Saturday, 29 September 2018

Kensington

I started a short linear survey along Prescot Road in Fairfield and Kensington at the Edinburgh:
I came in by the side door and entered the "snug room", served from a hatch in the bar back.  The decor in here is very well looked after, uncluttered and pleasant.

In the snug were five racing fans watching the telly and, I think, losing.  There were lots more people in the bar side, from where a pleasant hubub could be heard.

Literally next door, the former Fairfield Arms is now a Turkish restaurant, as you can see in the above picture.

A little further along Prescot road is the Lister Hotel:
This rather well preserved pub with lounge, bar and a snug at the back, was very busy at two on a Saturday afternoon.

The snug, with dark wood panelling and fine ceiling plasterwork, is where I sat to drink my second Carling of the day.  I noticed that one or two of the exterior windows are real, possibly original, cut/etched glass while the majority are modern flat replacements.

My comments from way back in 1998 include the word tatty, certainly not true today.

I'm wondering why it's twenty years since I was last here while all the other pubs in the area have been visited more recently.  Perhaps it was closed for a while?  I can't find any record of that in my database.

The soundtrack here was that of a "proper pub", with chatter and laughter drowning out gentle background music.  Apart from the lack of smoke, I could have been back in the 1990s, although on a Saturday afternoon then it would probably have been three deep at the bar and no-where to sit down!

In the snug with me were two blokes and a girl, she had a disagreement with one of them and called on me for support, "Isn't it true that you should always agree with a woman?"  I replied "Oh yes, definitely, it's the only way."  She smiled and he gave in, defeated.

Next, the Sheil Park:
As is often the case, my comment in 2002 describing this place as "threadbare" is no longer true, and I entered a rather fine, open bar side with very busy sports- and music-oriented decor with hardly a square inch of unoccupied wall space.

Again, the main sound was the noise of umpteen happy customers, with golf commentary in the background.  Another proper pub.

The last tick required on my Kensington map was the former Wetherspoon's, now just called Picture Drome:
Basically, since Wetherspoon's departure some years ago not much has changed here, they've kept the rather good decor, but I think some care and maintenance is overdue, my seat for example being a little threadbare.  There's still plenty of Wetherspoon's signage, but I suspect the pool table might be an addition.

There are still four handpumps on the counter, three were naked and the fourth had a clip turned round.  So, another Carling for me.

My first visit here was on its very first day back in 2002, when I grumbled about handpumps with clips but no beer - Some things never change!  I also recall one of my friends saying "Take your own" and being told that Wetherspoons staff weren't allowed to accept tips.  I don't think that's still true, is it?

The large place was pretty empty, in contrast with the other pubs visited today, I'm surprised it survives on this trade, but what else could you do with the site?

I eyed up the telly.  Have they dropped that bloke who talked continuously about football on Saturday afternoons?  Ah, no, this is BT Sport's version, with different people.  I asked Google and it's Jeff Stelling I'm thinking of, it always impresses me how he keeps going for ages.

That's it for my short walk along Prescot Road, the next pub just a short way further along is the Kensington which I visited in July.

Pub of the day: A difficult choice:  I think the Lister for its historic interior, or the Sheil for the pubby busy atmosphere.
Miles: An easy 0.6 miles today.
Possibly coming soon: Seacombe and Vulcan Village.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Toxteth

I headed for Toxteth more in hope than expectation, as many of the pubs have closed since my first tours back in 1999, and I wasn't sure if I was going to get any drinks at all.

I started at the Herculaneum Bridge which still appears to be operational, but wasn't open:
Last time I was here, back in 2012, I admired the stunning interior, let's hope it is all still there inside:
Next, Beresford Arms where I found a building site.  Here it is back in 2003:
The Bleak House was another operational-looking place, maybe, but not open:
Wilsons has been closed for along time:
I moved up on to Mill Street, where the Mount and the Poet's Corner have gone without trace, here's the Poet's back in 2003:
Next comes the Wellington Vaults where I had a pint in 2012, but it's now out of action:
A little further on was the Derby Arms:
And this is all that's left of the Great Eastern:

Next, the Mosley Arms:
I already knew this place was closed, but hang on, what's this?  Two people came out of the door as I approached.  Another bloke stood in the doorway.  "Is this still a pub?" I asked.  "Only just!" he replied.  So in I went.

