We visit legendary Bristol pub The Mardyke - still one of the cheapest in the city

The cheapest pint is £2.70 and the food is restricted to filled rolls and crisps

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Cheap. That’s the first word that usually crops up when you mention The Mardyke to people.

And, yes, this long-established Hotwells pub certainly lives up to its reputation as one of Bristol’s more wallet-friendly pubs.

But - and whisper it quietly - the price of the cheapest pint at The Mardyke has just gone up. It seems that even one of the city’s steadfast boozers is feeling the aftershocks of the cost of living and energy crisis.

The last time I visited The Mardyke a few weeks ago, the cheapest pint of real ale was £2.50 but I had to find another 20p piece this week because - cue fanfare - the Butcombe Original has gone up to £2.70.

Still, that’s still about half the price you’ll pay for it in pubs within walking distance of The Mardyke and that’s why the place is so busy in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday.

A feature of all ‘proper’ pubs is that gaggle of regulars putting the world to rights over a seemingly endless number of pints.

These locals are the bread and butter for pubs that rely on drinkers rather than diners and The Mardyke certainly has a loyal clientele.

Once a popular pitstop for hairy bikers, The Mardyke was also a pub frequented by passengers using the ferry of the same name, which carried people from the wharf opposite to the other end of the floating harbour.

On Wednesday, the sun may have been making a rare appearance and beating down outside but a lack of vitamin D was the last thing on the minds of these drinkers ensconced in the darkness of The Mardyke.

With its dark wood panels and settles and old enamel signs (among them adverts for News of The World, Pears Soap and Wills’s Gold Flake cigarettes), the pub has barely changed for at least the past decade, and possibly longer. And the regulars wouldn’t have it any other way.

 The pub has barely changed for at least the past decade, which is just as the regulars like it The pub has barely changed for at least the past decade, which is just as the regulars like it
The pub has barely changed for at least the past decade, which is just as the regulars like it

There are also plenty of nooks and crannies for solo drinkers to enjoy a peaceful pint, overlooked by heavy-framed paintings of Edward VII, Winston Churchill and sepia photos of unknown Victorian gents.

Those drinkers not counting the pennies and ordering the sub-£3 Butcombe were sticking to Guinness and cider - mostly Thatchers and Inches although there’s also Blackthorn on tap.

Behind the bar, clingfilm-wrapped filled rolls are available for £2.50. That’s pretty much the extent of the food offering here apart from crisps.

On the jukebox, Elkie Brooks was singing her heart out with the 1980s power ballad No More The Fool, a few of the drinkers breaking into song during the chorus.

And they certainly have plenty to sing about because The Mardyke is one of those proper pubs, the like of which are rapidly disappearing from our city.

It’s like visiting a time capsule of how pubs used to be and it needs a preservation order slapped on it so future generations of drinkers can enjoy it as much as its current saviours.

The Mardyke, 126 Hotwell Road, Hotwells, Bristol, BS8 4UB.

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