Your h2g2 Roving Reporter is back with the scoop on another fine establishment.
Each week I profile one of the many delightful meeting places that thrive in our community, from pubs and cafés, to churches and parks, and on occasion, present a series of Quick Picks, pointing out some of the little gems and unique out-of-the-way locations.
If you have questions, comments, or suggestions for the Roving Reporter, leave them here.
The Forum & Firkin
Step up to the bar
A beautiful wooden sign welcomes you to the pub when you arrive. You enter and are immediately struck by a simple fact -- this place is immense! A six-foot chandelier hangs from the ceiling1 over the bar, which is solid oak and seems to stretch forever along the back of the hall. According to Menza:
The bar is so old that it has just sort of always been there. We move down it every so often for more room (it seems nobody can be bothered to do the washing up so the place just fills up with all the empties). But strangely, whereever we move along the bar, the main entrance is always opposite.
The decor is, well, eclectic. One wall is plastered with old and faded advertising posters, complete with a 'Wanted' poster or two. You can spend hours deciphering the old slogans. Another wall appears to be made entirely of empty wooden barrels -- actually a kind of repair job done by the Beer Dwarf after a 500 gallon beer barrel crashed through the wall. In addition to the bar stools, there's a comfortable old sofa (if you can't find Menza you might try looking behind it) and some upholstered chairs, rugs, and tapestries complete with scenes of lords and ladies quaffing, lions, and tentacles (more on that later) that almost look like they're stored in the main hall temporarily while another place for them is being prepared. In fact, Menza is constantly remodeling and working on new projects -- you hardly ever see him without a paint brush or hammer in hand, starting a new project with three others in the works, stopping only to serve or drink.
There are also two kitchens, the Servery, a Ladies' Loo (and they just added a Gents' a couple of days ago!), several rooms with televisions tuned to sporting activities, and... the cellar. Never enter the cellar unless you've been specifically invited by Menza and Kitty, and even then, take pause -- dangers abound.
Drink, Eat, and be Merry!
This is, after all, part of the main purpose of the F&F. You will find people drinking at the bar at any time of day or night and this is where most of the discussion occurs as well2. This group also has special celebrations at the drop of a hat (I once saw them break out the champagne for reaching the 400th post in a thread).
If Menza isn't personally serving, there are official and unofficial staff bartenders who will be happy to pour one for you. There are quite a number of regulars you'll see at the F&F, so I won't list them here, but as far as permanent fixtures go, don't be surprised to see Bluebottle tending bar, and Dr E Vibenstein sitting at the bar3. E Vibenstein was the first to walk into the F&F when it opened in its current location4 on October 23, 1999 and sometimes it seems like he's never left.
Of course, any good pub has televised sports and the F&F is no exception. The television rooms are quite popular and can include some heated discussion. You can also take part in regular pub quizes which range from humorous and easy to extremely challenging. Discussions at the pub are quite delightful and can range far afield -- just check out the What is Love? thread for an example.
c|_| \%/ Y (_) g|_| |:| (.) c|_/
At first, the bar conversations can seem a bit confusing if you're not familiar with h2g2 pub terminology. For example, you might hear:
Patron: I'll have a c|_|, and a g|_| for my friend. You drinking a Y?
Bartender: *Pours c|_| and g|_|, drinks Y*
Patron: I'd like a pint, and a Guinness for my friend. Are you drinking champagne?
Bartender: *Pours and serves pint and Guinness, drinks champagne*
Patron: *clinks glasses together* Cheers!
It's really not that hard to catch on (and the conversations of course go well beyond just the serving of drinks), but there are so many short-cuts for different drinks, it's probably worth checking out the Post article on drinkies, which will give you a fairly good list of some of the more common symbols.
The resident master cook of the F&F is Ændr, The Mad Hatter. She provides the patrons with good homecooked meals and something to balance the copious amounts of alcohol they drink. Stop by the servery (located in the adjacent wall along the current section of the bar) and check out the specials of the day. It's not an extensive list of choices -- usually one or two entrées each day -- but this is balanced by the special home cooking attention she gives to the food. On some days, you can also order food at the bar. Last time I ate there, I had carrot and lentil soup with a swirl of cream served with a herby bread bap, and for the main course: angel-hair pasta served with a tomato, red pesto, red wine, spinach, red onion and mushroom sauce -- it was excellent! While Ændr is a whiz with all types of food, probably her favorite specialty is cake -- cakes of all kinds, including some you can't get elsewhere.
