A damp grey day saw me on the train to Seaforth where I took a long walk past the Claremont
... and the Sandown
- long demolished - to eventually reach the Cock & Seaman
Curses! I came too late.
There is (or used to be?) a number of these "Cock and" pubs in a chain called At Will, with varying levels of innuendo in their names. Cock and Pullet, Cock and Donkey etc.
I marched onwards, soon leaving Seaforth for the more genteel surroundings of Waterloo. The Royal
is a residential hotel, but just across the road is the Victoria
. At last, an open pub:
I entered, failed to spot the "This week's cask ale" signs, and ordered a Guinness. The large L-shaped room was deserted, I was the only customer, so perhaps skipping the Doom Bar was a good idea.
The interior is nicely done, with long bench seats along the walls. Some rather fine ceramics survive, but only in the corridors, and the mosaic floor to the entrance is in good nick.
The signs on the wall advertise daily events, today's is philosophy. This place deserves to do well, they obviously put a lot of effort into drawing people in, and I hope it's much busier later.
Towards the end of my pint, five other customers came in.
On to Flanagan's
Outside it looks like a large barn or shed, inside is a very nicely done large open room with Irish decor not overdone but just tasteful.
Here, my Guinness, served by the cheerful friendly barmaid, was complete with the shamrock in the head, I haven't had one of these for a while.
The group of regulars at the bar chatted and I watched with jealousy as they tucked in to free food. Pleasingly, I was offered some as well. Corned beef hash, no less, and tasty it was too. Bonus!
Another regular came in and his friends told him there was no food left. I wondered if I was going to get blamed for eating his (He was substantially bigger than me) but luckily they were just winding him up, and he soon had a bowl as well.
My notes from 2000 included "not well looked after", this is certainly no longer the case and the place is very tidy nowadays. Amongst the decorations is a scull suspended from the ceiling. That's a two seater rowing boat, not a head, by the way.
Next the Marine, now a sports bar called Champs
When I was in the Marine in '03 this was a rather tatty multi-room pub, it has been knocked through and well done out to go with its renaming.
I was the only customer at three on a Tuesday afternoon. There were two handpumps on the bar, one with a turned round Doom Bar clip, the other unlabelled, so it was Guinness again for me. No shamrock and no free food here!
No-one came in while I was there, I don't think the takings will cover the barman's wages; not to mention the cost of heating - it was comfortably warm in here. I later discovered there was a chef as well as the barman, even more wages to pay.
Finally, I checked out the famous Volunteer
I was half expecting this to be closed as I seem to recall it used to have evening-only hours, but I was pleased to discover it was open.
I entered the lounge side where ale is ordered from the blackboard (One can only see the back of the pumps) and then delivered to ones seat. This is one of the very few table service pubs left in Merseyside, perhaps even in the country? Should I have tipped?
My pint of Lottie Dod from Peerless was good, and I sat in the lounge in splendid isolation, the only customer, while the barmaid sorted glasses and organised things in the servery. Four real ales were on offer, three local ones plus Greene King IPA.
What a gem this place is, deserving its Grade II listing.
The barmaid/waitress disappeared from my view, and what's that thunk-thunk-thunk noise, always in threes? I eventually guessed she was practicing darts in the bar, but I never investigated to confirm my theory.
The total lack of other customers here is really concerning, we need places like this to make a profit or they'll disappear.
Coming soon: Speke and Tranmere.