Photo special with images from Tony Blake Photography.
A once much loved Chester city centre pub which suffered years of troubles has been brought back to life as part of hospitality guru Jerry Brunning's emerging Pubs Ltd estate.
Launched as the fourth outlet in the four year old Cheshire based group - which includes the inaugural Swan at Marbury opened in 2018, the Black Bear, Whitchurch, and the Hare, Farndon (aka the Greyhound) - a substantial investment has been made in The Henry Potts in Lower Watergate Street.
Hugely popular as the Fat Cat in the nineties, the venue closed with the collapse of the parent company in 2013. Since then there have been several short lived incarnations for the Georgian Watergate House basement property.
Most recently, four years ago, it was opened by Wrexham's Big Hand Brewery as the Big Hand Ale House, only to be fatally blighted by the trading horror of the pandemic. We enjoyed it very much in its short life.
The name harks back to the original incumbent of the Grade II property, built in 1820 for Henry Potts in his capacity as the Clerk of the Peace for Cheshire.
Henry may have judged it favourably. The new-look keeps it simple with bare floorboards ( the originals), white washed walls adorned adorned with period pictures, photographs and prints, and the creative use of intimate alcove space. Discreet yet effective lighting helps add to a warm ambiance.
Now crucially, for us, there's a five strong hand pull line up on the solid wooden bar. For the launch days there was Big Hand Appaloosa, Weetwood Best, Three Tuns Solstice and Mobberley Summitt - all cracking - sitting alongside the permanent house JPA, a pale ale obliquely named for the boss.
Craft beers include Tiny Rebel
EasyLivin, Lervig Loudspeaker and Danish Mikkeller's Pale Ale with Urban Orchard cider from Hawk's. The food offer will be largely traditional, using fresh local produce they assure, while the house wines are blended exclusively in Bordeaux and have gone well with the other pubs.
'Potts' has opened under the stewardship of the much experienced and ebullient publican Jonney Cox, transferred from successfully running the Hare, which he opened in late 2020 in the face of the pandemic. Jonney believes that the venue - standing just off the city walls on the way to the racecourse and a little away from the main drag of city centre bars - will become 'a local in the city' to add to the rich tapestry of Chester pubs.
He told us: "We are excited and proud to open the Henry Potts, a city pub in the basement of Chester's historic Watergate House. We aim to offer good honest food, a range of beers and ales that we're proud of and excellent wines, some of which we blend and import ourselves. Despite being in a basement, it's a welcoming and cosy place to be visit. We are your local pub in the city, with a great team to welcome you too."
So will this hostelry survive and prosper this time around, thrown immediately up against the harsh challenges of post Covid trading, rapidly rising living costs and poor economic prospects? Well, Jerry Brunning was co-founder with Graham Price of the eponymous Brunning & Price chain - turning an abandoned chandlery hidden away on Chester's neglected canalside into The Old Harkers Arms as their first northern pub. The duo must have seen some ups and downs over the years, but - although in 2007 they sold to the mega Restaurant Group (TRG) - today 'Harkers' remains a thriving city destination, albeit still off the well trodden city pub circuit. Can Jerry pull it off again? At Beer Tours we hope so. Best good luck to Jonney and his crew.