“There ain’t no one can nick that seat,” I’m told as a make a beeline for a central table and chair in the Myrtle Tree.
Turning to determine if someone is pulling my leg about the seemingly vacant spot, I am met with a trio of drinkers smiling up from their pints.
“That’s Phil’s place,” one cheerfully explains, inviting me to share their table near a television showing horse racing.
It is fair to say it is an eclectic bunch finishing off their first pints of the day in this homely Hotwells boozer at around 11.30am on a recent Tuesday morning, but a friendlier bunch of punters you’d be hard-pushed to find.
“I’m Martin,” my new friend said. “Best pub in Bristol this is.” Gesturing at my cheese roll, he added: “Best rolls in Bristol too.”
Renowned as a racing pub, this Hotwells local is open at 10.30am for each day of the Cheltenham Festival, and indeed The Racing Post is open and ready on the table, while much of the decor pays tribute to the sport of kings.
Among the framed thoroughbreds is the odd taped notice. ‘No children, no dogs,’ reads one.
What it lacks in fancy frills, the Myrtle Tree makes up for in the all-important TV screens, which are carefully placed to ensure everyone gets a view of the finish line.
I’m advised to come back on Friday when the pub will be packed for Gold Cup day.
My table of cheerful regulars regale me with racing tales of old – from the day one was sent scarpering from trainer Martin Pipe’s property, to the story of the Irish lads who blew all their money on the first race day and had to go home.
When the beer delivery arrives, my table is temporarily evacuated while the men head out to assist Gary the landlord.
The elusive Phil then appears and seats in his specified seat, Racing Post at the ready.
The Myrtle Tree, 127 St George’s Road, Hotwells, Bristol, BS1 5UW
0117 971 9455