In York, there are too many pubs with gunk-nozzled tomato sauce bottles on the tables. Thankfully, this is not one of them. Outside, along Stonegate, the snap-happy hordes are in half-timbered chinless heaven. Few of them are interested in the off-license at No.48. Even fewer climb the wooden steps inside the back of this same off-license, to find this lofty attic temple to sanity-displacing ales, stuffed animal bonces, and quaintly monikered snacks. Here, in a single vaulted room of ancient wooden trusses, oak floors, and rooftop Minster views, you can wash down a ‘Viking Willy Salami’ (£1.50) with exotic ales of such mythic strength, they would have brought Eric The Red (or some such horn-headed Danish merriment-seeker) to his hairy knees.
Yes, there are bottles of sauce here (always a minus) but (like the heads of boar, fox, lion, badger and goat) they are quaintly wall-mounted on a discreet head high ledge. In any case, after two rounds of the triple-brewed Trappist specialities here, most people will be too rat-arsed to care. Or even get down the stairs. Unless, that is, they’ve chosen to soak up their 7.3% mulled rum cider with the wondrous tomato and chorizo soup, served with two enormous boulders of bread, and a small thrombosis-sized bucket of butter.
Is there a downside to a pub selling high-calibre ale above a wondrously stocked drinker’s delicatessen? Of course there is. Behind the bar, lurks the entire cast of Scooby Doo. Milky-faced quasi-goths with geeky goatees, tats, and free rein to pump sub-adolescent heavy metal crap through the sound system. Never have bar staff seemed so curiously at odds with their pub. Or so wet-looking. And yet, in a bonkers sort of way, it – and they – work. Everything about this place is singular. Eccentric. Bespoke. So who else would you have in a house of trembling madness? Exactly. But please don’t tell anyone else. This is a gem.