The Blue Bell is not the easiest York pub to find. Go down Fossgate and you will find the unpretentious redbrick frontage squashed between the Army and Navy Shop and a music shop. From the outside you might find yourself wondering why you made the effort. If it is a crowded day, or if you are searching for an olde-worlde pub, or if you suffer from claustrophobia you might find yourself wondering the same thing once you get inside. But if you want to see what a typical pub would have looked life - and more importantly, felt like - 100 years ago you will rejoice that your map-reading skills were up to the task.
It is the size of pub which makes no economic sense in this day and age. There are two rooms : a tiny public bar and a similar-sized smoke room. If more than about a dozen people decide to patronise the pub at the same time, the overflow has to make use of a narrow wood-panelled corridor. The secret of its charm is that it has not been "improved" since it had a major makeover in 1903. And because the interior is now listed it should remain safe for generations to come.
When I called in they were preparing for their annual beer festival. Boasting the availability of some 25 real ales this sounded a remarkably silly idea. They were busy stacking beer casks up against every available bit of wall - and there are not many available bits of wall. Unable to quite get my feet comfortably under the table I was sitting at, I investigated only to find two kegs sitting there ready for stacking.
I had a pint of Adnams bitter which, for some reason, didn't quite match up to the singularity of the interior. It's not what you would call powerful nor does it deliver any great subtle tastes. But it went down well and I would still be willing to try a second pint just to check on my conclusions.
As for the pub, I am already planning a return trip in time for the beer festival. That should be an event to remember.