Excited for the Six Nations? Here are the best places in Bristol to watch the action unfold
Plus a rating of each venue’s Guinness
It’s that time of year again when the sporting calendar blesses us with five weeks of unforgettable rugby. The Six Nations kicks off this Saturday with a huge doubleheader: Wales face Ireland in Cardiff before the next instalment of the Calcutta Cup commences as England takes on Scotland at Twickenham. This is just the beginning of what promises to be a fantastic tournament as Les Bleus looks to defend the title that they captured so brilliantly last year.
With England heading into the tournament under new management and as third favourites, behind Ireland and France, they will need all of the support they can get if they are to capture a record-breaking fortieth title. So I’ve compiled a list of some of the best places in Bristol where you can sing your heart to Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.
Considering it’s the ultimate drink of choice for rugby fans, and the Six Nations’ sponsor, I feel like I have to let you know the quality of the Guinness in each pub. Even though it required conversing with the enemy for an afternoon, I brought along two Irish friends to ensure that the beautiful black stuff was judged by those who know it best.
1) Racks Bar & Kitchen
Racks is a converted wine cellar located on St Pauls Road, that provides a unique environment to relax and enjoy the rugby. There are nine different screens spread throughout the venue, including a large projector screen that’s perfect for displaying the decisive moments of one of the sport’s biggest competitions.
Due to high demand Racks have made the majority of matches ticketed. These tickets will set you back £18 but include a steak sandwich (or veggie alternative) and a draught pint. However, once you’ve inevitably downed that ‘free’ drink you’re left with the daunting task of spending a staggering £6.50 on a pint. Not to worry though as there is a 10% student discount available.
If you’re going to be watching a game on a Sunday Racks is, in my opinion, the place to be. A Bloody Mary will cost you only £5 and cure any potential hangovers from a big Saturday night out and you can even treat yourself by tucking into one of their delicious roast dinners.
The Guinness here was beautiful and as good as any that my Irish friends have managed to find thus far in Bristol. They struggled greatly to find fault with it as everything that they look for in a pint of Guinness was there. Unfortunately, the astronomical price of £6.50 has to bring the score down to 9/10.
2) The Kings Arms
Right at the top of Whiteladies Road sits The Kings Arms which, just from a quick glance of the outside, is clearly a pub all set for the Six Nations. Flags of all six competing teams dominate all four floors alongside an array of large screens that will provide you with the perfect viewing experience of every scrum, line-out and try. There is even a pool table and several darts boards if you fancy a bit of friendly competition between you and your mates before kick-off.
Do be warned, the drinks are not overly cheap; however, the selection is pretty good, particularly when you turn your eye to the cocktail menu which includes some rather bizarre concoctions. Who’s ever heard of a Jaffa Cake Martini? I’m sure Owen Farrell would love one.
Now to turn our attention to the Guinness. It came in on the expensive side at £5.90, so naturally, I was expecting a fairly decent pint of the famous Irish beverage. The pour and overall taste were distinctly average, failing to make up for the hefty price tag, and the lack of domage and shtick (terms my Irish friends had to teach me) was disappointing – 6/10.
Practically every single Bristol Uni student knows about Steam, and while I wanted to avoid putting well-known places on this list, I felt that I simply had to include it. The atmosphere here is exceptional on weeknights, so one can only imagine how good it will be when huge screens are showing crunching tackles being made and fantastic tries being scored.
Tables of four or six people are available to book for £10 per person for selective matches, and these come with a couple of jugs of your choice of beer. While these have sold out for a few games already, there are still some available for the later weeks, including the mouth-watering Super Saturday. Regardless of whether you can get a booking or not, I would still recommend heading down to Steam, as I imagine this will be the most studenty of the venues on this list.
If you stick to Steam’s Home of the Brew range then you can have a rather cheap afternoon out, with a pint of their pilsner coming to only £3.90. What’s more, they have a new kitchen pop-up coming in February where you can get a portion of dirty fries for when the post-match hunger eventually strikes.
Moving onto my favourite part… the Guinness. It wasn’t too different to the one I was served in The King’s Arms but the price was marginally cheaper, at £5.50, the domage was more impressive and it was slightly creamier – 6.5/10.
