The Sir John Borlase Warren (henceforth the JBW) stands imposingly above Canning Circus in Nottingham city centre. A huge portrait of Sir John looks over the city from between two gold lanterns, as if he is on a bridge ensuring the safety of his fleet – he was an admiral in the Napoleonic Wars, not to mention MP for Nottingham. though this is about as far from the sea as it is possible to be in Britain.
You don’t often find a city-centre pub that has the atmosphere of a village local, but the JBW manages it. There are several separate rooms with wooden floors, some period features such as tiles that look as if they might date back to its establishment in 1814, and an open fire beside well-stocked bookshelves.
At the rear are decking areas under canvas with heaters and a barbecue. On a beam in the bar is a prophetic quote from Hilaire Belloc: “When you have lost your inns, drown your empty selves – for you will have lost the last of England.”
At the bar there are eight real ales to choose from (12 at weekends). The selection is impressive, with four Lincoln Green Ales, the local microbrewery that runs the JBW in partnership with Everards Brewery of Leicester. Everards Tiger (4.2%) is an ever-present staple: copper-coloured and has a malty bittersweet flavour.
The Lincoln Green beers have a Robin Hood theme (Hood Bitter, Marion Pale Ale, Tuck Porter and Sherwood Extra Pale). The choice can seem overwhelming, but Liam, the assistant manager, offers me a three-way flight: a third of a pint of each on a tasting tray. Perfect. All are good but the Hood Bitter wins. There are also more than 50 types of gin – and a very popular gin-infused beer called Gin and Beer It (5%).
Underneath Nottingham run more than 500 man-made medieval caves that have been used for many purposes, including dungeons, beer cellars, tanneries, malt-kilns, houses, wine cellars, tunnels, air-raid shelters, sand mines, follies, dovecotes and even a bowling alley. Beneath the JBW you can explore some of these caves on a Wednesday evening with “Madame Parboiled” on an “interactive dungeon tour”. The mind boggles.
The Sir John Borlase Warren; 1 Ilkeston Road, Nottingham NG7 3GD; 0115 988 1889