Back to Parma last week, and, as I wrote recently, I had used Google and Babelfish to do some research beforehand. Nothing much new and exciting at the places I have blogged about before, Mentana 104 and Birreria Underground, although I managed to find a salumeria delicatessen that had a few beers from the new Birrificio del Ducato that I dragged home. (They survived intact, although I was worried when I stood waiting for the express train from Oslo airport to stop and I saw a small puddle underneath my suitcase. No Italian beers, fine wines or olive oil were harmed, but there was a leaky bottle from Unibroue and a smashed bottle of English barely wine. I’ll have to think more about packaging..)
So, I set out in the early evening for the outskirts of town. 40 minutes brisk walk led me to the Chelsea Pub, a place you have to look for to find it. Sure, it is on one of the main roads out of Parma, but the frontage towards the road is very unassuming, and there is no sign telling passers by that this is a bar and beer store.
And, at first sight, it is not a very inviting place, neither in the mock Oirish/ Olde English style nor in the slick Italian chrome and glass sort of style. There are plain tables and chairs and very harsh industrial style lightning. (This type of glaring lights is actually quite common in Italy). The coziness is made up by the place being two thirds full of friends enjoying their panini and beer. No music, no TV screens, just beer, bread and conversation. That is what it’s all about.
A long list of sandwiches with all the best bread, cheese and meat Italy can offer plus a fair number of beers on tap and bottled. No beer list, but luckily there is a corner of the bar that functions as a shop where you can look more closely at the range on offer.
They have several ales from the St. Peter’s range, some nice Scottish beers, Belgians, Germans, but no Italian micros. They even have rather elusive beers like a few from Fantome.
I had a lovely speck and Gorgonzola toast and started with a Bornem Trippel, which was on tap. A fairly standard Belgian strong blond with full body and the right amount of sourness.
The decor of the place is fairly rustic, with soccer flags and b&w movie memorabilia. The counter i heaped with English crisps. I tried a horseradish and sour cream – a first!
I followed up with St. Peter’s Summer Ale (lovely) and Broughton’s Scottish Oatmeal Stout, which lacked enough body to lift it.
It was getting late, so I decided to ask them to call for a taxi instead of walking back. But it is a place worth walking to if you find yourself in Parma. The only downside with some of these pubs is that they don’t stock the local micro brews. There might be snobbery involved, it might be the price level of the craft beers, it might just be a market that is not very mature. (I hasten to add that the market where I come from is much less mature!)