The Pub Pet
Kitty is the F&F mascot and has consented to being Ændr's pet. When you hear the name 'Kitty' you may be thinking of a house cat, but nothing could be further from the truth. Kitty is a cave lion, and a rather large one at that. No... bigger. Keep going. Now double that and you've just about got Kitty's size. When I first met Kitty, he gave me a light affectionate nuzzle which knocked me flat on the floor.
Kitty lives in the cellar, usually basking on a pile of old wooden barrels (I was never able to get close enough to them to see what they contained). Being a cave lion, he likes the cold, and even the cool cellar is warm to him. He is also fiercely protective of Ændr, Menza, and the pub. If you ever need to go down to the cellar, it's best to be prepared with some cake for Kitty -- and not just any cake, but the special recipe kitty cake that only Ændr can prepare (I suspect that this may be one of the reasons Kitty loves Ændr so much!)
Kitty occasionally comes up to the main hall. When this happens, your best approach is to sit still and let him approach you -- hope that Menza or another regular is around to give Kitty some cake, fish, or his milk bowl:
Whatever you do, don't insult Ændr's cooking, even in jest, when Kitty is around. Kitty is actually a very loveable and delightful feline, but a cave lion is, well, not something to mess with!
Back in the mists of time....
The F&F has an incredible sense of... age.
When Menza found the location for the F&F, it had obviously been unused for a long period of time. He thinks that much of the building appears to be dated around 1800, but down in the cellar there are hidden rooms and passages that seem to be hewn out of rock that have history that goes much earlier. Even Menza doesn't know the full story.
One reason not to wander in the cellar on your own is the fact that the Tentacle lives deep down below the F&F. As Menza says:
I found the Tentacle during a foray into the cellar one day... well, more to
Oddly enough, Kitty appears to be good friends with the Tentacle.
In order to find out more about the past, this reporter interviewed a number of individuals and most importantly spent some time with Kitty, who seems to have an amazing knowledge of the history of the place. Translating feline is a challenge (Kitty's speech sounds something like this: mrrrrr mrr mrrrr mrrr prrrst mmmr mrrrrr mrrrrrmrrr oa maou
mrr moaiauou mrrrrnzzzz mrrrrz), so what follows is a best approximation.
*Kitty can remember when this place was just fields... before hrrrmmrrrnnsss [humans?] came on the scene...
*Kitty and the trrrntrrrkrrrllll [tentacle?] soon made firm friends...*
(Apparently, the tentacle was here before Kitty, having emerged from the primordial soup itself)
*after some time, hrrrmrnnnsss began to arrive, they used
the cave for a gathering place and alcohol was invented
there... it became quite popular over the centuries...
*the land scenery changed, it was no longer so cold... earth
movements caused the cave to be buried low down, though
passages still led up high*
As time passed, a village of bronze-workers formed with gathering places above the cave. And since then, there has always been a settlement of some kind where the pub no lies -- a village, a fort, a monastery. In the mid 16th Century Borridge hall was built -- an
Elizabethan house -- though after the family died out it fell
into disrepair. The land was bought and sold a couple of
times, different buildings built atop of the remains of
older ruins... finally being sold to be a public house not
so long ago --
*a mere breath in Kitty's life...*
-- in the middle of the 19th century. Since then, it has always been a public house.
Today, this sense of history adds to the charm and mystery of The Forum & Firkin -- a place to go for great drink, great food, and great conversation!
Hmmmm... I believe Kitty just said 'Cheers!', so I better cut this short.
Yes, Kitty... It's time to raise a glass...
...to The Forum & Firkin!
Other features by the Roving Reporter
'c|_|36' (go to the highest numbered one). For food, the
servery is similarly numbered, such as 'The servery part 6'.3You may also see Demon Drawer slumped in front of the bar, but no need to air political controversy in this feature!4Menza operated the pub from his home for some time before moving to this spot.