With Christmas fast approaching, an ideal way to forget about university responsibilities is to gather some friends, find a local pub, enjoy a pint and maybe have a bite to eat. But as a Warwick student living in Leamington Spa, which pubs are available if you’re tired of The Benjamin Satchwell, Old Library and Kelseys?
We’ve spent the last week testing out a variety of traditional pubs in North Leamington (for scientific research purposes, of course), to find the best all-round experience for a Christmas night out that you might actually remember the next day.
So, if you’re sick of student traps that play music too loudly, overcharge for drinks and last cleaned their toilets in 1996, read on for our full guide to some of the more wholesome Leamington locals to visit this Christmas.
Located in the North East of Leamington, this pub has a very cosy vibe that makes you feel instantly at home. The locals drifting in and out seem very friendly. They know each other and those behind the bar by name, an attribute you won’t find in a more central pub where the staff are rushed off their feet and the locals are few and far between.
For the cat lovers out there, the pub has a well-groomed cat roaming the customer area, who was more than happy to be stroked and cooed after by everyone in our party.
While only offering nuts and crisps in terms of food, the selection of beers and ciders on tap is wide-ranging and moderately priced. A fridge of soft drinks is also available. We were particularly impressed by the pub’s inclusion of Curious Brew on tap, a personal favourite offered at my local pub back home.
Overall, Somerville Arms provided a very enjoyable night out in a clean environment where you could actually hear yourself think.
The Holly Bush
Positioned close to Somerville Arms, The Holly Bush is more of a sports bar than a living room-style pub, which has both advantages and disadvantages.
Two dartboards on either side of this bar help to spread out the customers evenly and create a lively atmosphere when in use. Screens on the walls showing a variety of sports channels (including Sky Sports) make this an ideal venue for match night or to view another large sporting event.
If you’re caught up in a big game right through dinnertime, then why not order one of The Holly Bush’s pizzas to keep you going? While not offering any sides, the pizzas are cheap even by student standards, which never goes unappreciated.
The drinks on offer here are significantly more mainstream than those at Somerville Arms but are also noticeably cheaper, making this pub ideal for students who haven’t yet had the opportunity to expand their palate past Dark Fruits and the occasional Fosters when they’re feeling bold.
This was another great night overall and one more threat to my degree.
The Royal Pug
‘Friendly neighbourhood pub in the heart of Royal Leamington Spa.’ While this quote comes directly from The Royal Pug’s website, we’re not going to be the ones to disagree. Situated in central Leamington near Regent Court, our experience in The Royal Pug couldn’t have been better.
Christmas decorations cover the walls and the bar of this classic British pub. The music playing at a very reasonable background volume was enjoyed by all.
While not offering the cheapest drinks, both the draught and bottle selection is extensive. The pub’s ‘alcohol island’ in the middle of the bar area stocked every spirit we’d ever heard of and several we hadn’t!
A special mention must go to both the skin-on chips and the cheesy chips served here. The skin-on chips arrived well-seasoned and in a decent portion size, with just enough crisp on the outside and fluff on the inside to make them ideal. One happy member of our party said that The Pug offered: “The best cheesy chips in the area, up there with Viallis”.
The Royal Pug offers a variety of daily deals and events from Monday to Thursday. We happened to stumble upon Tuesday’s weekly quiz. Despite finishing in last place, the questions were well-paced, the different rounds adding elements unseen in other pub quizzes.
The cleanliness here is also excellent. The pub even lacks the trademark sticky floors and tables common to some similar venues. Overall, The Royal Pug is a gem not to be missed and a credit to Leamington’s local pub scene.
The northernmost pub tested in this research, The Clarendon, is filled with cool décor and video game consoles, making this a good spot for a casual evening out.
Their weekly cheap food offerings are enough to draw in customers from far and wide, including 25p pancakes on a Tuesday and 25p chicken wings on the aptly named ‘Wing Wednesday’.
Drinks here are up there in price with The Royal Pug, but without the friendly atmosphere and with an additional 30-minute wait on food. When the food eventually arrived, our hunger soon fell away to make way for dismay, as we realised that our chips were unfortunately soggy and under-seasoned.
While not unhelpful, the staff seemed too busy to be able to take a friendly approach with customers, lending a less personal feel to the whole experience.
Adequately clean (aside from a few sticky tables), the Clarendon doesn’t offer a bad night out. However, it does fall some way behind the other pubs we reviewed in terms of overall enjoyment.
The Copper Pot
A last-minute entry into our review pool, The Copper Pot looks unassuming from the outside, but the inside tells a different story. Sitting near enough to Smack, Altoria and The Anti Social to be in direct competition for clientele, it does a fine job through sticking to traditional pub values and offering exactly what their customers come in for.
A buzzing atmosphere met us once we got past security. This was followed by the classy impression that their wooden décor is surely intended to give off.
With pints under £4, this pub sits on the cheaper end of the scale. This is without any sacrifice made on staff attentiveness or cleanliness, neither of which could be faulted.
The music being played was also excellent, if slightly on the loud side, so this is more of a place for a boogie than for a quiet conversation.
Unlike some of the more frequented bars in this area of Leamington, The Copper Pot opens at 10:00am every day (11:00am on Sundays) ready to serve fantastic food and drink all day long. It also boasts several large TVs; this is another excellent spot for watching all major sporting events.
Overall, we all enjoyed our time at The Copper Pot and left rather reluctantly when the end of the night came.
We traversed the breadth of North Leamington on a quest to find an excellent local pub to spend our time in and ended up finding five. While the venues excelled in different ways, each provided a great evening out.
The next time I need to have a quiet chat with a friend over a cold one, maybe I’ll choose Somerville Arms. When assignments are getting me down and a portion of great chips are required, maybe I’ll head to The Royal Pug. To dance to some old classics with a cheap drink, I may just head to the Copper Pot.
At the end of it all, it’s not the price of the drinks or the décor of the pubs that matter, but the nights you’ve had and the friends you’ve made along the way.