With my post-holiday paunch, I’m the last person to give lectures on the perils of eating and drinking too much but given that the majority of the pot-bellied chaps in the bar are sinking pints with their burger and chips, I don’t spot too many athletes when I arrive at the Sportsmans.
Established in 1892, the Bristol County Sports Club – to give it its proper title – is one of the oldest members’ clubs in Bristol although these days it welcomes pretty much anyone over the threshold.
That wasn’t always the case. I remember having to be signed in by friends who were members as recently as a couple of years ago but, like most pubs post-pandemic, they are probably just pleased to see any customers walk through the door now.
Not that I could tell if things were easier on arrival. It isn’t made clear whether it’s open to all these days and I gingerly walked to the bar and asked the barman whether I needed to be signed in.
‘No, mate, you’re fine, we welcome everybody now, what would you like to drink?’ came the reassuring reply as I ordered my pint of Thatchers Gold.
This vast pub and function room on Colston Street is a traditional, no-frills boozer with sport on the large screens and snooker, pool and darts for those who want to leave the comfort of their chairs.
The walls are plastered with sporting memorabilia, from team photos for United Bristol Hospitals RFC to framed rugby shirts.
A huge wooden honours board lists past captains for the UBH RFC – established 1946 – and England rugby legend Martin Johnson has his own framed tribute on the wall.
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Although a choice of real ales are on tap, including the once-brewed-in-Bristol Courage Directors, cider seems to be the drink of choice here.
I counted at least seven ciders on tap, from the serious Rich’s Farmhouse Cider to the fruit-flavoured Old Mout, with plenty of Thatchers brands in between.
The food is provided by local burger legends Dirty Burgerz and they are holding their first Dirty Disco this bank holiday Sunday (August 29).
The over-25s event promises ‘old school vibes’ from MC Mikee Freedom and guests, and limited tickets are £25 which includes a burger, fries and a beer. The event runs from 5pm until 1am.
And the Dirty Disco isn’t the only event at Bristol County Sports Club this weekend. On Saturday, August 28, there’s a live show from Wired 4 Sound.
After so long without live events in pubs, it’s great to see them return and the Sportsmans is clearly embracing these regained freedoms after months of lockdown closures.
Perhaps some of the Sportsmans regulars will put down their pints and burgers and get up on the dance floor to show everybody just how fit they really are. Now, that would be a spectator sport worth watching.
Sportsmans – Bristol County Sports Club, 40 Colston Street, Bristol, BS1 5AE. Tel: 0117 9273534.