Not so long ago, one would have come away from an evening in a pub like the Cotham Arms reeking of cigarette smoke.
“I’m a chain smoker. That is a bad thing,” a young woman with hoop earrings and thick spectacles told her companions after coming inside from having a smoke on Wednesday night, before swiftly heading back out onto the pavement for another fag.
“What would you like to drink?” a man-bunned friend asked when they returned from their latest puff. “Anything,” she answered. “More alcohol preferably.” A few minutes later, a round of cocktails arrived at their table.
In a reversal of recent trends, the Cotham Arms – owned by the swiftly growing Bermondsey Pub Company – is a new pub that has replaced a bar. But as a hand painted sign above the front door attests, this pub was established in 1871 as the Highbury Park Tavern; it’s just gone through a variety of iterations since then.
Barely recognisable from its most recent days as Chin Chin, the inside mixes old with new. Filament light bulbs hang from the ceiling and five different smoothies are served at a side bar; while meat and cheeses are chalked up in one corner, and both sweets and pickles are kept in glass jars.
They have no clips and instead their names are written on the same luggage labels that Psychopomp microdistillery just down the road attach to their bottles of gin – of which there are more than a dozen on offer here, including a bottle of Woden from their near neighbour.
As well as the brightly coloured sweets, and the meat and the cheese – including Cropwell Bishop Stilton and Cornish Brie – there are a selection of hot and cold sandwiches, and cookies, cakes and tray bakes on display next to a selection of board games.
Soon after 10pm, two men in winter coats walked in, single handedly raising the average age inside the Cotham Arms by a couple of decades, as the smoker and one of her loyal friends walked outside for another cigarette.
The Cotham Arms, 155 St Michael’s Hill, Kingsdown, Bristol, BS2 8DB
0117 973 2480
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