I have many 'locals' across Swansea, yet the one pub I class as my real local is the Vivian Arms in Sketty, better known as the Vivs.
I could write a book on the Vivs, the amount of hours I've spent there. But I won't - I'll settle with a simple review. It's where I drank my first proper pint and is a pub that will certainly contribute to my inevitable beer-belly.
Located on a busy crossroads, on the corner of Vivian Road and Gower Road, the Vivs is now the only pub in Sketty Cross after The Bush closed it's grotty doors a few years back. It's owned by Brains, so a decent selection of ales and a certain standard of food and atmosphere can be expected, though the selection and quality seems to vary depending on who the landlord is.
The last five years has seen at least three different landlords, which doesn't help with consistency, and has therefore had its shares of ups and downs. One of those landlords oversaw a total refurb about two years ago. Though no major work or change of layout took place, a good lick of paint and some freshening up gave a much needed lift to a tiring pub.
There is generally a warm atmosphere, depending on the day of the week. Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings can be very enjoyable, especially as a Sketty local – you're always bound to bump into someone you know (this also has negative aspects!). The atmosphere is less warm when it's a quiet night, but at least bar service is quicker!
Food quality is another thing to differ as the pub changes hands. A few years ago the standard of food slipped from "hearty" to "bland and uninventive", but I'm glad to see things are now back at a reasonable level.
Wednesday night is curry night; £5.75 for a 'curry and a Cobra'. There's a choice of about five curry dishes (mainly chicken) served with chips, rice, a papadum and a bottle of Cobra (or, for the less adventurous, Carling, Fosters, wine, soft drinks, etc). To be honest, this is great value, as a regular pint of lager tends to cost about £3.00, so forking out an extra £2.75 for a decent curry makes sense.
One other worth a mention is 'The Famous Five' – five meals priced at £3.95 each. Again, decent value for what you get. It's not gourmet, but who cares – it's a pub, and pubs are made for drinking!
On that subject, I'm pleased to say the selection of beers on tap is plentiful. Nothing worth getting excited about mind you, but there is a good choice. In addition to Fosters, Carling, Stella, Strongbow and Guinness, you'll find the Brains beers (SA, bitter, smooth, dark, Reverend James and so on). There is usually at least one guest ale on tap – occasionally a big hit (such as the recent appearance of Wychwood's 'Dirty Tackle'), and other times a miss. Alcohol prices rose significantly when The Bush closed, but some Brains beers can still be bought at under £3.00, which is a blessing anywhere these days.
A word of warning for Viv's virgins: there are two bars set at a right angle. Stand by the one nearest the Gower Road entrance on a busy evening and you'll wait hours to be served due to a pillar creating a blind spot. Despite seeming busier, the Vivian Road entrance bar will see you served quicker as the staff tend to hang out on that side.
If you can see it, the white poster in the photo above boasts a "22 piece ukulele band" playing on Friday 13th April. Not sure how that would work in a small pub, but I bet it'll be one hell of a set!
Throw in a small meeting room, a beer garden (which sometimes catches the sun), regular pub-quizzes and several wide-screen TVs with connections to Sky Sports and ESPN, and you have a very solid drinking establishment, which remains the heart of Sketty.