Friday, 20 November 2015

Unpaid Review: The Coronation, Derby (Steamin’ Billy Pubs)

Bit of an odd one this, I only usually do restaurant reviews. You know, because that’s the sort of place you actually might visit if you found yourself in the area.

Not that I’m saying you wouldn’t…

Well, isn’t this going well? I’ll start again.

A little under 50 years ago, there was, unto the small hamlet of Crewton, in Derbyshire, born a saviour… A saviour of grammar, good breeding, pronunciation and forensic etymology.  Namely me – And just around the corner was a pub, and it was called the Coronation (it’d been built in 1953 y’see), and it wasn’t a hugely nice place at all.

Don’t get me wrong, the lounge was OK in a ‘stuck in the 1950s/yellowing paintwork/smelled a bit fusty’ kinda style.  But you wouldn’t go in the bar without being dressed like James Caan from Rollerball (The original one, from 1975, not the awful bloody remake with Chris Klein – Although, thinking about it that one did have Rebecca Romjin in it… Yeah, OK, watch them both – But for different reasons)

Upon my coming of age in the mid-80s, or slightly before, truth be told *cough* I often went there with my Dad (when he was still alive – He’s nowhere near as vocal since he died, unlike my Mother) and we’d sit in the lounge and nurse a couple of pints for the evening. And later, when my Brother visited from his hollowed out volcano lair in the Mediterranean, we’d do the same.  Although we’d drink more quickly because he was richer and could afford to buy more beer more often and have the occasional go on the tote.  But still, we’d never go in the bar, for that way madness lay.

Over time, the pub went a bit further downhill, it was mismanaged by a succession of half-baked tenants and landlords – this, along with a generally unsavoury reputation, culminated in the pub closing its doors.

The pub was due to be sold to a developer so that it could be knocked down and about 70 tiny houses built on the half-acre site. But luckily they got cold feet, or they woke up with a Staffordshire bull terrier’s head in their bed or something similar. Because the jolly types at Steamin’ Billy managed to get hold of it and turn it back into their latest real pub.

It's significantly better on the inside, honestly.

It only opened a week ago (05/11/15 if you’re reading this in the future – Which is likely, as that’s when I’m writing it) and it’s not really fair for me to give it a full ‘Dandy’ style review as the staff and their support team are still ironing out all the kinks and suchlike.  But as you know from past experience, ‘fair’ is one of those things that I don’t often do… Along with favours, chick-sexing and teaching pigs to whistle showtunes.

So here’s an interim report - a story so far, if you will.

The pub is literally five minutes’ walk from Dandy Towers, so Heckmondswyke didn’t need to unmothball the Dandymobile – I gave him the rest of the evening off, he has just taken up the gentle art of steam-ironing badgers you see and I understand that he used his downtime to practice folding them so that they’d fit nicely in his album with a minimum of kerfuffle.

On their opening night Mrs Dandy and myself sauntered down Baker Street, where the establishment is located, fireworks bursting overhead and Gerry Rafferty’s oeuvre spinning around in our heads.  Upon entering, we gravitated towards the lounge – as was traditional at the time.  I had a pint of real ale that may, or may not have had a cartoon of Oliver Reed on the handpump and Mrs Dandy contented herself with a half-pint of fruit beer (She’d developed a taste for fruit based alcohol during the week we spent trekking back to civilisation in the Andes after our Heinkel ditched whilst we were supposedly ‘Nazi-Hunting’ in Bolivia).  The place was everything you could expect from what we assumed to be a normal ‘estate’ pub – There was music, just at the right volume, and the banquettes were upholstered in a wonderfully gaudy striped material which I would have no compunction about having a pair of curtains, galoshes or indeed a dinner jacket made from.  There was a selection of memorabilia affixed to the walls as is so often the case in the modern victualing environment, including hunting equipment and the occasional stag’s head – Which may put off the pale hemp-wearers a little, not that that’s any bad thing as there are plenty of places that welcome that kind of tomfoolery with open arms.