A rather fine historic interior, with the lounge side served via a hatch on the leaded glass and wood bar back.  In the bar side three regulars were watching the Labour Party conference winding up.

The architecture inside includes some great ceramics and dark wood panelling.  It's slightly tatty in places, but nothing some fresh plasterboard and a coat of paint couldn't fix.

Continuing further along Mill Street I passed the site of Clancy's, and then finally I reached Dick Jennings:
Time to move up to Park Road and head southwards again.  The Volunteer has gone without trace, while the Royal Oak is now an office of some sort:
On to the Globe:
Another gem inside with lots of dark wood panelling and leaded glass, most or all original, I think, perhaps an early 20th century refurbishment.

A yell from one of the regulars summoned the landlady to serve me a lager.

Seven or eight customers were engaged in lively chit chat, with a commercial radio station providing the background music.

I continued along Park Road, the Toxteth is closed, I'm pleased to see the new owners have kept the name on the front of the building:
The Royal George is gone, here's a picture of the debris taken in 2008  (If only I'd arrived a couple of weeks earlier I probably could have acquired the whole sign - Mind you, it might have been a bit difficult getting it on the bus!):
The Queens Head is closed:
The High Park Inn has been a funeral directors' since before my first visit to the area:
The Pineapple is undergoing building work, let's hope it comes back as a pub:
At last, just off Park Road is the Anglesea:
Gosh, another one open.  Inside is a beautiful two sided boozer, well maintained, but with no historic features apart, perhaps, from the tiny counter in the bar back serving the lounge.

The landlady finished her phone call and then served me another lager.

There were enough regulars in here for there to be more than one conversation, but only just.

Racing was on the TVs, with the volume pleasingly low, and no-one was watching.  Meanwhile, gentle background music was also at the right level.

Oddly, they've got a Brooklyn Lager font on the bar, you don't often see that in "ordinary" boozers.  I wonder how much they sell.  There's a tap for Carlsberg Unfiltered as well, I've never even heard of that one.

Moving on, I headed to the Queen's Arms:
Wow, yet another beauty inside, a well looked after traditional boozer, the largest I've been in today, with a partially knocked through interior around a semi-circular counter.

As usual, a music channel was playing on the TV, Katrina and the Waves came on, I'm interested in them as they hail from the city where I was born, Cambridge, although Katrina herself was American.  Of course there's a much more famous Cambridge band of which I'm a great fan, and that's Pink Floyd, but they're perhaps less likely to be seen on the telly?

Over each entrance/exit doorway to the pub was a plastic bag containing some liquid and what might have been coins.  What's that about?  I peered at the one over the main door as I left, and a fella coming in said "It's to keep the flies out, apparently," so now I know!

Next, a pub I don't really need to visit, as I was here only three years ago, but I might as well complete the set while I'm in the area - The Empress:
Ringo Starr was born a few streets away and spent part of his childhood living in the same street as this pub, and an exterior view appears on the sleeve of his Sentimental Journey album.  There's lots of Beatles stuff in the decor and I imagine they get a regular trade from Beatles tourists, although last time I was here, on a Saturday, I observed a number of people taking selfies outside but not coming in.

Inside, it's a pleasant comfortable one bar boozer, mostly knocked through but keeping a secluded back room/snug.

At four on a Wednesday, sadly, there were only two or three customers.

My final target before heading for home was the closed Lothian:

Pub of the day: Now that's a difficult question, all the pubs that were open were great inside but I think perhaps the Globe wins on historic architecture.
Miles walked: 3.5
Coming soon, probably: Kensington and Seacombe.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Reclaiming Lost Territory in Billinge

I started my trip to Billinge at the top of the main street, at the Eagle and Child:
A classic multi-roomed pub in a very old looking building.  There's some knocking through but they've still got separate rooms.

There were three other "customers" in when I arrived, but after some dithering they said "OK, we'll leave it then", and departed.  I'm guessing they'd been told there was no food, or no Prosecco or something, but I'm only guessing.

Two handpumps offered Lancaster Blonde or Lancaster Red, and the Blonde was spot on despite the lack of custom.

