Pub of the week: The Commercial Rooms

2 05 2012

When I discovered that Bristol’s legendary DJ Derek had visited every Wetherspoons pub in the UK as well as travelling every National Express coach route, it made me respect the 70-year-old former accountant even more. Here is a man who knows what he likes and is content never to change.

“I always have a few pints before I play, as there’s nothing worse than going into a place at 11pm when everyone’s been drinking and you’re sober,” Derek told the Dorset Echo.

“I love (Wetherspoons), you know the standard wherever you go and they’re always the cheapest place in town. I also like the atmosphere and I meet nice people without the background noise.

“I keep in touch with the Wetherspoons head office so I know when new ones are going to open. Then I can time my gigs to coincide.”

In Bristol, we have 10 pubs out of the Watford-based pub chain’s nationwide total of more than 800. There may soon be one more, with an application by Wetherspoons to turn the former Dragon Kiss bar on Whiteladies Road into another of their number.

The one I picked for a mid-afternoon drink last week was the Commercial Rooms on Corn Street. A Wetherspoons since 1995, it is a building which celebrated its 200th birthday last year and in its previous life as a gentlemen’s club for Bristol’s merchants was the place where the design of the Clifton Suspension Bridge was decided.

There is a large oil painting of Brunel on one wall, while other historic features include 100-year-old gas lamps hanging from the ceiling in the main room and a huge skylight high above the bar in a pub which must have the highest ceiling in Bristol.

Honours boards of presidents, secretaries and treasurers of the club dominate much of the wallspace not taken up by paintings.

Like many buildings on Corn Street, the pub has a grand frontage, dominated by four pillars. While to one side, down some marble steps, is the bolted shut entrance to what a sign on its doors informs was once The Ocean Safe Deposit, intriguingly positioned to perhaps reopen one day as a bar or restaurant.

One thing that Wetherspoons do incredibly well is real ales, with their unsurpassed buying power meaning they can sell them cheaper than anywhere else.

Currently on tap at the Commercial Rooms are Box Steam Brewery Funnel Blower and Tunnel Vision, Otter Amber, Titanic 1912 (brewed exclusively for Wetherspoons by the Titanic Brewery in Stoke-on-Trent and Chelsea Brewing Co in New York), Butcombe Gold and Rare Breed, Elgood Black Dog, Ruddle’s Best, Wolf Brewery Woild Moild, Abbot Ale, Plain Ales Indulgence, and Fullers London Pride.

I was half-expecting to see DJ Derek himself nursing a pint among the more mature clientele. Unfortunately he wasn’t here, but a Wetherspoons pub is a place where Derek and millions like him across the country immediately feel at home and for that, this chain cannot be begrudged.

The Commercial Rooms, 43-45 Corn Street, Bristol, BS1 1HT
Telephone: 0117 927 9681



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