It’s the year of our lord 2018 and it appears absolutely impossible to find a pub that isn’t owned by a giant chain in Southampton. Fret not however, for there are the brave few that embark upon the quest of quenching this city’s mighty thirst, free from the oppressive bonds of a corporate overlord.
Okay maybe chains aren’t that bad, but they are a problem. Your first impression of a pub or bar isn’t the drinks, the facilities, or your fellow
alcoholics casual drinkers. It’s the atmosphere, the feeling, the general sense of either dread or excitement building up in the pit of your stomach.
How many times have you walked into a pub and been bitterly disappointed to realise that it’s essentially the same pub you were in last week but with a different name?
Well, no longer, for here is a list of four of the best independently owned drinking establishments that Southampton has to offer.
4 – The Alexandra Beer Emporium
Starting off our list in fine fashion, and with probably the best name on the list, it’s the Alexandra Beer Emporium – better known as ‘The Alex’. Records show that the pub has stood since 1875.
They describe themselves on their website as ‘the only traditional pub in Southampton.’ And some would argue they were right.
What The Alex has done brilliantly well however, is they’ve taken the traditional and done their own thing with it. The walls are plastered with cult film memorabilia, and you can grab yourself some Game of Thrones or Star Wars themed pint cocktails should you so wish (yes that is a Storm Trooper in the photo).
The Alex has a lively atmosphere, and is reasonably priced. It also boasts a beer garden, not a huge beer garden, but it’s a selling point in a largely urban area.
The Alex is located on Bellevue Road.
3 – Heartbreakers
We go from one of the city’s oldest drinking establishments to one of its newest. Heartbreakers opened last year and has since become a hugely popular bar/venue.
Heartbreakers is the most pricey place on this list, but it boasts a great menu of really cool and delicious cocktails, one of which comes with a Bourbon biscuit – I would definitely recommend this.
The decor of the bar instantly impressed me and it just feels like a really nice place to have a drink.
Hosting live music is always a plus, and Heartbreakers has a big space upstairs for events and gigs.
Heartbreakers is located in Hannover Buildings, just across the road from British Heart Foundation.
2 – Stein Garten
How often do you find yourself in a traditional Bavarian beer hall (or Keller) in the UK? I would imagine that the answer is probably about once a year – at some half-hearted attempt at Oktoberfest in a field somewhere. I’m right aren’t I?
Well luckily for the good folk of Southampton, we have the Stein Garten. And it’s exactly what it says on the tin.
Steins of proper German beer (brewed in accordance with the country’s strict brewing laws), a Stein is a two pint glass traditional in Germany, and all the German food one could eat. No literally, they have a yard long hot dog challenge – ‘The Stein Dog’.
Add in to the mix that between 5 and 7pm you can grab yourself £5 steins, and it all makes for a rather pleasant place to drink.
The Stein Garten occupies 45-47 High Street. You’ll have to walk straight past a Spoons to get there, but trust me, you’ll be glad you did.
1 – The Shooting Star
Topping our list is the simply brilliant Shooting Star. Independent to its core, wonderful staff, great prices, there’s no place in Southampton I would recommend higher than the Shooting Star.
Let’s start with the prices. You know that feeling when you really fancy a cocktail and then your enthusiasm gets brutally murdered by prices of £8 and over? Not here. £5.50 is your average price for a cocktail off the menu, not to mention a 2-4-1 happy hour everyday between 6-9pm. They also offer a delectable selection of delicious pint cocktails for £4.50.
Every night has either a theme or an offer. The best of which being 2-4-1 cocktails all night on Wednesdays, or 20% off all drinks on Sundays. They have also recently started serving pizzas (which are amazing).
Not only all of this, but it’s open until 2am, seven days a week.
The staff are friendly and chatty, and add an extra dimension to this bar that makes it a cut above the rest.
Oh yeah, and there’s two incredibly adorable dogs.
The Shooting Star can be found at 40-42 Bevois Valley Road.
So there you have it, some of the best independent drinking spots in Southampton. You now have no reason to settle for dreary chain pubs. I order you to break the cycle of mediocre nights at mediocre pubs.