Owing to its situation on the eastern side of the Pennines, Sheffield is not blessed with a temperate climate. Even so, on the day of my sojourn in early October, the weather in this wet and windy northern city was peculiarly dire. I had planned to walk through the town centre, from the pseudo-bohemian Devonshire Quarter, to the partially ‘regenerated’ district around Kelham Island, where the old steel works have lately given way to modern flats and a number of excellent real ale pubs. However, the torrential rain then afflicting the city was enough to make me change my plans, and take refuge in the nearest hostelry, rather than complete my journey to Kelham Island. That pub was the Red Deer, which lies in the midst of the sprawling Sheffield University, between West Street and the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
The Red Deer is a longstanding favourite of students and academics alike, and has lately been refurbished by its new managers. The smell of wet paint was still discernible when I stepped inside; though I daresay its interior decoration is currently incomplete, since it has not yet been filled with the anachronistic nick-knacks and old signs that adorn most English pubs.
Although the Red Deer contains nothing more than tables, chairs, and a quiz machine, it is still a cosy and comfortable place to while away a few hours. There are no bar flies; instead the somewhat cerebral clientele huddle round the small tables, discussing the finer points of economics, folklore, civil engineering, and other scholarly subjects. At the time of my visit, there were five cask ales for sale, including Easy Rider, Black Sheep, and Harvest Pale. The latter was excellent, as usual. There was also a small lunch menu of sandwiches and chips, which could be had in conjunction with a pint of beer for the very reasonable price of £5. The bits of potato skin still visible on the chips evidenced that they had actually been cut by hand, rather than reconstituted from potato dust in some far flung factory – quite a revelation, in the field of cheap pub fare.