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Secret Drinker reviews The Bull and The Stage in Market Deeping

I suppose heading to the pub is pretty similar to going to the football - it’s always more in hope than expectation.

So with England’s multi-millionaire household names ready to steamroll the minnows of Slovenia - whose tiny population is laughably just twice the size of greater Lincolnshire and Rutland - I found myself in Market Deeping ready for a night of group-topping, former-Yugoslavian-nation-slapping celebration.

It’s been at least 15 years since I last had a night out in this picturesque south Lincolnshire town which, with so many pubs crowded into its market place, is nicely set up for a lively time and a rousing chorus of celebratory Three Lions chanting. I hoped.

The Bull in Market Deeping
The Bull in Market Deeping

But where to?

I arrived with no plan but the first place I spotted was The Square, which I decided could wait for another day as the evening was all about celebrating the sphere.

Next door was The Bull and, as there was St George’s flag bunting about the place, I took this to be a sign from the footballing gods.

As I arrived the landlady - who couldn’t be any more helpful unless she had nodded one in from a Kieran Trippier free kick - was juggling the remotes for the two wall-mounted TVs, making sure the right channel was on for the five or six punters inside.

Inside The Bull
Inside The Bull

“Is this OK?” she asked as the sound from both boxes crossed over one another.

Already knowing the answer - I mean, who wants two Gary Nevilles in your ear? - she muted one set and cranked up the volume on the other. Perfect!

The Bull’s a nice looking, multi-room pub with modern decor and some old exposed stone walls and beams on show hinting to its past as 16th Century coaching inn.

The dug out in The Bull
The dug out in The Bull

From the aptly-named dug out, a lower level basement bar area, to the bunting-filled courtyard, there was plenty of space to have a good night.

But as the footie was on the punters gravitated towards the tables near the TVs, watching the (lack of) action and having their gaze distracted by the dog walkers and runners passing by the windows, these folk oblivious to the fact they were missing the biggest England game until the next one.

The football was that bad that it became background noise for the regulars who opted to catch up over their drinks as the pub returned to something of a normal night.

The courtyard at The Bull
The courtyard at The Bull

There was barely a murmur as Bukayo Saka turned in Foden’s low cross and even less reaction when the finish was flagged offside.

Mind you, at this point all four corners of the British Isles were represented in the place, so an England win wasn’t top of the agenda for many.

The Bull, like the first half itself, had a gentle pace and - seeing as the football was flat but the beer wasn’t - I would happily have stayed on.

A patriotic Moretti at The Bull
A patriotic Moretti at The Bull

But it would have been wrong of me to check out what the action was like across the road, especially as a high-paced second half was on its way, yeah?

To ensure this was a game of two pubs I did a Declan Rice, swapping allegiances as I crossed the road to The Stage.

The queues had started forming outside this place at least an hour before kick of, the doorman dealing well with an excitable group in their tight-fitting replica shirts, cut off denim shorts and array of painful-looking thigh tattoos. The ladies looked nice too.

The Stage at Market Deeping. Queues to get in were forming long before kick off
The Stage at Market Deeping. Queues to get in were forming long before kick off

The Stage - with its younger and patriotic crowd - was perfectly set up for the football.

From the big screen in the arboretum-looking entrance hall to the even bigger screen by the busy bar, which had queues nine deep as I arrived.

But the coup de grace was out the back, a giant screen and large bar attracted a large, vibrant sea of red, white and blue to congregate.

The fanzone at The Stage. This picture doesn't do the enormity of the site any credit
The fanzone at The Stage. This picture doesn't do the enormity of the site any credit

Knowing the young ‘uns don’t want us codgers there ruining their fun, and aware that I’d be getting beer soaked if someone had the temerity to score a goal, I headed back inside to watch the game with men closer to my age.

It’s kind of hard to describe The Stage - also a hotel and restaurant - as each room has been given its own touch. There’s what appears to be a Georgian sitting room, a winter garden, country pub and a Euros Fanzone all in one venue.

But it works well and there was a lively crowd milling around thoroughly enjoying themselves.

My view from The Stage. I made a change at half time and so did Gareth Southgate
My view from The Stage. I made a change at half time and so did Gareth Southgate

As the game progressed and got even duller the eyes got blearier and, similar to The Bull, the match became an afterthought as a regular night out took over.

One lass who had drunk too much was helped out by a female bouncer she was intent on cuddling, a young couple found a quiet corner to settle their differences and one bloke made it his mission to become mates with everyone he made eye contact with. Oh, to be young again.

Read more Secret Drinker Reviews here.

With three lions on a shirt and no goals on the screen, the full time whistle finally put this snoozefest out of its misery.

No screens mean no people when the footie's on at The Stage
No screens mean no people when the footie's on at The Stage

Some even less engaged than I had beaten the crowds and were already on benches tucking into their fast food as I headed out.

One lad tucking into his grub staggered across the road with all the awareness of a Conor Gallagher through ball to be greeted by a screech of tyres and the pip of the car horn.

“F*** off,” came his mumbled reply through a chip-filled mouth.

I’m not convinced it’s coming home. But the guy desperately needed to get home… so he could be ready to do it all again on Sunday.

A pint of Guinness 0.0% in a plastic cup
A pint of Guinness 0.0% in a plastic cup


DECOR: Beautifully kitted out. Modern meets traditional and with a lovely courtyard. 4/5

DRINK: Nothing screams St George quite like a pint of Moretti. 3/5

PRICE: At £5.60 I’ve had cheaper but I suppose it’s the going rate these days. 3/5

ATMOSPHERE: It wasn’t a raucous, football-enthused evening, but there was a very nice friendly, chatty, communal vibe. 4/5

STAFF: The landlady was a star, eager to help sort the TVs out and even bringing the pints - and of course the card machine - over to her regulars. Now that’s service. 4/5


DECOR: Something of an identity crisis with each room being wildly different, but the place was beautifully set up. The outdoor area with the big screen was something else. 4/5

DRINK: As I was driving my second pint had to be a Guinness 0.0% - arguably the best non-alcoholic tipple - served in a safety-first plastic cup. 3/5

PRICE: At £4.80, I can get the same can a lot cheaper from the supermarket. But we want to keep pubs going don’t we? 3/5

ATMOSPHERE: A proper lively, good natured, up-for-it night. 5/5

STAFF: The throng of youngsters put in a proper shift as the orders kept coming. 3/5

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Do you agree with the Secret Drinker or have any suggestions where he should go next? Email secretdrinker@lincsonline.co.uk or comment below.

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