Regulars at Norwich’s Fat Cat convinced it should be the Evening News’ Pub of the Year
The four finalists in the Evening News' Pub of the Year Award were announced last week. Reporter DAVID BALE is visiting each one to sample what's on offer, and the winner will be announced at the end of the month. The first pub visited was the award-winning Fat Cat, in West End Street.
The Fat Cat pretty much encapsulates what makes the great British boozer what it is, and after spending a few hours soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying a pint, I want to go back.
Even on a Monday lunchtime the pub was packed with regulars, all of whom said they liked the pub just the way it was, and would not change a thing.
And why not? After all, the pub has 12 real ales on hand pump, 15 real ales on gravity, seven Cat beers (including Cougar, which I enjoyed) and 11 worldwide beers.
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And as one regular said: 'Where else can you get a 5pc alcohol content pint for just �2.60?'
The pub also has atmosphere and character aplenty.
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Beer jugs hang from the ceiling and the walls are covered in old photographs and brewery signs.
The pub also does a good job advertising the list of ales on offer with their alcohol strength and price prominently displayed on a blackboard. You can even see the barrels of real ale through the window.
Regulars also appreciate the fact that there's no music blaring out, which means that people can enjoy a chat without having to raise their voices to be heard.
The pub also attracts a cross-section of the local population, with regulars proud that no one is concerned about class distinctions.
'Everybody talks to everybody. Pubs may be dying out, but this is the type of pub people want. We don't want any changes, just keep it the way it is,' a regular said.
There are also no fruit machines, which regulars were all in favour of.
Part of the appeal, as with any good pub, is the bar staff, who are often unsung heroes, but can make or break a pub.
Bar staff need to be friendly, efficient, calm and should have a good memory so they can remember the names of customers and their favourite tipple. The Fat Cat's staff fit the bill perfectly.
A customer said: 'It's down to the people behind the bar to give you a good service. They know what you want and they do a good job. I would not like to be behind the bar when it gets really busy in here – it's hard work.'
Customers can also pick up a newspaper to read while enjoying a pint and, although they don't do meals, rolls and crisps are available.
As reported, hundreds of people in the greater Norwich area nominated their favourite pubs for the award, with 35 different establishments getting the nod.
The other three finalists are the Coach and Horses in Thorpe Road, the Trafford Arms in Grove Road and the Kings Arms in Hall Road.
The awards are being judged by Norwich pub historian Derek McDonald and the Evening News' Love Your Local reporter David Bale. The winner of the competition will get the chance to brand its pub The Norwich Pub of the Year 2011.
To see more stories from our Love Your Local campaign, visit www.eveningnews24.co.uk/loveyourlocal
What makes your local special? Let David Bale know by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org