Heading north on the next leg of our al fresco beer-drinking bonanza brings us to the Lamb & Lion in the historic city of York. More than just a boozer, the Lamb & Lion is in fact a fully fledged guesthouse nestled in the shadows of the famous York Minster. If you’ve visiting York, this makes it a great base from which to explore the city, or if you’ve simply popped in for a hefty real ale session, a quick word with the concierge could see you safely installed in one of the comfy rooms with an Alka Seltzer and a tube of Berocca for company, and no need to stagger on home.
The Sunday Times voted the Lamb & Lion one of Europe’s best city hotels, and hearing that it had a great beer garden into the bargain, it was the obvious choice for our weekend in York. They must be doing something right because all the rooms were booked out and we had to settle for the grossly inferior Premier Inn nearby (great gut-buster breakfast though), but that didn’t stop us from spending a long and pleasant evening slurping a motley selection of drinks against the backdrop of the York skyline.
Being a girl I know less than nothing about real ale and significantly more about Pinot Grigio, but I’m told real ale is one of the stand-out features of the place. There are several house ales – the Golden Mane is brewed especially for the Lamb & Lion by a famous local brewery and Black Sheep ale, another local brew, is another fixture, plus there’s a rotating selection of guest ales to keep the regulars on their toes (or bring them to their knees).
The girls and I stuck to the wine list and weren’t disappointed but it was the fish finger sarnies that really clinched it for us. Forget poncey gastropub fare, this was pub grub at its best, and the perfect accompaniment to a few too many bottles of chilled white. There are some more traditional pub-style dishes too – slow-cooked lamb shanks, steak and ale pie and some tasty-looking mussels but its the home-made soups and generous sarnies that really do the job – and leave plenty of change for another cheeky bottle before the bell. The Lamb & Lion earns a place in the Best British Beer Gardens Top 10 – and an early booking for our repeat visit to York.