Bar One: A magnet for the unusual, this pub could be Derby city centre’s very best

Hanging above the bar is a row of cuddly toys. But we’re not talking TY Beanie Babies or teddy bears. Instead you’ll find pint-sized versions of Theresa May, Vladimir Putin and Priti Patel. Look up to your left and you’ll see a selection of skateboards, one of which featuring the face of Homer Simpson. And on every TV screen, more often than not, you’ll see a cult movie like Clueless being played with the sound off.

This is Bar One, in Newland Street, quite possibly the best pub in Derby city centre. But don’t just take my word for it. Back in 2021, our resident expert Colston Crawford, otherwise known as the Beerhunter, described it as a “best-kept secret”. And this week it won our competition to find the best beer garden in Derbyshire, leading by a country mile (with 2,000 more votes than the – very good – runner-up).

I can confirm that the beer garden is excellent. It’s small, but deceptively so, with around ten tables of various sizes. It’s covered from above, so rainy days are no problem, and it’s also walled, meaning it’s sheltered from the wind. There’s a huge Connect 4 (£5 deposit – refundable if all the pieces are returned), funny hand-painted signs and a stage big enough for live performances. Isy Suttie, famous for her role as Dobbie in Peep Show, performed stand-up there recently, as well as right-wing comedian Geoff Norcott, and once for the 2Q Festival, musician Tom Grennan, who now sells out arenas. You can smoke and vape too, if that’s your bag.

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Inside, you’ll find what I would reluctantly call an “alternative” crowd. I know it’s a naff word but I’m sure it paints the right kind of picture. I’d say the age range skews to around the 30-something mark, but there are more than a few outliers at both ends of the scale. If you’re not student enough anymore to hack Friday nights at The Bless, and the Hairy Dog makes you think that your heavy metal credentials leave something to be desired, you’ll feel right at home at Bar One.

Bar One's beer garden at night with customers filling the tables
Bar One’s beer garden, voted by our readers as the best in Derbyshire, is sheltered from the wind and rain and has enough room to hold a stage

I remember when a £5 pint was only heard of in bone-chilling stories about how expensive things are in London. Sadly, with all the challenges faced by pubs in 2024, it is now a familiar sight in Derby. That’s roughly what you’ll expect to pay for the high-quality beers on offer at this city centre haunt, give or take 50p, and I don’t begrudge them that. For those seeking a pint at the much cheaper end, the newly-opened Iron Ram is offering John Smiths at £2.35.

But if you’re taking a break from the booze, or you’ve given it up completely, fear not. During Dry January I asked landlord and owner Nick Parker if he had any zero-percent drinks. The list was so long that I was tempted to have a little sit-down halfway through. From prosecco to fruity ciders to crisp lagers, it was an embarrassment of riches.

The best beer gardens in Derbyshire, as voted for by you

1. Bar One, Derby city centre

2. The Smithfield, near Derby city centre

3. The Hunters Arms, Kilburn

4. The Flowerpot, Derby city centre

5. The Bell & Castle, Burton Road, Derby

Nick and his staff run a tight ship and in all the years I have been visiting I have never known any trouble. It seems that the sort who might fancy a punch-up at midnight don’t tend to pop in, and long may that continue.

There is one small problem. Has there ever been a perfect pub? “The Moon Under Water” is but a pipe dream. So, in the interests of full disclosure, I will say that the toilets are a little Phoenix Nights. I’m sure they will get around to doing them up at some point and then there really will be very little to complain about. You can’t have everything.

Nick Parker, owner and licensee of Bar One, with Buddy the dog.
Nick with a familiar face to punters – Buddy the dog

When Nick talked to Colston a few years ago, he said: “I’m the longest-serving landlord of a pub you’ve never heard of.” While I really don’t want to see my favourite spot overrun, I do wish that more people knew of this special place. Celebrating its 17th year in business in September, it’s hard to understand why it is yet to be mentioned in the same breath as the city’s landmark pubs. Next time you’re in the Wardwick, go down Becket Street, pass the Hairy Dog, turn right after the funeral parlour and discover somewhere that might just be your new regular.

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