Once upon a time, behind the bar at the White Bear on St Michael’s Hill was an electronic roulette thingamajig, which you would spin to get prizes like two-for-the-price-of-one drinks. A nice gimmick for those students who used to almost solely populate this Kingsdown pub, but nothing more.
The roulette wheel’s removal in last year’s refurbishment of the White Bear was a sign of its repositioning as a classier type of establishment, and one which no longer appeals solely to university undergraduates.
From days of yore, the 300-year-old historic pub has been smartened up to such an extent that the black and white floral wallpaper matches the inside of the lampshades. Now that’s attention to detail.
Doom Bar was the only ale on tap when I visited on a quiet Saturday afternoon, but there is usually also Tribute and a couple from Bristol Beer Factory, with Thatcher’s Gold and Aspalls the ciders on tap, with also a selection of bottled lagers.
These days, what brings many punters to the White Bear is the Wardrobe Theatre, accessed via a flight of narrow stairs in what used to be a storeroom.
It makes the White Bear only the second pub in Bristol after the Alma Tavern in Clifton to be able to offer both a pub and a theatre, but the only pub with a lifesize polar bear greeting visitors from outside.