It’s “the oldest inn in England.” Archeological evidence supports the claim; at least in as far as Nottingham Castle’s Brewhouse was on the site, nestled close beneath the Castle Rock and connected to the bastion via labyrinthine tunnels, from around 1189 AD.
In days of old, weary pilgrims and crusading English gentleman would take their ease and get blasted at this inn before going on their way to give the Saracens a thrashing in the Holy Land. Records show that Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem was indeed once named The Pilgrim.
Either way, it’s a Nottingham institution. World famous, often visited and now sanitized to the point of having none of the shabby charm that once endeared it to drinkers from far and wide.
In the mid-1990s, many an extended liquid lunch was enjoyed in the snug room, or sun-bathed courtyard. From what I remember, my 17th birthday was celebrated (and ended with a close encounter with cool, white porcelain) at The Trip.
In those days, it remained a favourite haunt of leather clad, hairy bikers – their metallic steeds crowding outside – and all manner of snaggle-toothed alternative types garbed in whatever ethnic tat was in vogue at the time.
The interior was worn and cozy, frayed around the edges. The cursed galleon suspended from the Ward Room’s cave-like ceiling was shrouded in centuries’ worth of cobwebs and dust; none dared touch the lofty vessel. The wooden beams and walls around the bar were plastered with fading currency, the bank notes left as mementos to the ghosts of drinkers past by travellers from all corners of the globe. Even the tidiest of its rooms was decorated with a plethora of black and white photos, signed by visiting stars and robber barons.
Sadly, The Trip is now bereft of bikers, goths, hippies and even right on real ale types these days. The currency, once scrubbed away, is returning. But even that is now an orderly return, plastic coated so as to provide a wipe-clean surface. The galleon’s curse must have been broken; its dusty shroud is gone.
What remains? Some lagers, resident ales – Olde Trip, Greene King IPA, Old Speckled Hen, Abbot Ale and Extra Pale Ale – as well as the usual tawdry collection of alcopops. The menu looks well enough, but despite the range of bar food favourites and hearty seasonal fare turned out to be mediocre.
My dining partners’ Beef and Abbot Ale Pie was tasty inside, although the pastry lid was both dry and bland. The chive mash, braised red cabbage and gravy by which it was accompanied did little to make amends. My pie was much the same. Perhaps it was venison, I don't remember, swimming in a rich gravy sauce laced with carrots. Again, despite tasting okay, something was missing.
Both pies were not nearly rugged enough. Chunkier morsels of meat, rough-hewn vegetables and thicker gravy would have improved the meal immensely. Rather than mash and cabbage my plate came with new potatoes, broccoli, beans and carrots, of which there is nothing to say. We didn’t bother rating our experience on the card provided.
Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem remains a piece of living history; despite sterling efforts to scrub any last trace of its character away. The inn itself, no doubt much like long-time patrons, must be yearning for the past.
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