Tony Benjamin drops in for a pint at the friendly, versatile pub at the top of Clifton’s Blackboy Hill.
Asked to describe a typical night at The King’s Arms, owner Ali Weaver is a bit stumped: “It’s funny, but this can be quite a different pub depending when you call in,” she says. We have lots of loyal regulars but they come for their own reasons.”
Behind its grandly imposing Victorian frontage at the top of Blackboy Hill, Clifton, The Kings Arms somehow pulls off the trick of combining smart and stylish décor with a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. The welcoming cosiness of the street-level lounge and dining room can only hint at what you’ll find once you head on up the spiral staircase.
On the next floor the large room offers cosily lit alcoves while the curving sweep of the long, backlit bar just cries out for cocktail action. And things do indeed get ‘shaky’ on Thursday nights when it’s 2-4-1 on mojitos and the after-work crowd arrives in droves for an early warm-up for the impending weekend. With 18 cocktails available, it’s a popular feature, as is a wine list that offers imaginatively chosen varieties by the glass or bottle including a couple that Ali picked for her own pleasure! Friday night is “all about the food” and there’s a lot of wine-list action as families, couples and groups of friends come to dine.
Coming from a farming family out Frampton Cottrell way, Ali’s very well connected, and her family and friends keep a regular supply of farmhouse fresh meat, veg and eggs. “People talk about locally sourced food, but I know ours really is” is Ali’s proud claim. “And we make a lot of stuff ourselves, like chutneys and pickles. One of the chefs comes from New York and he’s making chorizo and pastrami. We’ve even converted an old fridge into a smoke to do our own smoked cheeses and garlic.” Their home-recipe pork sausages, custom made by high-class butchers Ruby & White, are a popular menu item, and Ali says that one of the vegetarian options seems to have made the pub a bit of a destination. “The macaroni cheese is amazing – people ring up to check if it’s on and some drive miles to get it.”
Saturday night is party night, however, with a regular close-up magician and visiting DJs making the spacious pub a popular venue for private parties, too; and then Sundays the inevitable roasts bring a full house in off the nearby downs and regularly sell out by around 3pm. There’s always a separate tapas menu and a range of well-reputed burgers that come at 2-4-1 (Tue-Fri, 12noon-5pm).
Presiding over all of this, Ali has a great staff team and valued support of Dolly & Honey, her two amiable dogs, which keep a friendly eye on things from their ‘throne’ in the bar.
It all adds to the friendly charm of a comfortably grand public house that’s well worth checking out, whatever kind of night you prefer.