ALTHOUGH this is some way adrift of Taverner’s normal beat, I visited the Doctor’s Orders to satisfy some personal curiosity – and to get to the bottom of a mystery which a regular reader emailed to ask me to investigate.
Namely, how could this be named Student Pub of the Year in these national awards organised by trade paper the Morning Advertiser?
It’s a valuable prize, winning for the Doctor’s Orders some handy national exposure. So what exactly had they done to deserve the honour, ahead of Leeds’ most famous student pubs like the Fenton, the Skyrack or the Faversham?
It’s certainly a very impressive building, occupying a prime spot above a main junction between Sheffield Children’s Hospital, the Royal Hallamshire Hospital and the main university campus. It was previously an hotel, and there is the slight sense of approaching a forbidding high-ceilinged lobby, as you walk up the steps to the front door. To your left is a broad open drinking area with comfortable leather sofas, to your right a long bar. Beyond here, a skeleton in medical whites guards the staircase to a raised drinking and dining area, where a huge pitched and leaded skylight affords some natural illumination.
Staff scurry between bar and kitchen, fetching steaming plates of dinner to an appreciative clientele, who on this visit seemed to be chiefly the over-40s, like myself. Whatever the attraction to students, there were precious few of them around.
There are signs of wear and tear, but we are nearing the end of the academic year, so why wouldn’t there be? As in many student pubs, the long summer break offers ample opportunity for a gentle refresh of the facilities.
The menu offers sensibly-priced, hearty pub food, from which I chose the classic burger (£8.45), a big beef patty served very simply with some tangy sauce alongside some lettuce and a mound of real chips. My partner goes for the vegetarian lasagne (£8.95), again a sturdy portion, this time with a mixed salad and some crusty, calorie-laden hunks of garlic bread. None of this would win any haute cuisine prizes – and certainly when compared to the quality dining of the Faversham it pales into insignificance – but in a student pub, perhaps price and portion size are more important indicators of its popularity, rather than the sheer excellence of the food itself.
Curiously though, their discounts are only offered to student medics.
And then I discover the bar – and there perhaps stumble upon the one stand-out feature which has made the Doctor’s Orders a sure prescription for success. Here there is a row of six real ale handpulls, fewer perhaps than the Fenton, but what makes these special is that they are all dispensing the pub’s own beers. The Doctor’s Orders is the tap for Sheffield’s Little Critters Brewery, whose menagerie of animal-themed ales includes the pale Golden Goose (3.8%), oatmeal stout Sleepy Badger (4.5%), traditional English-style IPA Malty Python (4.8%) and the Chameleon series of single-hopped ales (5.5%).
And at a time when students have embraced Britain’s wonderful resurgent beer culture like never before, gained an enthusiasm for new flavours and taste experiences – and have come to prize beers’ local provenance – a student pub with its own brewery was always bound to be a winner.
THE DOCTOR’S ORDERS, Glossop Road, Sheffield
Type: No-nonsense drinkers’ paradise
Opening Hours: Noon-midnight Mon-Sat; noon-7pm Sun
Beers: Six handpulls including choices from Little Critters Brewery – plus John Smiths Smooth, Heineken, Sagres, Stella Artois and Strongbow
Wine: Reasonable choice from £2.50-glass and £12-bottle
Food: Straightforward pub food noon-9pm Mon-Sat and noon-6pm Sun
Entertainment: Tues quiz, live music last Sat of the month, TVs
Disabled: Ramp access, split level inside
Children: Not especially suitable
Beer garden: Front and rear
Parking: Multi-storey car park across the road
Telephone: 0114 2721214