In their dreams, there are some people who think pubs should be like this. Most of those people are probably university lecturers, social workers, or morris dancers. They are all wrong. The Golden Ball proudly brands itself as ‘York’s first community cooperative pub’ and there you have its problem. This is what happens when committees run alehouses. They suck.
For sure, The Golden Ball has a lot going for it. Tucked inside the city walls in the pricey Bishophill area, the architecture is a winner for a start. Pure Victorian on the outside, and ferociously period on the inside as well. The bar billiards, tiled fireplaces, and wooden floors are all so ‘right’ you half expect to see Jack The Ripper barfing into a spittoon, or Sherlock Holmes sweeping in out of the misty rain.
What you get, however, is a bunch of dreary looking (mostly) blokes sitting around on arse-breakingly uncomfortable seating staring across empty space at the jar of pickled eggs on the bar. If you could metamorphose The Guardian newspaper into a pub, this would be it. Nice to look at but not something which is actually much cop to spend time with. Frankly, there’s more atmosphere in an abbatoir, and despite an array of splendid beers, nobody with a heartbeat would want to spend more than a few minutes in here before heading to somewhere which wasn’t so mistakenly pleased with itself. But then, this is the deluded bit of the city which calls itself “York’s Notting Hill”…Has anyone here ever been to Notting Hill? Presumably not. This isn’t even York’s answer to Chorlton cum Hardy.
Behind the bar (on this visit) is a girl with what looks like a paper clip stuck through her bottom lip, standing behind a magnificent glass-panelled central bar festooned with truncheons. Actually they’re hand pumps not truncheons but that’s not as descriptive.. A notice board ominously proclaims life classes, reflexologists, blues nights, soul nights, and (god save us) ‘open mike nights’ when people probably read extracts from the New Statesman while a tubby bank manager riffs on a kazoo. Occasionally, you see first-time visitors wander in to stare longingly at the décor before – one suspects – they too begin to wilt under this pub’s suffocating niceness.
Not a bad pub. Not a horrible pub. Just a Grade Two listed blah blah pub which is so freakishly, and self-consciously, up its own community arse, it makes you want to break in one night and install a quiz machine in every room. But that ain’t going to happen, and I ain’t going to go back. Unless, that is, I need to get depressed.
Bloody nice drop of ale though.