In the 1800s, the Highbury Vaults served prisoners their last meal before they were hung at the top of Saint Michaels Hill. Don’t let this thought hang around your neck as it’s now a real ale haven with a traditional appearance, a good garden and a cracking location for thirsty students on the way back to Redlands from a long hard, honest day’s work.
With an ever-changing selection of unique local beers, the Vaults specialize in providing a wide variety of excellent pints ranging from stouts to golden ales. The four consistently tasty guest beers are rotated every few days and lend themselves towards the bartender’s preference of darker ales.
Drink: 7 Atmosphere: 7 Food: 5 House Ale: £3.80
Arriving at four o’clock, we boldly announced to the barman that we were about to engage in an in-depth critique of the pub and it’s ales, in the hope of warranting free pints for the afternoon. Alas this dream was not to be realized, but the barman, clearly an ale connoisseur, was more than happy to divulge his extensive knowledge. The pub has long standing repartee with its local brewers, which allow for such frequent rotations of high quality guest beers. As we sat in the beer garden, nursing pint one, we enjoyed the calm before the storm of the inevitable Friday night revellers.
The four house ales lie around the price of £3.80.
Customer favourite: Tribute- light, hoppy, zesty ale.
Bath Gem- Bristol-wide favourite, best bitter, smells like hops, long, deep, bittersweet finish
Youngs London Gold- light, golden, full-flavoured ale with a refreshing bite
Youngs Bitter - refreshing golden ale, light, dry palate. Fresh, fruity aroma and a long, satisfying bitter finish.
All in all, a vintage back four of beer, and we saw it as our duty to try them all.
The cosy ambience of the pub is created by a weathered, wooden interior covered with a homely collage of photos and memories that look like they could tell a story or two of other revellers treading the same humble path. Inviting corners and nooks can be seen filled with drinkers huddled in deep discussion, and it is not uncommon to find the Philosophy department, students and lecturers, taking a mid-afternoon break from Cotham House to do some very hard thinking. When the sun sets, the spacious well heated beer garden comes to life with a mix of society’s eclectic members.
As our refreshments slipped down quickly, we re-joined the ever-growing throng of customers queuing for a drink. Pint number two was equally smooth, slipping down faster than Stephen Gerrard’s hopes of winning a Premier League title. By pint number three we were feeling peckish and turned to the Vault’s food on offer. Unfortunately the closed kitchen meant we could not try the quintessential pub food, which ranges from chilli con carne to beef and ale pie, but the barman offered us a ready-made option known as ‘Meal in a bag’, although explicitly he advised us not to take it. We should have listened. A month old pickled egg in a packet of crisps, with a wide variety of flavours mind, left much to be desired. Fortunately we still had pint number three to wash most of it down with.
Pint number four lubriciously steered the conversation from our prowess in pulling pints to the contentious role of technology in over 50s dating- we are both single, ladies, and most definitely under 50. Having strayed so far off the topic of pub reviewing we decided to leave the now vibrant pub after a very pleasant afternoon. And so, without further gilding the lily, we advise that The Highbury Vaults can most be a likened to a pint of Bath Gem: once you’ve got a taste for it, it swiftly becomes your usual.