‘The greatest pub you always drive past’ - that’s the humble description chalked up outside The Kings Arms in Brislington.
Located at the bottom of Bristol Hill - the bit before the A4 becomes the Bath Road again - this 17th century former coaching inn stands on the corner of Hollywood Road in the original Brislington village.
A new landlord and landlady took over the pub in April after months of closure and uncertainty as to whether it would even reopen as a pub or go the same way as others in the area.
With the demolition of The Hollybush Inn opposite in 2007 and the demise of the White Hart across the road, it’s now only The Pilgrim and The Kings Arms left in this part of Brislington.
Rumoured to be haunted - show me a 17th century pub that isn’t - The Kings Arms ticks all the right olde worlde boxes with its thick stone walls, ‘mind your head’ oak beams and parquet flooring.
A warren of interconnecting cosy nooks and crannies, it’s reminiscent of those old smuggler pubs you find tucked away just off the quayside in Cornish fishing ports, the ones favoured by location managers for Doc Martin.
Once inside, it’s soon easy to forget you’re actually supping your pint close to one of Bristol’s most traffic-choked roads and a row of near-deserted shop units.
There’s even a Cornish ale on tap - St Austell Tribute - alongside Timothy Taylor’s Landlord and, for old Bristolians perhaps, Courage Best.
The ciders outnumber the real ales. Fans of the apple can go for two different Lilley’s (the cloudy Crazy Goat or the potent Wild Dog) or three types of Thatchers cider - Gold, Haze or Dry. Other draught products include Guinness, Amstel, Heineken and Birra Moretti.
Apart from the quintessential pub bar snacks - think Scampi Fries or Bacon Fries - there is a range of equally traditional filled rolls for £2 (it’s cash only for these). Choose from ham, ham salad, cheese salad and cheese and onion.
At the back, a small enclosed beer garden offers alfresco drinkers and smokers a choice of views of the busy main road or the flats overlooking the pub. File under ‘functional’ rather than ‘picturesque’, perhaps.
The new owners are clearly trying to cater for all by being a family-friendly pub with no airs or graces, and there’s a karaoke night hosted by ‘Magnificent Mark’ and an open mic night.
Accompanied children can stay until 9pm and pets are welcome, although quite what the squawking green and orange parrot in the cage next to the old fireplace makes of other non-human visitors arriving on its patch is quite another matter.
At a time when so many are closing for good, it’s encouraging to see a neighbourhood pub back open and trying everything it can to appeal to the locals.
The Kings Arms might modestly describe itself as ‘the greatest pub you always drive past’ but let’s hope more people stop in future. We all need to celebrate the fact that such a historic and welcoming Bristol pub has been given a new lease of life.
The Kings Arms, 1 Hollywood Road, Brislington, Bristol, BS4 4LF.