As I enjoyed my pint an older couple came in, tripling the trade, and later another younger bloke.  He was off to Vegas tomorrow, "a thousand pounds on red," he said, I hope he was joking.

Unlike some of my recent ticks, it's "only" eight years since I was last here, when I had a fine pint of Tetley bitter, it was still the proper stuff brewed in Leeds back then, I think.

Another for my collection of amusing pub slogans: Time flies when you're having rum.

Just across the road is the Stork Inn:
Unfortunately, although it looks like an operational pub, it didn't appear to be open at ten to one on a Saturday.  (Whatpub says it opens at 12, but hasn't been updated since 2015.)  If they think I'm coming back all this way for just one pub they're sadly mistaken!

I took a stroll up to where the never-visited Squires used to be.  I think this is it, somewhat extended and now a nursery:

Down the hill to the Foresters Arms:
No-one in except me and the barman/landlord.  There was footie on the telly, but I don't think my half of lager will pay Sky's fee!

I looked at my surroundings:  Pleasant plain decor, beautifully maintained and cleaned.

No-one came in or out while I drank, the landlord kept busy setting things up for the (hoped for) rush later, and then sweeping along the frontage.

I took a long-ish walk down narrowing roads lined with impressive stone cottages to today's prime objective, the Mason's Arms:
I claim this pub for Merseyside, and repudiate any Pies' assertions to the contrary, is what I should have said on entering, before planting a large flag with a Liver Bird on it.  But it's probably just as well I didn't.  I'm guessing this place is inspected by the Wigan branch of CAMRA, which is why it has been appropriated by the Greater Manchester section of the Good Beer Guide, despite being well over a mile inside the Merseyside boundary.

Here I found a great country pub with fine, if somewhat busy, decor.  On the counter were five handpumps.  I ordered a Cross Bay Blonde from Morecambe.  The landlord warned me it was a little cloudy, and twice said that if I didn't like it he would change it.  Once the bubbles had risen it was a touch hazy but, as often happens with a slight fog, it tasted fine, so I drank it and enjoyed it.

It was only after the lacings had drained that I could be sure that my large glass was a 22oz one, so I certainly got a good measure.  My long running "campaign" for the full pint is pretty much moribund, but it's still very pleasing to get one unexpectedly.

There were plenty of other customers in here, groups of blokes, women, and families, keeping the landlord busy.

I can't find any notes, and it pre-dates this blog, but my recollection of my 2010 trip to Billinge was that I walked down the hill and the Mason's was shut.

Back to the village centre, and I decided that amongst the busy signage on the Labour Club I couldn't see "non-members welcome", so I skipped it:

Next, the Billinge Arms:
Inside the traditional stone building is a dimly lit restaurant/bar with very good contemporary styling.

At three on a Saturday it was deserted, there was, I think, just one other customer in the large open room as I sat down.  One or two others arrived later, including a mother with two young kids.  The mum was here to watch the rugby, apparently.  There were still more staff than customers, though.

Having said restaurant above, I noticed there was no sign of menus, cutlery and so on, perhaps I've got it wrong?  In the car park there used to be a curry house, it's now the Huntsman grill so perhaps that's where people go to eat.
No, as soon as I wrote that, the aforementioned mother ordered some food for herself and the kids.  There were a lot of "error" beeps from the till, and the chef had to come and fix it.  (One's always suspicious of thin chefs, no worry with this one!)

Time to start heading for home, but there's a good opportunity for an extra tick en route, at the never visited Carr Mill:
This is a large and rather impressive inter-war roadhouse, I think, now a food-led pub under Greene King's Flaming Grill brand.

I selected a quick half of Abbot from the two handpumps, sadly it was rather vinegary, I'm glad I didn't have a pint.  I received a "Buy five pints get one free" card for the cask ale, even though I only had a half.  I can't see me coming back for the other four, anyway!

The place was very busy with families and groups, and I could hear some cheering, I presume when St Helens scored in the rugby.

The menu looks good value, with my standard measure, fish and chips, at only £6.29.

I looked around inside as I headed for the gents, there were a lot of people here for the rugby, and I must say the decor is very good.

