To be found at no.12 St Paul’s Street, the building has a rich history (full of garlands of fresh ‘erbs) traceable back to the 13th century, from whence it has been owned by surgeons and spinsters, druggists and cow keepers. It remains a tricksy pub, filled with crevisces and nooks and back rooms, that are simultaneously light and dark. It has towers of newspapers, the type of roaring fire that leaves one side of your face slightly cooked and on a cold evening, this place is filled with the barrelling laughter and ruddy-faced ramshacklery that reminds of the bit in Lord of the Rings where Meriadoc says, “it comes in pints? I’m having one…”
It is also one of those pubs that has taken to ‘mulling’ things. Scrawl the word ‘mulled’ in front of the actual drink name in a black felt tip, up the price by a quid and bob’s your uncle – an innovative new tasty beverage.
It began with red wine. Vin chau or gluhwein to our continental friends. Mulled wine to you and I. I’m not convinced anyone actually likes it, but being British nobody wants to honestly admit to thinking it’s too bitter and full of sand at the bottom. It has become an annual tradition to see huddles of people at Christmas markets curling their lips and spitting out bits of cinnamon, wincing after every sip. I join in to keep the peace.
A few years ago mulled cider made an appearance. Warm cider felt odd enough, but apparently if you’re warming up alcoholic beverages you can cancel out the perversity by scraping in the dusty accumulations that have formed on your spice shelf.
But Christmas 2013 was marred for me by the appearance of mulled beer. Not as commonplace as mulled wine or mulled cider, but some places have given it a go. “Why not,” you can hear the landlords say, “they’d drink warmed up penguin piss if you said you’d mulled it!”
The Tobie Norris was one of these places and it’s a shame. I really love this pub. It’s hands down the best pub in Stamford. But I fear what may lie ahead here. Mulled gin and tonic? Mulled WKD? Mulled scampi fries?
Go to this pub, but don’t stay too long or someone might start sprinkling cinnamon on your head.