Third to open of the Titanic Brewery’s small but delightful chain of houses, Stoke town centre’s The White Star would be a fine addition to any urban pub landscape. Although Stoke is one of the Six Towns’ more run-down areas its real ale scene is very much worth sampling, similar to Burslem in the density of pubs serving the holy grail.
Titanic houses have a pleasant, albeit similar, style. The White Star sees a well laid-out bar area complemented by copious seating, along with another smaller bar area upstairs. As is to be expected a fine range of Titanic beers is always available, which at the time of the latest visit (Christmas Eve) included the fearsome Wreckage at 7.2%. Those requiring something a little lighter will find Steerage, White Star and Captain Smith’s (amongst others) more to their taste, with a handful of guests adding up to 10 cask beers on tap. As with Titanic’s flagship Bulls Head in Burslem, all are described on hanging, interchangeable, wooden boards adjacent to the bar.
Service in the White Star is excellent and an unusual element is added by an American barmaid. What tempts this lady from the Land of the Free to Stoke town centre is unclear, but she ably upholds the standards of service set by her colleagues. Rambling and slightly Daily Mail-esque local real-ale gospel Potters Bar, produced by the Staffordshire branch of CAMRA, is available in the White Star – always a good sign. Snacks of oatcakes and cold platters are served at lunchtime.
Although located within a stone’s throw of a number of Stoke’s other less salubrious pubs – think Wetherspoon’s, for one – the clientale to be found here is a good mix including ‘more senior’ drinkers, office staff at lunchtime, beer monsters and the student element. Thankfully the less desirable minority is notable by its absence and the atmosphere is all the better for it. The weekend DJ, with his flashing disco lights straight out of the ’80s, is a little out of place in a pub like this, however.
To sum up, The White Star is a superb venue, ‘made’ by its fine local ale, great service and atmospheric interior furnishings. All that prevents it becoming Pubs in Staffordshire’s first five-star entrant is the DJ element and long trek to the the gents, along with an uncertainty amongst non-regulars concerning the upstairs bar’s status. Is it reserved for private parties or not? Those minor niggles aside, The White Star quite rightfully cements its place amongst the cream of the local pub crop.
Drink – ****1/2
Atmosphere – ****
Surroundings – ****
Staff – ****1/2