Pub of the day: Well duh!  Obviously, the Mason's.
Miles walked: 2.8
Coming soon:  Maybe Toxteth.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Gayton and Heswall

Three trains and a long walk (Well, 1km so not that long.) were required to get me to my first target today, the Glegg Arms in Gayton:
Inside the ancient-looking building is a pleasant modern Beefeater restaurant which makes non-diners such as myself welcome.  I ordered cask with some trepidation but I needn't have worried, the Doom Bar was fine.

At three on a Tuesday the place was understandably very quiet, I could just hear some background chatter and the occasional clink of crockery, from the few other customers.

The Beefeater brand belongs to Whitbread, I noticed.

I checked my database to find I was last here twenty years and two weeks ago, on the same trip mentioned a couple of weeks ago that included Oxton - So it was certainly overdue for a revisit!

On the other side of the roundabout is another even more ancient-looking building, housing the Devon Doorway:
Inside the splendid thatched building is an up-market restaurant with very pleasant mostly modern styling, and just a few original features, wooden beams and the like, remain.  Happily, one part of the space is allocated to non-diners, and that was where the only customers were.

There were two handpumps on the bar and I had a fine pint of the wonderful Salopian Oracle.

As far as I could tell, customers at four consisted of one group of about seven, and one couple, and me.  We were all sitting in the drinkers' area.  As I typed that another couple with a baby came in, they were also non-dining.

I was somewhat intrigued to see a special offer of "Two courses and bottomless Prosecco."  I wonder how much fizz one could drink in an evening if it was unlimited.  I fear I would end up passed out on the floor trying to make sure I got my money's worth.  Mind you, it does say "T&C Apply", perhaps "not available to professional boozers" is one.

On to the Beer Lab:
A standard-looking micro-pub in a converted shop, with two women and I as the only customers at four thirty on a Tuesday.  The friendly landlord, obviously interested and knowledgeable, discussed the beers with me and the ladies, and I eventually chose something rather good from Maghul's Neptune Brewery.  Unfined said the clip, but it was less cloudy than some normal ales I've suffered!  And very tasty.

A slow trickle of new customers kept the place going, everyone got a friendly welcome and some chit-chat/beer advice.  Most of them seemed to be after gossip about the To Let shop next door, to become a Turkish Restaurant apparently.  I suspect that means kebab shop!

I was pleased to notice that while 1/3 and 2/3 are available, all the draught beers come in pints as well.

Everyone (Except me) knew the landlord, and had a chat on arrival.  I think if a place like this opened within walking distance of my home I'd close down the pub guide and just drink there every day!

Next, Barcode:
What a contrast!  Something of a come-down after the last call, when it comes to quality ale anyway.  A tiny shop conversion, but not a micro-pub in the way we expect them, no sign of any cask or craft, this is at the Tetley smoothflow end of the ale spectrum.  And there's nothing wrong with that, it's clean and tidy, and very pleasant inside, and the friendly barman/landlord was chatting about football with the other customer.

Various sports were on the tellies around the walls of the small room, I bet it's busy in here for Liverpool matches.  Or do they support Tranmere around here?

This is quite an unusual type in the pub range, a recent shop conversion that's not a real ale place.  Will it be a success?  Let's hope so.

Finally, the Johnny Pie:
This is a completely modern construction behind the bus station.  Inside it has fake traditional styling creating a rather good ambience for a standard food-led pub.

In contrast to all the other places visited today the first thing that struck me on entering the door was a loud hubub of conversation from the umpteen other customers.  Having already said food-led I have to say the majority of the customers I could see weren't eating.

My pint of Jennings Cocker Hoop was drinkable but not the best I've had, and possibly cloudier than the unfined ale I had earlier.

My pub guide entry from 2009 describe the food as "not cheap" but with fish and chips costing just £7.60 it's clear that's no longer true.

They've got that feature of a telly in your booth here, surely it must be annoying unless you can choose the channel yourself?  And the volume.  I didn't sit in a booth myself, perhaps you can.

Time to head home.  Here's a new idea for the blog, how about Pub of the Day?  Today, it'd have to be the brilliant Beer Lab - Great ale, great atmosphere, great everything!  I very nearly stayed there for another drink or two, abandoning the rest of the day's research.

