Tuesday 27 August 2019

Nobody Home in Liverpool

A random City Centre selection of visits started at the Fly in the Loaf:
No change in here since my last visit back in 2008, and nothing to contradict my notes about a lack of atmosphere, because there was only me and the barman in.  I'm surprised they don't do better than this at one on a Tuesday, perhaps everyone is partied out after the Bank Holiday.

Obviously, I had to have Okell's Bitter from the selection of handpumps, it was spot on.  The barman busied himself putting out menus (The food looks good value for central Liverpool.) and sorting behind the counter, while I sat alone and enjoyed my ale.
Someone cleared his throat.  No one left and no one came.
(Adlestrop, Edward Thomas)
As an aside, I think I've learned something here: I usually spell it "no-one".  Of course, one could ask, if "someone" is correct, why isn't it "noone"?

Hmmm.  Fly in the Loaf Est 1927 says the sign on the bar front.  I'm guessing that's the bakery 'cos I know it isn't the bar.

Finally the quiet was broken by the chef who came out for a chat with the barman.  I don't think my pint will pay their wages!

Next, the Flute:
I first came in here when it was the Flute and Firkin, back in 1999.  The post-firkin incarnation is a rather well done large open room with a wooden floor.  Umpteen TV screens provide various sports, mostly horse racing this afternoon.

One barman and four customers here, it's doing slightly better than the Fly!

Only one handpump in operation, I decided not to risk it and went for lager instead.

The signing of the gents leaves a little to be desired.  Luckily for me one of the other customers did a tour of the room and then asked the barman, so I knew where to go when it was my turn.

On to the Hope and Anchor:
Oh dear.  Two staff and me.  Where is everyone?  This student-oriented place has fun attractive decor, all it needs is some students.

No real ale, so I had a half of something very tasty from Brewdog.  But it was way too warm.

Two more people appeared, but they turned out to be more staff, possibly one was an interviewee.

Actually, I've no idea what a student in 2019 wants in a bar, and I didn't even like student bars when I was one all those years ago - My favourite drinking hole then was a traditional street corner boozer.  So I use the phrase student-oriented from a position of ignorance.  I'm guessing a place like this is hanging on for a sudden flood of custom at the end of September when term starts.  Perhaps it'll be packed in freshers week (Do they still have that?)

As I finished my beer, one of the staff set to painting some furniture.

Where next?  I wasn't expecting any new ticks today but hang on, what's this?  The Casa Bar.  How many times have I walked past?  Sorry, I forgot to take a picture.

I'm not sure why I've never been in here before, I think I had some idea it was a restaurant or something, but in fact it's a pub plain and simple.  No real ale so I had Guinness for a change.

This was busy compared with all the previous ticks, with about twenty customers adding chatter to the background music.

A staircase leads to the cellar bar, but I didn't venture down to check it out.  No one went down or came up while I was there.

Rather unusually for 2019, the pub has multiple signs advising that it is cash only.  I wonder if anyone comes in and then leaves because cards are no good;  probably not very often.

The holiday weather is over, it's raining, but just across the road is the wonderful world famous Philharmonic:
What can I say that hasn't already been said?  An architectural gem, one of the most beautiful pubs in the world, and quite busy with tourists as you would expect.

I selected a stout from the array of handpumps, and it was superb.

I sat in Liszt, I don't think I've used this room before, with a wonderful stained glass window in front of me; "Music is the Universal Language of Mankind - Longfellow".

Next, another chance to tick off a never before visited bar, up a back street resisting the temptation of the wonderful Roscoe Head and on to the Scholar:
Back to the tumbleweeds again, just me and the barmaid in this rather nicely decorated one room pub which I guess is aimed at the student market.  Presumably it'll be busier once the term starts.

Finally, time to check a new sighting - Grand Central, the former Methodist hall, now has Smokie Mo's neons over the doorway.  But it's not actually open on a Tuesday afternoon.  So on to the beloved Crown:
It's always difficult to photograph this pub without getting run over, especially when it's at the end of a seven pub crawl, so the photo is from 2002.
Once again, what can I say that hasn't already been said?  Well, the new arrangement with an extra side door into the front room also features a re-shuffled counter, the real ales are now in one row in the middle, there used to be two groups of handpumps with keg fonts and a till in between.

I headed for my preferred seat in the back room.  The pub was doing nicely, with plenty of customers, mostly eating.  What hasn't changed is the quality of the real ale, my pint of, er, I've forgotten what - something pale and hoppy, was excellent.

