Comedian and food fiend Jessica Fostekew puts her mouth where others fear to tread. A celebration of eating: from posh nosh to kebab shops to stuff that’s been on the floor. This week, Jess finds her home from home in Hull.
The comedy audiences are a treat. Everyone you meet in the day seems chipper. Even when they realise you’re (deep breath)… southern. Best of all, no one interrupted my long, quite public, afternoon car-nap. Always a happy sign that a place is unfussy.
What does a woman need when she emerges, sweaty and crinkly-faced from her Ford Fiesta siesta? Correct. Some dinner.
The Minerva is a pub which deigns to name itself after the Roman goddess of wisdom, war, arts and crafts. How, with all the wising off and warring, did she ever find time for origami and distressing chairs? What an impressive and multifaceted lady.
It turns out there’s rather a lot that the pub does well too.
It’s perched right on the now-sleepy marina. Inside is one floor of little rooms connected by a weaving maze of little doorways. It boasts the littlest room in any pub, a very sweet snug holding just a table and two chairs. This was occupied, so I took my pink, indented face to one of the bigger rooms.
“They were flipping lovely and told me all about their families. ‘What you having for tea?’ It was like being on the phone to my Mum.”
It had a traditional style with dark wood, varnished furniture, branded beer mats and swirled old carpets. It was heaving but not stressful.
There were all sorts there, from families to couples to groups of boozy mates. I saw other people trying little racks of three different ales. I don’t care about ale and I’m off the lash at the moment, but what an excellent idea. Like drinkers’ tapas, who knew shots could be tasteful?
There were tens and tens of busy, chirpy staff about. It seemed everyone and their dog had popped in there for tea. The simple menu boasted that it’s all homemade. Gammon steaks, pies and bangers and mash. There was even a comically Yorkshirian small, grey, unappealing subsection in the bottom corner for ‘vegetarians’. Those freaks could have a cheese and broccoli quiche and they could like it or lump it. Ha ha.
I’d not had it for years I don’t think, so I went for whole-tail scampi.
While I waited, it was like being in a friend’s lounge at Christmas, it was all so jolly. Local radio tinkled away in the background beneath all chat and laughter. I had a view of the water.
“There was even a comically Yorkshirian small, grey, unappealing subsection in the bottom corner for ‘vegetarians’. Those freaks could have a cheese and broccoli quiche and they could like it or lump it.”
Some people arrived on the table nearby and needed an extra chair. The chap went to fetch one from miles away and was immediately ridiculed by everyone on nearer tables. They all insisted he could always have had one of their closer chairs. It was the friendliest and most natural bullying I’ve ever enjoyed.
I love a background when I’m writing so I got my laptop out. Silly move. At once the chap next to me sidled over: “Ooh, what you doing on there? You’re not working are you?” And so a brief new friendship began.
He and his friend went to uni in Hull. They had both just turned 50 so were reuniting there tonight. They said they’d been meaning to try this pub for 30 years. They were flipping lovely and told me all about their families. “What you having for tea?” It was like being on the phone to my Mum.
When my scampi arrived it was pretty grandiose. My new chums left me to it, though I wouldn’t have minded eating at them. The salad bit was delightfully huge with everything you could hope for in it. Crunchy lettuce, fresh red onion, peppers, tomato, skinned cucumber and even a sprinkling of cress. There was a pot of lovely coleslaw and a tiny pot of tartar too. The tartar was so good, it had to have been homemade. Dreamily creamy and full of little juicy capers and tart chunks of gherkin.
The small hillock of scampi was delicious. Crunchy, hot crumbs round big lumps of lovely white crustacean-tails. Tasting like a cross between prawn and white crab meat, they go so well with tartar, a big wedge of lemon and chips. And oh boy, the chips. They were enormous. Most definitely hand-cut, they were halfway to roasties. Melting, soft innards with crispy, golden edges. They tasted so earthy and scrumptious, they might have even been homegrown.
For £6.95 it was a beautiful feast.
It’s obvious when there’s care gone into the running of a place. But that’s never more evident than when this much love is going into grub. This was a home from home. Delightful.
Minerva, Nelson St, Hull, HU1 1XE
Tel: 01482 210025
Open: Mon – Sat 11.30am – 11pm, Sun 12pm – 11pm
Access: No step-free access to the pub. About six steps up into the building, then there is the odd small step here and there. Narrow walkways. There is an adapted toilet available but only in the Brewhouse downstairs.
Jessica Fostekew is a writer, comedian, actor, law degree-waster, sister, daughter and beard-fan with an unabashed food infatuation.