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“5 stars for the pub, one for the staff”
Review of The Blue Bell

The Blue Bell
Ranked #1 of 52 Nightlife in York
Certificate of Excellence
More attraction details
Attraction details
Owner description: The Blue Bell is York's only Grade II* Listed Edwardian Public House. The first pint was pulled in 1798 and it's interior has remained untouched since 1903, allowing you to step back in time and experience a piece of living history first hand. Famous for it's wide selection of cask ales, pork pies, friendly service and lovely atmosphere, The Blue Bell is also York CAMRA's Pub of The Season for Winter 2016/17 and is listed in the Good Beer Guide as well as numerous publications regarding classic pub interiors. There are no TVs, music or games machines and although there is free WiFi, don't be expecting any mod cons or gimmicks. The Blue Bell is also York's smallest Public House and as such has extremely strict policies of no groups, swearing, Hen or Stag parties, mobile phones or Under 18s. At busy times you may not get into the pub - midweek afternoons are usually the quietest times if you would like to sit down. A warm welcome awaits you at The Blue Bell - but only if you follow the rules and do your part to create a warm, relaxed and (some would say old-fashioned) atmosphere of respect and friendship. It's a proper pub, for proper pub people...
Reviewed 11 August 2011

Maybe the older 'blonde' lady who served me was the landlord's wife (see previous review), because her attitude was certainly consistent with his. I've lived in & around York for several years but I'd never tried the Blue Bell, so I popped in for a pint one Saturday lunchtime. First impressions were great - totally unspoiled Edwardian pub, two small rooms, friendly ambience among the customers, a regular in the corner doing his crossword etc.

Unfortunately this only lasted as far as the bar - a super array of draught beers, but when I asked which were the bitters as opposed to the milds and stouts I got a very surly and offhand reply. I then ordered a sandwich and pork pie. The napkin was plonked down on the counter in the middle of a patch of beer, so you can imagine the response when I asked for a dry one! When I'd paid she turned her back on me, leaving me to work out I was presumably supposed to help myself to a pie from the display on the counter.

Once I'd sat down, pie balanced on napkin, she then shouted over to me that my plate was on the counter. Up I got, and at the counter she told me, with as much enthusiasm as she could muster, that I should help myself to a pie. At which point, to my delight, an older gentleman on a stool, clearly a longtime regular, clapped me on the back and with a laugh said to the barmaid 'He's already done that, you're too slow!' At which point she snapped at him - a harmless old boy, who presumably has put a fair amount of money in their undeserving pockets - 'How was I supposed to know?' Well, how about by paying attention and providing at least a basic level of service in the first place.

I'm sure reviews such as this are water off a duck's back, judging by the landlord's comments elsewhere on Trip Advisor about their awards. On the other hand, this was peak time, 1230 on a Saturday, it's a pub which is highly praised in all the local guides for its unspoilt atmosphere - yet I had a choice of seats, having expected it to be packed out. Maybe consumer power is having an effect, and with the choice of a large number of welcoming and equally traditional pubs in York city centre, I for one will never set foot in the Blue Bell again.

By the way, the single star is for the very cheery lady who brought my sandwich, and who should find employment more suited to her lovely attitude as soon as possible.

8  Thank Alan C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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197 - 201 of 210 reviews

Reviewed 30 May 2011

My girlfriend and I visited the Blue Bell last night, along with another couple who were visiting us from London. It was my birthday, and we had just enjoyed a meal in a nearby restaurant, when we decided to visit the Blue Bell for a quiet nightcap before heading home.

There were signs up outside saying "Private Function", but on entering to enquire as to whether the function was still ongoing, we found out that in fact there never was a private function at all; this is just a strategy the landlord employs every night to allow him to vet and filter the clientele. If he likes the look of you, you are allowed in, if not, there is a "private function". The pub was in fact virtually empty, and the landlord openly admitted that he just puts these signs up because he only wants certain people to come in. Presumably the Brewery would be disappointed to learn of his unique custom management technique.

We were told to go and sit in the back of the pub, in a separate little room. We four were the only ones in this room, and we were enjoying our drinks, having a quiet, civilised conversation, and commenting on how lovely and cosy this little pub was.

After having been there for about 10 minutes, the landlord approached us with a disgruntled look on his face and began to verbally abuse me. I had been sitting on the bench which goes around the room, and had had my calves resting on one of the stools beside our table. I wasn't disrespecting his furniture, we weren't being raucous, we were completely sober, and we weren't using inappropriate language (as some of the other reviewers had been): we were chatting quietly amongst ourselves and I (with some regret now) had merely rested my calves on a stool.

"THIS IS A PUBLIC HOUSE, NOT A DOSS HOUSE - TAKE YOUR FEET OF MY FURNITURE NOW AND SIT UP PROPERLY," he shouted.

The total incongruity of on the one hand minding our own business in this quiet, charming, warm pub and sitting quietly in the corner, and on the other hand being subjected to this grossly inappropriate, rude and aggressive behaviour took us by such utter surprise that at first we thought he must have been making a friendly joke with us. We waited for the smile or the laugh, or the punch line. . . it never came. . . he continued to spit out agression: "Take yourselves off to Yates Bar; it will suit you better in there; your're not behaving like that in here". Then he stormed off with a face like an agitated bull dog.

We couldn't believe it. We sat there in a state of shock for a couple of minutes, trying to make sense of what had just happened. In my entire life, I have never, ever been spoken to like this, nor have I ever encountered such a poor attitude from a landlord. It is without a doubt the most negative "pub experience" I have ever had.

Upon leaving, we felt it only right to give him our feedback: to tell him that he had spoilt our night and that becuase of his behaviour, attitude and inhospitability we would never come back .

"I don't care," he said. "You can say what you like, but this pub wins award after award, and it will continue to win them". His arrogance was astonishing.

11  Thank Adam G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 22 December 2010

I visited this pub with a group of colleagues after a Christmas lunch. As with another reviewer, we were asked to stop swearing. Fair enough, we toned it down as requested. But we were also told off for leaving empty glasses on our table, sitting in front of the fire and therefore apparently blocking the heat, messing up some cushions on a bench, and putting a chair in a different place to where it is normally kept.

All the regulars clearly treat this place like an extension of their living room. That's fine, but if it is somebody's living room you don't expect to have to pay for the drinks!

Finally, I have never known another pub which puts up signs saying 'Private Party' just because they don't want more people in there.

In a word, avoid!

6  Thank 4Cumbrian
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 13 August 2010

Panelled Edwardian pub, with two rooms. The interior is more or less untouched since 1903. If you want a quiet pint, in a genuine Yorkshire pub free from the stag parties and hen nights of some of York's bars - this is the place for you. The loyal band of regulars are friendly and welcoming, as are the bar staff. They have six real ales on, as well as a good selection of bottled beers. They're not keen on large groups - and you can see why. The place is tiny and they rightly don't want to ruin the mellow ambience. A particularly fine example of the British pub at it very best.

2  Thank LondonSprinter
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 24 May 2010

I visited this pub over a year ago and Im sure it hasnt changed since then. It had a selection of traditional drinks but the real experience was the interior. So very cosy and traditional, the sort of place that makes York special.

1  Thank antidotes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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