O’Neill’s, part of an Irish pub chain, is located on Baldwin Street; it provides a relaxing but also buzzing atmosphere to enjoy the rugby in. I’m not sure about you but when I hear the word ‘Irish’ one thing instantly comes to mind: a world-class drinking culture. So if you’re looking to turn an afternoon of watching rugby into a bigger and more drunken affair look no further than O’Neill’s.
Drinks here can be a bit pricey, with a pint of Carling costing almost £5, but there are some hidden gems to be found if you look hard enough (by that I mean by just looking at the menu). For instance, if you’re here for a game on a Sunday you can get two cocktails for only £10 and, as I’ll obviously come onto, the Guinness was superb value. What’s even better is that The Commercial Rooms (a Wetherspoons for those who don’t know) is just down the road, so you can get some cheap drinks before and after the game.
England will face Ireland in the final round of matches on the 18th of March and I reckon this would be the perfect place to watch it. Both sets of fans can come together, sing their hearts out, and sadly watch Ireland inevitably run riot.
Given that this is an Irish bar you would assume that the quality of the Guinness would be second to none, however, you would assume wrong. The Irish experts told me that the aftertaste was too overpowering and that the complete lack of shtick was extremely disappointing. The only redeeming factor was that it will only set you back £4.75 – 5/10.
5) The Old Fish Market
The Old Fish Market is also situated on Baldwin Street and as you first enter you are, as the name of the pub would suggest, immediately hit by the smell of fish. Rest assured this isn’t a pungent, rotting fish smell but instead the smell of fresh, beautifully cooked fish, that in truth adds to the homely and welcoming atmosphere.
Over the next month, a big projector screen will display every second of the Six Nations as the cosy, candle-lit pub transforms into a rugby lover’s dream. The range of drinks is quite good with a nice selection of real ales being available, but unfortunately, if ales aren’t to your taste then drinks are quite expensive, with the cheapest pint being an Amstel at £5. However, there’s no need to worry because as with O’Neill’s, there’s a Wetherspoons only a stone’s throw away to rescue your depleting bank account.
You know the drill by now, it’s time to rate the Guinness. To be honest, I don’t have much to say, it was your average, everyday pint of the black stuff at a rather dear price of £5.70 – 6/10.
6) Ashton Gate Stadium
Ashton Gate lies just south of the river and in the southwest corner of the stadium sits the Independence Sports Bar, which is home to the second-largest indoor screen in England, guaranteeing the perfect viewing experience. With it being the watering hole for rugby and football fans most weekends the bar is perfectly set up for masses of sports fans to come flooding in on Six Nations weekends
I can’t think of many better places in Bristol to watch a game of rugby than the home of the Bristol Bears; the city’s Premiership rugby team. Two of their star players, Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler, will be representing England during the Six Nations so I’m sure there will be plenty of passionate Bears fans cheering them on at the Gate. It’s set to be the ultimate rugby hotspot for each weekend of the next month.
As with any place, there have to be some negatives; firstly, the stadium is obviously a bit of a trek from where most students are living, and secondly, the drinks are rather pricey with most pints being around the mid £5 mark. However, the sensational atmosphere should hopefully more than make up for it.
I won’t lie to you (despite being heavily tempted to) I’ve never tried the Guinness here. From experience, I can judge the quality of the pour, however, which is quite inconsistent, so I guess that doesn’t really help you either, my bad – N/A/10.
7) King Street Brewhouse
King Street Brew House is a spacious, urban-style pub in the heart of Bristol’s Old City. Perhaps the best thing about it is the brilliant selection of drinks as their very own microbrewery creates an incredible range of both cask and keg beers. On top of that, they have a constantly changing array of guest craft brews, including many from the Bristol local area.
You’re probably expecting me to follow this up by telling you that unfortunately, despite the impressive selection, the drinks are ridiculously expensive. But no, you would be wrong, as their 20% student discount makes almost every drink pretty affordable. Since you’re spending less on drinks you may as well go ahead and order one of their delicious pizzas to help tide you over if you’re staying between games.
It’s time to rate the final Guinness, which, to the absolute horror of my Irish mates, wasn’t served in a Guinness glass. Besides this monstrosity, the overall taste was pretty good and it was one of the creamiest of the ones I drank while putting together this list. To make it even better the price was a beautiful sight to behold, with the student discount it came to only £4.50 – 7/10.
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