Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Oxton Twenty Years On

A bus under the Mersey would have dropped me off right outside the first pub for today, but I pressed the button too soon and had to walk from the previous stop, during which time at least three other buses passed me.  Anyway, I soon reached the Swan:
Inside the impressive building I found a pleasant, comfortable and unexpectedly busy food oriented pub with Mitchell and Butler's Sizzling brand.  One of the few pub chains not owned by Greene King!

I've got used to sitting in splendid isolation on my Tuesday pub surveys, so I was rather surprised to find this place was quite busy.  It wasn't anywhere near full, but there was a steady stream of customers ordering at the bar.  Almost all were eating.  The piped muzac mixed with the contented chatter of diners and the occasional clatter of cutlery.

I must say I was impressed by this pub.  Service was friendly and efficient and everything just seemed to run well.  A barmaid dashed out from behind the bar to assist an elderly gentleman who was in danger of spilling his drinks carrying them back to his table, and she then fetched his cutlery for him.

The real ale range wasn't very exciting, but my pint of Doom Bar was spot on, and served in a Doom Bar conic, so much better than six ales you've never heard of, three of which are vinegar.

I was going to walk to the next pub but a bus turned up just as I left, so I took the lazy option to get me to the Halfway House:
Another very good pub, this, with a splendid brewers' Tudor exterior.  I entered the bar side which had four handpumps three of which had labels attached.  The actual ales were in the other side, and the friendly efficient landlady soon fetched me a fine pint of Adnams' Southwold.  I was offered the choice of straight glass or dimple, obviously I chose the nonic (So, technically not "straight".)  Only £2.35, too!

Four regulars were chatting, while the jukebox played some great tracks.

So far, two quality pints in two never before visited pubs.  Things can only go down hill from here?  Except the walk to the Queens Arms is almost all upwards!
Well, we're back to a very limited real ale choice here, in fact only one, but the Doom Bar was in perfect nick, so that's fine in my opinion.

The interior has contemporary decor (whatever that means) and has been knocked through into one room, but retaining some interior walls with holes in them, to keep some separation.

I think all the other customers were eating, and there were quite a few of them, once again confounding my Tuesday afternoon expectations.

I watched as the landlord tried and failed to set up the network connection on the display screen by the bar.  Don't you just hate those keyboards driven by up/down/left/right on the remote!  My satellite box at home has the same scheme.

I marched on, up and down hill, (Gosh, lots of big houses round here.) to the Caernarvon Castle:
Well I never!  I walked in to find ten handpumps on the bar, and I eventually selected Silhouette from the Ship and Mitre's own Flagship Brewery, and it was a gorgeous stout.

Not quite the beer range one expects from another Greene King chain pub, this one carries the Time Well Spent brand, but if they can keep the quality up (On my sample of one pint, they certainly can!) then that's great.

I was last here way back in 1999, when it was a Berni pub serving Cains and a guest on cask.  To be honest, I have no recollection of the place, and can only go by what I recorded in the guide back then.  It has obviously been redecorated but I suspect otherwise hasn't changed that much in the intervening years.  Except for adding lots more handpumps, that is.

The place was doing a good trade despite it being three on a dull Tuesday, the only sound was a steady background chatter from happy diners and drinkers.

Next, to Oxton Village itself, and the Oxton Bar & Kitchen:
A bit posh for my taste, this one, and a very tired half of Peerless Langton Spin didn't endear it to me, but nonetheless it's a pleasant foodie sort of place.  A few people were drinking outside, and just one or two with me indoors.

It's a full twenty years since I visited the Oxton Arms as it then was, and it's been refurbished out of all recognition.

On the bar I noted taps for Love Lane and keg Titanic Stout, amongst others - I don't think they're looking for John Smiths Smoothflow drinkers in here.

No conversations to listen in to, until a friend of the barmaid arrived for a chat but, curses, I couldn't quite discern what they were saying!

There's a fake, I think, brick fireplace on one wall, with a fish tank where the fire should be.  What a great idea!

The bird in the clock behind the bar can't count, it did at least six cuckoos when the hands said four o'clock.

As I drank my rather poor ale, a subsequent customer asked for a pint and it ran out, so mine was clearly the last of the barrel, and is therefore perhaps forgivable.

As expected, the Homebrew Tap wasn't open on a Tuesday:

So, on to another pub I last visited in 1998, the Shrewsbury Arms:
Another place I was last in twenty years ago, and my comments from then - "Excellent old building with a nice paved garden.  Good beer" - don't need any changes.  On the other hand, the real ales on offer then, Higsons, Boddingtons and Cains are all long gone.

The interior includes some impressive ancient stonework and old wooden beams.  Could it all be fake?  Possibly, but I don't think so. 

Chatter from inside and outside, blended with gentle background music formed the soundscape here, a very nice ambience.

It was only spoiled a little by the large sign wishing me a very Merry Christmas from "Team Shrew", and exhorting me to book my Christmas dinner soon.

While I enjoyed my spot on Black Sheep here I logged on to the database to check on exactly when I last visited, and it looks like it was nineteen years and 364 days ago, on the fifth of September 1998.  Really, I should have done this trip tomorrow to get the full twenty years!!

Basically finished for the day, I thought I'd better check on the Cock and Pullet before I headed home.  It was closed as I had suspected it would be:

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