Coming soon:  Billinge, maybe.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

St Helens

I started another St Helens Saturday at the Phoenix Inn, a new entry in the Good Beer Guide:
The outside looks a little down at heel, perhaps, but the inside is comfortable and well looked after, as indeed it was back in 2003 when it was keg only.  I turned left for the lounge side where I found three handpumps in operation, and my pint of White Rat was superb, and only £2.50.

A smattering of regulars were keeping the place going, I was pleased to see at least one of them was on the cask.  Some were watching soccer on the tellies, (Liverpool winning.) others were just chatting.

There was no evidence of an influx of CAMRA members brought by the new guide.  This has been top of the list for my next St Helens tour for some time, it's just a coincidence that I arrived two days after their promotion to the top flight.

On to Wetherspoon's Glass House:
"Don't go in on a Saturday", a friend warned, "you'll never get served".  I'm pleased to report he was wrong, and I soon had a spot on pint of Exmoor Gold.  The place was busy but not packed, and I easily found a table.

I had noticed once before in here when I visited at peak Sunday roast time (Back in the days when they still did roasts.) that almost no-one was eating, and the same was true today.  The denizens of St Helens still think of a pub as somewhere to drink - Quite right too!

Next, the George:
A classic two sided boozer, this one, well cared for and comfortable.

On the counter in the lounge side - I took the right hand door this time - were three handpumps with no clips, and it was only after I'd ordered my lager that I spotted three more on the other side, at least one of which had a clip, so I can't comment on the quality of the real ale, if any.

Football was on the telly, analysis of Liverpool's victory by now, but no-one was watching.  A number of regulars in the other side, and one or two in the lounge, chatted.

A brief delay at this point, while I nipped back to Wetherspoon's because I'd forgotten to take a picture!  Then on to Rendezvous:
I arrived to find some regulars but no bar staff, "He's gone to change a barrel".  Eventually the harassed landlord/barman returned, and fiddled with the Fosters font, failing to produce any beer.  "I've changed the keg and the gas", he said, "I don't know what else to do."  This meant Carling and Fosters were both off.  I had a Guinness to avoid any further hassle for him.

I sat in a rather pleasant room with the regulars, there's a much larger room with another counter, deserted when I was there but I bet it's busy later on, when they have live music.

Finally, the Royal Alfred:
This pub has spent some time closed and boarded up, but I received a report a few weeks ago that it's back in action.

I can see why it closed - In the large pleasant interior were about three customers, and if that's all you can muster at half three on a Saturday afternoon things are not looking good.

It's rare for the jokes painted on the walls of pubs to make me laugh, usually because I've seen them before, but there was a new one on me:
And here is the weather forecast.  Tomorrow will be muggy.  Followed by Toogy, Weggy, Thurgy and Frigy.
Actually "Wanted:  Odd job man to wash dishes and two waitresses" also raised a grin.

The decor in here includes some beer memorabilia left over from when this was a Porters Ale House, but the handpumps on the counter have clearly not been used for a long time.

As I drank my lager the place filled up, negating my comment above about lack of custom.  Soon, the juke box had been fired up and I was in a lively, busy, popular boozer, building up to Saturday night.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Good Beer Guide 2019

It's out, although my "early" copy still hasn't arrived.

I can report that in Merseyside 15 pubs are out and 13 are in.  As always, if you want to know which they are you'll have to buy the book.  That's if you can find one.  (Bitter, me?)

Of the 73 Merseyside pubs in this year's guide, there are five I have never visited.  That'll give me something to do over the next few weeks, or probably not in one case:

Regular readers of this blog will have noted my occasional whinges about places with limited opening hours, especially when they don't keep to the hours advertised on the internet.  But things are taken to a ridiculous extreme in the new GBG:  The Connoisseur Ales Brewery and Tasting Rooms in St Helens is, as far as I can see from their web site, only open for a few hours a month.  St Helens CAMRA must be having a laugh!  This section of the book is headed "The Pubs" - Surely there's a proper pub in the area they could include, instead of this one which clearly belongs in the Breweries section.
Update, Saturday:  I've got mine at last!       

