Stereotypes about student food almost always involve baked beans, pot noodles, and pizza. Fair enough, some of you might say, but the main staple of most student’s diet is all too often missed off the stereotypical list: the beer and burger deal.
They’re everywhere now, enticing us with their puppy dog pint of lager eyes and tricking us with their price – “Well, I’d spend £2 on a pint anyway, so that makes the burger £3 and I couldn’t make it at home for that, could I … could I..?” – and the idea of ever ordering anything else in a pub seems alien to most. But which one is best?
It would be rude not to start with the staple of the beer and burger offer, Spoons. The original although perhaps not the best, it’s a classic, but, much like those things you see on Facebook all the time going on about how Freddos used to be 10p, when I rocked up to uni nearly three years ago, you’d get your pint of Tuborg and solid chicken breast burger for £3.99. These days you’re looking at at least a fiver if you want a bev, and a fair chunk more if you want cheese, bacon, or one of the – admittedly decent – gourmet alternatives.
I should stress that I use the word gourmet only because they do – as nice as the Tennesse burger is, we’re not talking Micheal Roux Jnr here, and if you want that with a pint, you’re staring down the barrel of a £6.79 bill. Suddenly, a pot noodle and a tinny is appealing. But stick to the original, with their wide selection of beers, and sat in the Gooseberry Bush after being served by the legendary barman Danny, you’ll find little to complain about.
Sadly, Spankys culled their beer and burger offer at some recent point in history, but it used to be £6(ish) and is unquestionably a more enjoyable slab of meat bunged in a bun than any Spoons burger you care to mention. The loss of the offer has seen it swan too far away from the baked beans ideal to really be considered in this debate anymore though – apart from on a Tuesday.
They’ll give you two of their fine burgers for the price of one on a Tuesday, so, if you split the cost with a mate and order a tap water, eliciting a strangely pleasurable roll of the eyes from the horrifically hipster bar staff, you only have to fork out £3.25 for your brioche-bunned beef and apparently triple fried fries. Happy days. They’ll do you a pint of Carlsberg for £2.20 if you flash your student card too, and at this point you’re probably thinking they’ve won the award.
Their biggest problem though is the fact that this all happens in Spankys, the gloomiest pub of the lot, with average service, surrounded by people who drink chai tea lattes in flat peaks. You almost feel like they’re doing you a favour by serving you if you look normal, without massive Nike trainers or hoisty jeans. But the burger is damn good.
Horn in Hand
If it’s pub ambience and atmosphere you want, pop next door to the Horn in Hand.
Sadly, the only problem with that plan is that when they bring out your burger, you’ll lift the top half of the bun to be met by a distinct lack of meat, be it chicken or beef. To call it a mini fillet does mini fillets the world over a disservice. Poor mini fillets. The salad is unadventurous, without a red onion in site, and the chips are behind those offered by Spoons, and in a whole other, much lower league than the ones offered by Spankys. It’s a shame, because when the Horn gets under your skin, it’s hard to stay away – the friendliest bar staff in Notts, a couple of decent pool tables, pleasant clientele, and a much better quids night than the SU’s. Even its grubbiness is strangely a plus point and, well, I just wish the food was better.
The brand spanking SU is a relatively late entrant into this fierce culinary battle, and many imagined that it would gallop up from the back in September and by now would be the default spot for a casual pint or a bit of grub. Disappointingly, that’s not quite the case.
Annoyingly, it’s tricky to put your finger on why either, but the strange L shape to the landing doesn’t help, the prices aren’t any better than the above alternatives, the beer choice is a little weak, and, most disappointingly of all, it just feels a little sterile. The food is good, the burgers especially, and the portions are generous, but when you’re constantly stuck in the student bubble, it’s nice to get out of it when you can. A trip to Spoons or the Horn gives a small form of escapism that being stuck in the clean and efficient SU building just can’t provide.
There are other alternatives of course; you could go to Yates’s if you wanted to experience hell on earth, an enlightening experience, or several of Nottingham city centre’s other chain pubs who are generally populated by fully grown men in football shirts, but really, you’re unlikely to tread much further afield than the above four, which are neatly tucked around the city site.
Sat in the best location of all is the SU, but it comes in the worst place on our list, for its uninspiring achievement of being a solid jack of all trades, but unquestionably a master of none.
The Horn is unlucky to be nipped into third place, but sadly their uninspiring pub grub just doesn’t quite cut the mustard, even though it remains a lovely pub to have a pint in.
Spankys wouldn’t even turn up to the metaphorical award ceremony, or if they did, they’d do an Alex Turner and drop the mic, but they wouldn’t be collecting any awards anyway, because they can only manage a second place here.
Yes, it’s Spoons that takes the award, for being the original and still the best. They may have tried to spice things up with their gourmet burgers and even hot dogs, but if it’s just a standard burger and a solid pint you want, Spoons will sort you out better than anywhere else.