The Caledonia is no ordinary pub.
It’s a glorious mix of real ale, vegan junk food and grass roots music all held together by community spirit and sausage dogs. This is a pub that a few years ago faced the threat of being turned into student flats but celebrated its 10th birthday this year – stronger than ever. A pub named after a Cunard ship that sank off the coast of Cuba was perhaps always destined to hit troubled waters, but thankfully this Georgian Quarter gem is made of sterner stuff.
Tenacious landlady Laura took the helm 10 years ago and has turned the Caledonia from failing wreck into a ship-shape watering hole: “It’s been a long, hard and interesting, but extremely rewarding journey to get to where we are.” she says. Known to its (many) friends as the Cali, this was a pub worth fighting for: quiet pints in the big front room, junk food feasts with your mates and live music that puts a smile on your face. Thousands of signatures (and a bit of help from the city council) kept this brave ‘people’s pub’ alive and its never looked back.
It’s a pub with principles, where the regulars have joined the side of seitan and embraced the Cali’s bold decision to go vegan last year. But don’t mistake their principles for tedium, the meat-eaters have stayed – probably because the vegan junk food on offer is so damn tasty. There’s award-winning chimken wings, burgers the size of your head and pulled jackfruit that leaves staunch carnivores questioning the meaning of life. Add a side of ‘potato three ways’ and a five-layer Biscoff windmill cake and you’re ripe for a nap by the piano.
You’ll need to time your nap wisely though, that piano sees some action – as does the Cali stage, a regular home for the likes of Loose Moose and the Martin Smith Quartet and graced by folk, jazz and bluegrass bands from across the globe. And when the Cali is rocking it’s hard to resist, it’s a place to leave your pretentions at the door and get involved. Don’t leave your dogs there though, the Cali is probably the most dog-friendly pub in the city. Your dog’s not into chimken? Fair enough, there’s a big jar of biscuits to keep them sweet and they can wash it down with some dog beer. Monthly dog socials and a ‘dog of the week’ make four-legged friends a big part of the Cali community.
And then there’s the beer, we nearly forgot the beer. As a free house the good ship Caledonia is big on supporting local producers and brewers so you’re in for an ever-changing and diverse tipple here – all animal-friendly of course. Laura’s eight years at the helm have seen battles for survival, trouble on the streets and a big change in direction but she says “I’m so happy that we’ve been able to grow and blossom into a community main stay. It’s a continued pleasure to support and promote grass roots traditional music and exciting to be growing into ourselves as a wholly vegan outlet.”.
Pubs are in decline and we’ve lost some greats over the past few years, but the Cali is bucking the trend by striking a balance between being a great boozer and a community hub. Please support it.