been revamped, from flat-cap types to theme pubs. The best of these is the Market Tavern in St Nicholas' Square (the main town square). It's been done out in old-wood decor but its theme is that of a real ale pub. There are always at least a dozen guest beers of all sorts, that can be served by the pint or by the jug. Despite its pseudo-ancient styling this place is a must for real ale fans. During the week the atmosphere is quiet, but at weekends there are groups of students there during the day and crowds of local lads at night. They also do decent hot pies which slip down rather well with a pint of cloudy scrumpy.

The New Inn on South Road, opposite the science site and the main library in Durham, has very recently been refurbished, with the obvious intention of appealing to undergrads and hence make a fortune. I haven't been in there since it was done, but apparently it's a bit trendy and very studenty. There's also a new Scruffy Murphy's next door to the Half Moon on New Elvet. Haven't been in there either, but I'm sure it's the same as all the others. On the Bailey there's a Firkin pub with the usual wooden floors and nostalgic memorabilia stuck on the walls. It has a cellar bar underneath where neon lighting and thumping dance music is the order of the day.

Fine food.

There is only one pub in Durham for budgeting gastronomes and that's the Court Inn on Court Crescent. The food is legendary, although unfortunately in recent years the management seem to have realised this and have put the prices up rather steeply. The VIP sandwiches are the best buy, although even these have gone from 1.75 (about three years ago) to 4.25. It's still reasonable value though -- for that you get chicken, bacon and Brie grilled between eggy-bread slices, handcut chips, salad, coleslaw, fried mushrooms and onion rings. There are vegetarian versions available too and nifty bar snacks like bowls of chips with red-wine-and-peppercorn sauce (the sort usually served with steaks, which you can also get). The beer is fine, neither exceptional nor poor, but the Court isn't really much of a drinking pub -- it definitely has more of a restaurant atmosphere. It gets ridiculously crowded at mealtimes, especially during termtime, so get there early! Oh and another thing, they don't serve Scotch either -- the only pub in Durham to omit this delicacy as far as I know.

Pubs in the Town Centre.

There is a high amount of tension between students and townspeople in Durham, which normally doesn't cause a problem, but which means that it is wise to avoid the town centre on Friday and Saturday nights. Townie (i.e. non-student friendly) pubs are concentrated near the bus station and the cinema, the opposite end of town to the Bailey, Student Union and Elvet. The main ones are the Fighting Cocks and the Coach and Eight, both on the end of Milburngate Bridge. Both are fine during the day and midweek, but are very crowded and prone to punch-ups on weekends.

So now you know where to head for the sort of evening you have in mind. If drinking in one of our recommended establishments, please mention us -- with any luck the assemblage crew will get a free drink next time we're in!

Happy drinking!

Jennie Hawcroft 1997

Back to top





The Very Short and Incomplete Pub Guide to Melbourne, Australia


Melbourne is the second largest city in Australia and the capital city of the state of Victoria. It is a very multi-cultural city, with immigrants from virtually every country in the world settling there over the past 150 years. This has resulted in Melbourne being blessed with a very diverse range of restaurants, pubs, bars, clubs and a casino that can cater for virtually all drinking and culinary tastes imaginable. The following list isn't anything like a comprehensive guide to pubs in Melbourne, or a guide to pubs that archaeologists in Melbourne frequent. There are many more excellent pubs that I haven't listed here, especially in central Melbourne and the inner suburbs of St. Kilda and Richmond; the ones listed here are just a few of my favourites.

Notting Hill Hotel (Corner of Ferntree Gully Rd and Forster Rd, Clayton).

The closest pub to Monash University, which ensures that on certain nights it will be heavily populated by students (possibly also a good reason to avoid it). The beer is cheap, as is the food, which generally comes in very generous portions. The beer is sometimes even cheaper during the various Happy Hours that are run during the week.

Canada Hotel (Swanston Street, Carlton).

If you happen to be visiting the University of Melbourne, the Canada Hotel is quite a good option. On most Wednesday nights you will generally find a few Rovers (18-26 year old members of the Scout Association) who have just attended the various meetings held at Branch Headquarters around the corner.

The Mountain View (Corner of High St Rd and Springvale Road, Glen Waverley).

After the recent renovations and extensions, this has become one of the best pubs in the south-eastern suburbs. With live bands, pool tables and arcade simulation machines, it is probably not the place to go for a quiet night out. Sunday nights are especially popular, with reasonably priced drinks and bands playing until late. If you happen to get the munchies there is a McDonalds across the road and a local pizza shop has been known to deliver to the car park (after some quick talking on a mobile phone).

The Burvale (Corner of Burwood Highway and Springvale Rd, Nunawading).

The closest pub to Ramsey Street (Pinoak Court), where the outdoor scenes for Neighbours are filmed (if anyone actually cares!). Definitely not a classy establishment, but if skin-tight stretch jeans and moccasins are what you fancy, then this is the place to go. You are guaranteed to hear some Cold Chisel, AC/DC and various other hard rock bands on the jukebox. If you're lucky, a cover band will play the same songs that you can normally hear on the jukebox.

Later in the evening, if you get bored, you can always pay a visit to Ramsey Street. Don't expect a close-up view though, as the security guard posted there to prevent the removal of garden ornaments, letterboxes, etc. that have fallen victim to numerous nocturnal visits in the past is not very receptive to visitors in the hours just after the pubs close. [So I'm told.....- Ed.]

Young and Jacksons (1 Swanston St, Melbourne).

Probably the best known pub in Melbourne, it is home to the famous nude painting of Chloe. The pub caters for everyone from people hosting business lunches in the restaurant upstairs to winos trying to buy cheap flagons of sherry from the Bottle Shop (Off-Licence) downstairs. A few drinks in the downstairs Public Bar is something that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.

Charles Stretton reflected upon his first visit to Young and Jacksons in Melbourne in a diary entry of 1862:

I heard more oaths on that first day that I entered Melbourne than I had heard in my whole course of my life.

Certain things have not changed much since Charles Stretton's day in certain pubs in Melbourne. However, if you have the time to look around, I am sure that you will find a pub that suits your sensibilities and drinking requirements.


© Mark Eccleston 1997



animated mail
Go on, e-mail assemblage today!




© assemblage 1997