Hunting for Heslington’s Hotspot

Charles or Deramore? Finding an alternative to campus bars is no simple matter. weighs up the pros and cons

Photo: Lucy Dixon

Photo: Lucy Dixon

The invention of the British public house was a milestone in human social evolution. Samuel Pepys once labelled the pub as “the heart of England” and this rings true for millions of Brits. Our locals are a home away from home; a place of nourishment, entertainment and, above all, the sale of copious quantities of alcohol.

But if Pepys was alive today and just happened to be searching Main Street in Heslington for a pint and a bite to eat, where would he choose to go?

For those very few that don’t know, The Deramore Arms and The Charles XII are the two pubs in Heslington closest to the University that vie to satisfy the stomachs and alcohol needs of the student population.

Visiting the Deramore Arms last Saturday I caught up with Jill Green, the manageress for the last 10 years. We started by talking about the origins of The Deramore Arms. It’s been a pub in York for nearly 125 years, before which it was a fully functioning farmhouse.

Currently, about 70-80 per cent of their clientele and profits are student-derived, however they are clearly a few paces behind the Charles when it comes to turnover. No calculator is needed to confirm this; the number of bums on seats at 12:00pm on a Saturday afternoon is ample conformation. The Charles is full to the brim by 12:30pm while The Derry looks somewhat bare ‘til the lacrosse team swagger in some time later. But this clearly is no discouragement to Jill who conveyed, above all else, pride in her pub. She described the Deramore as “family-orientated,” focussing more on a “traditional feel.” An array of shelved books on the wall, old tin pots and windowsill candles confirms as much. With both public and university restrictions on advertising, all Deramore customers are brought through the doors by word of mouth alone.

The pub itself is run by Jill, her partner and her step-son, along with a workforce of 15 students. They serve seven lagers, five ciders and nine real ales at any one time. The menu is changed every six months and Jill was keen to emphasise the homely style of cooking. Quality first in a warm environment is her mission. Obviously, this is reflected in the pricing. Meals aren’t cheap by student standards, with food starting at £6.25 and increasing up to £13.95. But factor in that all ingredients are fresh and locally sourced, the generous portion sizes, and the pricing seems justified.

The Deramore Arms is also apparently famous for its pies, three of which are on the menu at all times, including a pie of the day. And for anyone interested, British pie week starts on March 7th.

The Charles is full to the brim by 12.30pm; The Derry looks somewhat bare ‘til the lacrosse team swagger in

I was keen to find out what Jill thought about her rival The Charles XII and what advantages she thought they had. “Well, they’re the ones sat the top of the street,” she says. Although this seems easy as an explanation, it’s actually fairly solid reasoning. The Charles is nearer to campus by about 100 metres and people are bound to question walking further.

It’s clearly beyond budget to go dining at the Derry every day, but it’s certainly worth visiting a few more times a term than we do at the moment, despite the price. You can guarantee a freshly made meal, snug surroundings and a bit of peace and quiet. Jill once ate at the Charles. She has no desire to return.
If you’re after a steak and ale pie and a pint of Golden Sheep, The Deramore Arms is well worth the walk.

3 comments

  1. Whilst I enjoyed the analysis of the drinking establishments in Heslington Village I feel I have to point out a few discrepancies and points on which I have a contrary opinion.

    Firstly, whilst the selection of real ale at the Deramore is much better than that of The Charles XII I have never come across a night on which there have been 9 on the bar. I am aware that occasionally the Deramore do run a beer festival, but the way it is presented above is very misleading. At best there are usually only 3-4 ales on the bar and the selection seems to rarely change.

    In addition to this I agree that often the food in the Deramore is very nice, especially compared to the meals just along the road, however the quality and quantity of food seems to vary wildly on different occasions. I seem to receive a much better quality meal when I am dining at the Deramore with my parents than when I dine with friends and I have suffered a few run-ins with the food such as onion rings made from red onions that were clearly well past their use by date. At least the Charles XII manages to maintain consistency across their offerings, despite the average low quality of the fare.

    If Ms Green would like to keep up with her local competition I would suggest that she tries to fulfil her assertions in this article. 9 Real Alex means 9, not 4 and good quality food means food that usually comes out at the same standard rather than a range of delicious to dry burgers or tasty to plain off onion rings.

    On a small note it is rather amusing that ‘Nouse’ of all York University publications would prefer the Deramore – although I may be the only one that quaffed over my port whilst reading this article.

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  2. I agree that the Charles is a bit of a chain pub, but the lack of column inches you give it in this article is very much a shame.
    There has been new management in the Charles as well so it would have been interesting to see if there had been a difference.

    I think I’ll be sticking with the Steak Ale Pie and Tennents.

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  3. “There has been new management in the Charles as well so it would have been interesting to see if there had been a difference.”

    the charles is a chain pub so the only difference it could really make is the speed of food coming out through better management/employing more staff. but even the latter is constrained (to an extent) but head office. maybe they’ll decide to turn on some lights for once?

    for an article comparing the two it does seem VERY deramore-centric? could you not have spoken to a manager of the charles also? why not compare two dishes (burger & chips seem to be a favourite) at either establishment? it seemed like a quick advert for the forgotten pub of heslington if i’m honest!

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