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

The Closed Pubs of Kirkdale

I set off in improving weather for a pub survey where my internet research suggests I might be in for a meagre harvest, but let's see...

I wasn't worried when I passed the Cabin - derelict, the Miranda - gone, and on to the William Shakespeare - closed, as they have all been closed for some years:
On to one I hoped might be open, the Pitch Pine, but no, it's closed as well.   I wonder if that is permanent, or just Tuesday afternoon - difficult to tell:
The Bedford and the Banjo were definitely out of action, as were the Victoria and Swifts:

Not a good start!  On to the Hawthorne and, at last, an open pub:
One large main bar, plus a side room not visited in this pleasant locals' boozer.  The understated decor, with pale wood matchboarding above the dado is very pleasant.  There's a rather fine old fireplace at one end, must be 100 years old (Or a modern repro.)

This is the first keg pub I've visited for yonks which doesn't have Carling on offer, or maybe it was there and I couldn't see it.

Silence reigned when I went in, until someone fired up the jukebox.  Just five or so regulars were keeping the place ticking over, so there was gentle chatter under the music.

As I enjoyed my long-awaited pint I gazed around.  The room really is well decorated and well looked after, a number of little touches giving it a homely comfortable ambience, although if I'm going to nit-pick, it's time to reupholster the bench seat where I was sitting.

The disco lights around the ceiling suggest it'll be very noisy in here on a Friday night.

Only one more pub on my target list and, guess what, it's shut!  The Peacock looks like it is still operational, but not this afternoon:

So that's the plan wrecked!  Where next?  It hints at desperation, going to a pub I visited only two years or so ago.  But I was desperate, so on to the Mons:
A standard chain dining pub this, under Mitchells and Butlers' Stonehouse brand.  Very quiet as you might expect on a Tuesday afternoon, but still the occasional food order going through at the bar.  I must say the carvery meals look good, and at £6.29 quite a bargain.

The three handpumps had no clips so it was lager again.

I think I've previously reported that this pub is allegedly named after the airfield in Belgium from which the bombers that cleared the area came.   Whether that is true I cannot say, but it seems in rather poor taste if it is, since the previous use of the land was probably terraced housing.

Totally off plan now, but let's carry on to a couple of places not visited since 2004.  Quite a long stroll eventually brought me to the Top House and, praise be, it's open:
I described this as a back street gem fourteen years ago, and there's no reason to change that.  The traditional interior has been partly knocked through while retaining separate rooms and I wonder if, originally, the side of the servery facing the lounge rooms would have had a glazed partition with hatches.

Anyway, it is still very pleasant and beautifully cared for.  I sat alone in the back room, which has a bench seat round two sides plus tables and chairs in the middle, and enjoyed another Carling.

Very gentle background music, and quiet chatter were all I could hear here, the loudest sound was the hand-dryer in the toilets!

I took a moment to find out by how many we'd won the cricket.  What??  India 298 for 5 at tea needing 166 to win.  Surely we can't lose the Chef's last match?

On to the Anfield Hotel.  Would my improving luck hold out?  Yes:
Repetition alert!  My notes from 2004 again say "backstreet gem" and once more, that's right.

A rather splendid three room traditional pub, with a rather odd layout, I suspect things have changed since it was built, probably over 100 years ago.  The ceilings are very high throughout, but parts of the dividing wall between lounge and bar sides are "only" eight feet high.

At four on a Tuesday the place was very quiet, a couple of blokes playing pool and I were the only custom, I think.

I learned from a notice that this place is also known as the Bottom House, presumably becuase it's just down the road from the Top House.

There's a drum kit located above the entrance porch, very strange, but I think I've seen that done before somewhere?  Now I know some people would say that putting the drum kit out of reach of the drummer will improve many groups but I don't think I agree.

Time to test my luck one more time, on to the Abbey:
Oh yes!  It's open.

A rather fine one room boozer, with quite a few regulars sat at the bar.  No real ale, of course, so I was on the Carling again.

The regulars chatted, with some commercial radio station providing background music.

330 for 7...

The barman/landlord joined his friends sitting at the bar, only returning briefly behind the counter when he was needed.

So, after a very poor start I collected some good ticks, that's Kirkdale pretty much cleared.  I walked about 4 miles.  England won eventually.