The staff were all exemplary, friendly, knowledgeable and attractive. Chris, the Landlord is a hale fellow, hearty of forearm and ruddy of cheek.  He made us feel welcome, commented personably on our refreshment choices and as the younger generation may still say ‘Ticked all the boxes’ as one would find in the 2010 Mein Host examination paper. He is also the older brother of Bill, the chap who runs the Brewery that runs the pub. This positively ourobourosian prospect means that there’s a real chance that any suggestions about general services and improvements are a mere whisper away from the heart of the decision making process – Which can never be a bad thing in my experience.

We have visited The Coronation of a number of occasions over the past week and have found ourselves favouring the bar area – The main reason for this is that it is also the food area and has, at its centre, a brand-new (as you would probably expect after a complete renovation) £20,000 pizza oven.  This produces some very splendid thin-crust pizzas (using bought-in dough by the taste of it, but as I mentioned, they’ve only been open a week) which all have a royal theme.  Sadly I don’t believe there was one called ‘The Prince Albert’ that comes with a complementary piercing… But that’s idea for the future perhaps?  Both the bar and, when it is completed I assume, the beer garden are both animal and child friendly - behaviour notwithstanding (up to 7:30ish in the evening, completely at the landlord’s discretion – and he strikes me as stern but fair) and there are tales of a non-smokers shelter outside with a wood-burning stove that has yet to see the light of day.  During my visit on Tuesday afternoon I was treated to the sight of a gentleman climbing on a roof in the rain, with an electric screwdriver – So I’d assume work is going on at a fair old pace.

On the whole, it’s a great place. The Memsahib and I have adopted it as our local and we will be attending as often as our currently limited funding sources allow (Buy my books, it will mean that I can go to the pub more often).  There is a poster (Well, an upturned wooden box affixed to the wall) that promises a steak night, a pie night and a quiz night (Sundays from 8:00pm) amongst other things and no doubt these boundless hedonistic pleasures may well be the subject of many future blogs.

You could do a lot worse than spending your free time at The Coronation.  The staff are friendly (one of them even lent me 5p, which I should really pay back at some stage), the beer is excellent and the pizzas are flat with cheese and other things on top.

Oh! – Just realised that we’ve been all pros and no cons… My only reservation is that it’s not cheap, you’d be well advised to budget for your pint of beer to cost you somewhere between £3 & £4 – But this is really to be expected for the amount that has been, and probably will be, invested in the pub in the near future.  It’s still less than a tenth of what a china cup of my exclusive weasel tea would cost if you visited me at home. Actually, a couple of the re-purposed scaffolding board tables could do with a bit more sanding too if I'm being totally honest.

The Coronation
Baker St, 
Derby DE24 8SL
Tel: 01332 913140

Facebook: The Coronation
Twitter: Steamin' Billy

Monday, 16 November 2015

Your knee must be aching by now surely?

Firstly, I’d like to get the whole Paris thing out of the way.  What happened over the weekend of 14-15/11/2015 was an abomination. Nothing more.  The people who were directly involved and those animals who convinced them to blow themselves up or shoot innocent civilians need executing… No more, no less.  The 130 or so victims and their friends and family have my condolences, without reservation, not that it means much in the grand scheme of things. The dead will still be dead and the living will still be scared.

If you’re holding an event, or a silence, or if you’ve changed your Facebook picture to feature the Tricolore then it’s brilliant, especially if it makes you feel better about the situation or yourself… It’s great… You should totally do it – You probably shouldn’t do it if you’ve felt in any way pressured to do it, or you’re only doing it if everyone else is doing it and you’re worried about what people will think of you (See wearing a poppy).  But hey, that’s just my opinion and what do I know when it comes down to it? I’m just a fat, bald bloke who goes on about his unimportant thoughts.

What I’ve been thinking about recently are the other terrible things that have happened recently that no-one seems to give a toss about.  

You’d have had to have searched the news pretty hard to find out about the mass grave that’s just been found in Sinjar in Iraq, where the bodies of 70 or so elderly Yazidi women were found… Executed for the crime of being too old to be sold as sex-slaves by ISIS (or Daesh as people would have us call them this week – I wish these terrorist organisation would pick a name and stick with it… Islamic State, ISIS, ISIL… I can’t keep up) I’ve only seen one person who’s – very bravely in my opinion, changed their Facebook profile pic to the Iraqi flag to show solidarity with them. 