Pub of the day: Jointly the Crown and the Phil.
Miles walked: 1.5

Saturday 24 August 2019

Sunshine On Wirral

The Merseyrail strike being called off the plan was back on, and a series of trains carried me to Heswall station, from where a pleasant one mile stroll through the sunny countryside took me to the village of Barnston and the Fox & Hounds:
Here I found a large country pub aimed mainly at diners, of which there were already a few at a quarter past twelve.  The bar room is a beautiful antique space dedicated to drinkers.  The rest of the rooms are a little more modern in styling, still very pleasant.

Quiet jazz music was the sound here, with conversations in the background.

Six real ales were on, I had a great pint of Landlord.  I perched at a high table near the counter and watched the activity as waitresses dashed about.  Something was wrong with the printer, resulting in some drinks orders going missing.

Next, another walk through the countryside to Thingwall and the never before visited Bassett Hound:
Here I found a Greene King chain dining pub, with a very pleasant knocked through interior.  There are some very old wooden beams in the ceiling, but I think they might be decorative rather than genuine.

Abbot, IPA, Landlord and St Austell's Liquid Sunshine were on handpump, my Cornish pint was very good.

At one on a Saturday afternoon the place was almost deserted, the waiting staff messing about and chatting because they had no work.  This really is a well done pub, I hope it gets more customers later.

How's the cricket going?  At lunch England only need 348 more to win!  Oh dear!

A number of people who had been drinking outside carried their ale inside.  Had it started to rain?  I couldn't see out from where I was sitting and I wondered about getting wet as I have another significant walk to the next tick.

I needn't have worried, it was still unbroken bright sunshine as I set off towards the former Cherry Orchard, now just known as the Toby Carvery Arrowe:
I was a bit concerned that with the name change this had crossed the line from pub to restaurant and that they would no longer welcome drinkers, but I needn't have worried.  I walked up to the counter and ordered a lager.  The three handpumps were clearly purely decorative.

I sat in the "quiet side" where there were very few people, the dining area at the other end of the pub was busier, and the chatter of happy diners mixed with the clink of cutlery and crockery, under the quiet muzac.

A steady stream of people came to the counter for drinks, were they also drinkers like me or diners coming back for another drink?

First sighting of a "Book now for Christmas" poster this year!

Next, a shorter walk to the Arrowe Park:
Another GK chain, Hungry Horse this time.  As I entered I failed to spot the handpumps and ordered a lager, but I later saw all the clips were turned round, so no loss.

A standard Greene King food pub, clean, tidy, nicely decorated and well maintained as they usually are.  Mid Saturday afternoon it was ticking over and most of the customers I could see were not eating.  Perhaps the diners were in the other side of the large building.

Now, a choice:  Do I head to the Stirrup which I believe to be closed, just to get a picture?  I haven't got one from my 2010 drink there.  Or do I go straight to the next target?

Long way round, of course:
Looks a bit sad, doesn't it.

Next, on to the Woodchurch:
In contrast to the previous pubs today, this is a down market plain clean and tidy estate boozer.

A dozen or so locals were keeping the place going.  I had another lager and sat in the bar side.  There is another side but I'm not sure if it's operational.  I'm no expert but it looks to me like the original 60s decor and layout have been refurbished away.  I must say I have grown to like the new Carling glasses, decorative and easy to hold.

The main sound in here was the juke box, with chatter underneath.  Thankfully Sky Sports News on the big screen was silent.

England only need 302 to win now.  Anyone with a ticket for Monday, time to make alternative plans I think!

Another quandry:  The next step is a short walk to the main road, where I can get a bus back to Liverpool.  Do I get off that bus and nip up to the Wirral Hundred to tick off another pub I've never visited?  If I don't do it today it'll be an odd isolated one requiring a special trip.  But can I drag myself off the bus home?

The decision was helped when the first bus to arrive wasn't to Liverpool, so I rode a few stops and then jumped off and walked up to the Wirral Hundred:
I'm told this pub was built in the late 1970s, a rare time for pub construction.  I felt the outside looked a little scruffy in places, but the inside was very tidy and pleasant.  The style and layout inside are possibly original.  Was it always one open room like this?  Probably.

No real ale, so time for another lager.

Quite a few regulars were creating a gentle hubub of chatter.  Meanwhile, the cricket was on the big screen, so I could watch a little of England's humiliation.  Actually they seemed to be postponing the inevitable quite well.

