See you back at The Ranch – or not
The axe is entirely mine to grind, so let me just paint the picture for why I so despised this blameless Clifton drinking establishment.
The Fine Line, which once inhabited the unit at 59-61 Whiteladies Road, was a superb pub and one of the few quality venues on that long street. Nestled just beyond the triangle between the wide avenues lined with trees and the BBC buildings and just before the bustle of the main drag, it was wonderfully located for a post-work pint. An attractive but unpretentious outdoor seating terrace invited you in to watch the world go by over a cold beer on a summer’s evening.
It was upmarket enough that it kept the riff-raff out but it was affordable for even my modest pocket when I first arrived, and wore its classiness in a laid-back Antipodean style, not a townie, centre of Bristol we-think-we’re better-than-we-are way.
Most crucially, it served the most consistently sensational pint of the best beer in the world (inside or outside the capital — and notoriously it doesn’t travel well). It also served Hoegaarden when it was a novelty, and great cocktails and basically ticked boxes for all tastes of drinker and reveller, but never remotely at the risk of being lowest common denominator.
It also had great sentimental value for me. It was the first pub I went to as an official resident of the city, back in August 2000. Not that I was a Clifton resident then, but our letting agent‘s offices were just down the road, and my girlfriend and I had made the trip all the way from Reading to Bristol just to sign a piece of paper saying we could move in. It marked an exciting time because, not only were we moving in together, but as unemployed recent graduates it was near impossible to rent property (we had to stump up 6 months’ rent in advance to persuade them). So what did we do? Celebrated at the Fine Line with the first of many pints of London Pride! Especially decadent as I recall it was about 11.30 am.
Along the years I celebrated at least two birthdays there, and – it now occurs to me -it was the location that two future living arrangements were conceived.
And later it became the regular watering hole for me and the friend I’ve probably shared the most pints with.
One day, Ian Carpenter and I rocked up there for a pint to find it had closed for refurbishment. Shit happens, and we drank somewhere else for a few weeks. On opening night we returned (loyal, see?) to find…. to find…. THE RANCH!! In all its gawdy tastelessness and over-priced drinks-ness.
There was not a single brown beer on offer, and the only decent lager we could see was some Japanese import selling at about twice the price of anything else. And it was horrible. We drank it through gritted teeth and misty eyes, until I eventually suggested we tried The Victoria, a mere five minutes away.
Which is what we did, and we were greeted by the barmaid who apologised that “we’ve only got 5 ales on tonight”. Music to our ears.
But I’ve never stopped lamenting the demise of The Fine Line, and shuddering at the sight of the trashy Ranch every time I passed, seeing it represent all that is and was bad about Bristol nightlife.
So I make no apology for the eruption of joy I felt when I saw it had finally fallen victim (well I assume so) to the recession, and can only hope that it is replaced by a new generation of Fine Line, that serves excellent London Pride, and is frequented by a future Tim and Ian, whoever they may be.
Will somebody keep me posted?