As it happens, I’ve seen a couple of Lebanese flags too.  What? You hadn’t heard that anything had happened in Lebanon? Now you’re wondering if you even know where Lebanon is. Well, does it help if I tell you that their capital city is Beirut?  People of a certain age may well have used the phrase ‘It looked like bloody Beirut.’ to imply that a place was messy… As if a bomb had gone off possibly, at one time or another.  Very popular in the 70’s were phrases like that – I’ve used it myself on occasion. Just before the weekend there was an ISIS twin bomb-attack on the Burj al-Barajneh district of downtown Beirut.  Admittedly, it only killed 40-odd people, but it did injure another 240, so that got the numbers up nicely – Should really have been worthy of some column inches somewhere other than in The Guardian don’t you think?

Then there was that nastiness with the Russian plane flying out of Egypt… You’ll have seen that on the news surely? But did anyone change their Profile picture for that? Although I’ll freely admit that I probably wouldn’t recognise a Russian flag if someone wrapped me in one and put a stitch through my lip – Back in my day it was a big, red affair with the hammer and sickle on it, but I gather it has stripes and everything now, it’s very post-modern – But I’m sure I would have remembered a minute’s silence for the 224 people who were blown to pieces by ISIS there.

Why France but not Lebanon or Iraq? It probably wasn’t because they were ‘only’ Arabs or some made-up Zoroastrian type religion that they don’t cover in British RE lessons.  Might it be because they were Middle-Eastern ‘Stone age’ type people who live in the dust and have livestock roaming about the place and read squiggly lines rather than good, honest western-type letters?  The world’s not really going to miss people like that are they?  It’d save us a fortune in aid if they all just kept blowing each other up wouldn’t it?

And the Russians? Is that just because they’re Bond Villains? They’re not men, women and children who were just flying home, moaning about having to go back to work in the office on Monday, or excitedly talking about the time that little Ludmilla trod on that sandcastle that her brother had taken an hour to make and he cried then tried to punch her.

And don’t get me started on Israel Vs Palestine – I’m really not sure whose side we’re supposed to be on at the minute – Is it the one that we sell guns to, or is it the ones who were flinging their sandals in the air and cheering on Sept 11th? – I can’t keep up with that either.

What really gets me is the reaction from all the British people who have the perfect answer to it all.  Whether it be killing all the ‘Muslins’, Daubing Nazi symbols on Bangladeshi shops or bombing ISIS back to the stone age.


There’s two problems with that last one:

  1. They’re pretty much already in the stone age (see above)
  2. They look exactly like the plucky indigenous people that we’re trying to defend… You know, the people who are running away from it all, helping us out by trying not to die so that we don’t have to feel guilty about them.  When questioned, they will often reply “ISIS? No, not me squire, I’m a pomegranate salesman.”

We’re 100% at war, we’re at war with an armed group who have no issue with killing innocents (because they don’t really see anyone other than themselves as innocents).  But we’re not at war with a country.  If we were, we could just turn Syria or Afghanistan into car-parks in short order.  We have the technology.  We could do it from space probably, just to be sure.

We’re not even at war with a religion.  If we were, we’d be quite within our rights to have a crusade or at least a nice cuddly pogrom… We could put everyone who stops work every ten minutes and ululates towards Mecca to the sword and have done with it.

But we’re at war with an idea… A way of interpreting words in a book.  Can you kill an idea with bombs? You can kill the people who have that idea with bombs certainly.  But you have to find and kill every single person who has that idea.  And the people who’ve ever heard the idea – In case they ever decide that it’s a good idea.  Then you’d also need to kill the children of the people who’ve ever heard the idea – Because they’ll be bound to wonder why you killed their parents and they might get a bit shirty about it in the future and no-one wants that do they?  Not the whole thing starting all over again.

Do they? Powerful things these ideas, aren't they?