It is an almost impossible task for me to choose my favourite pub. The joy of the Great British pub is that (the great ones, at least) are unique and all have a different character, many developed over decades or centuries.
It would be most unwise (and too difficult!) for me to choose a favourite pub in my constituency, I am so lucky to have so many fine pubs locally to visit, a surprising number happily in walking and cycling distance.
So I have picked one of the many pubs I love that epitomises all that is great about pubs. I love town pubs, country pubs, city pubs and suburban pubs, as long as they are real, proper, pubs. For me, my absolute favourite though is probably the back street boozer, that thrill when you turn a a corner or walk down a sidestreet and come upon an unexpected mid-terrace local or corner pub. No pub I have been to epitomises this more than the glorious Golden Ball in York. In a city teeming with wonderful pubs (surely the greatest pub city in the land?) the Golden Ball is a pub, in a quiet residential terraced neighbourhood, that no tourist or day tripper would ever pass. It is a pub that devious planning consultants and their PR agencies would say is clearly not ‘viable’ especially with so many pubs in York as so many in the historic thronging city centre.
Yet the Golden Ball, still pubco owned but happily now run by the local community, is thriving with a positive atmosphere with folk of all ages enjoying this gem. There is something so clearly tangible about the sense of pride that there is from people on both sides of the bar. A backstreet community run pub in a city of hundreds of pubs, the Golden Ball has broken new found and has shown that there are some pubs in cities and towns as well as rural communities villages that are best run by a community.
The pub is wonderfully unspoilt yet equally timeless. The separate rooms and areas, so stupidly ripped out by so many shortsighted breweries and each room and area has a different character. It is a place where you could have a great night with friends spending the whole evening there; a place where half an hour with a pint and the newspaper is a joy; and a place to include on first rate pub crawls involving many of the wonderful pubs that side of town. They sell local free range eggs and handmade bread, they have bar billiards, community events and of course, a folk might and an open mic night so people can sing about this glorious celebration of community. The ale, of course includes local beer and is well kept and served.
This is a pub you can’t walk past without popping in, but that once you know it is there, you go out of your way to visit. How many pubs that have been lost, were like the Golden Ball, could now be like the Golden Ball, but are mere footnotes in local history, not able to bring the community together the way the Golden Ball does and will for years to come? Many could be and if people visit the Golden Ball in York and take inspiration from it, perhaps they will be. One day I hope that Enterprise will sell the freehold to the community, so that then the community that run it so superbly well an actually own their treasured asset.
Those who love pubs who haven’t been to the Golden Ball should plan a pub trip to York and ensure that the Golden Ball (and as many other of the city’s fine inns as possible) is on their route!