Time to go home.

Pub of the day: Fox & Hounds for the beautiful bar room.
Miles walked: 6.3
Maybe coming soon: Whiston

Tuesday 6 August 2019


Not so far afield today, just two stops on the train and a short walk took me to the impressive building that is the Grapes:
This rather fine construction, which I'm guessing dates from the 1930s (But I could be decades off.) contains a standard Greene King chain pub with the "Pub and Carvery" brand.

It was ticking over fairly quietly at one on a Tuesday, mostly with diners.  My pint of some summer-themed ale was not at its best, I'm afraid.

The large open knocked through interior retains some old, possibly original, features; dark wood panelling and matchboarding.

Next, the Wellington:
Another rather wonderful building, this time almost Baronial in style and, I suspect, also dating from the 20s or 30s.

Any history inside has mostly been refurbished away, I think, although the odd old-looking feature remains, such as the entrance doors and their stylish handles.  Could the leaded windows be original as well?

A Greene King dining place once again, this time with no obvious brand on the menu.  Pretty empty, but with a few groups finishing their meals.

I selected Landlord, and it was maybe a touch on the warm side but otherwise excellent.  Keen to play with my new toy, Google Pay, I was disappointed to find there's a £5 minimum on card payments here, so I had to use real money.  If Wetherspoons can accept cards for a £1.79 pint, why can't everyone? 

Now, the longest walk of the day, on towards the centre of Prescot, and the Royal Oak:
A rather good two sided boozer this, well cared for and full of happy regulars.  OK, not exactly full, but doing pretty well for a Tuesday afternoon.

Two handpumps, one clip turned round, so lager for me.

The music, a good selection including The Who, was very quiet, almost drowned by the lads playing pool.  (Lads?  They're as old as I am.)

On my last visit, in 2012, I particularly noted this place as spotless and well cared for, and it still is.  Plenty of other places could take lessons on maintenance and cleaning from this pub.

Just a short walk away is Tommy Hall's.  But it's not called that any more, it's been formalised as the Thomas Hall.  I can remember when it was the Hare and Hounds:
Did it always have that splendid Knotty Ash Ales sign on the front?  Ah, there are a number of old pictures of the pub on display inside and the answer is no, it was covered over by a sign saying Tommy Halls and before that Hare and Hounds.

Inside, this two sided traditional boozer hasn't changed at all.  Plain, clean and tidy, but not as immaculate as the Royal Oak.

Half a dozen or so regulars were keeping it ticking over, and providing gentle chatter underneath the racing commentary.

No real ale so lager again for me.

Next, over to the other side of Prescot, and the Clock Face:
No changes since my last call in 2015 here, a fine interior and quality Thwaites real ales make for a good pub.

The layout is partly knocked through but retains separate rooms.  Only three or four customers at four in the afternoon.

I would have thought a building like this would be a real money spinner as a dining pub, but apparently not.  There was no sign of menus, nor of anyone eating in the mostly-deserted interior.

Finally, a double back to a pub I've just walked past, the Sun Inn.  I hadn't noticed before the large sign on the end of the building.  Shame it's obscured by a billboard.  And a blank billboard at that.
What a great pub this is.  The lounge side consists of three rooms served from a counter in the corridor. 

Pretty quiet at half past four, although a noisier group came in just as I was retreating to the cool quiet empty back room with my excellent Oakham Bishops Farewell.

The gang soon moved to another room, and peace descended once again, with distant chatter and very quiet music mixing with the sound of traffic - My chosen seat had a straight line view along the drinking corridor to the open front door and the street.

Six pubs visited, no new ones but they were all at least four years since my last visit, mostly more than that.  So, time to get the bus home (Perhaps via the chippy).

Pub of the day: The Sun Inn without doubt.
Miles walked: 2.5

Friday 2 August 2019

A Rootle Round Bootle

I have done a few trips here in the last few years, so today was a bit of a mopping-up operation, visiting some widely spaced Bootle pubs which I had missed on recent visits.  I walked past the closed Wyndham and Wharf:

... and started at the Lock and Quay:
This pub was formerly the Little Merton, which I never managed to visit, so another new tick, the sixth of the week!

Inside I found one knocked through room with fun decor on music and maritime themes.  On the counter three handpumps, only one with a clip, and I had a pint of Stamps' Submarina, which I thought a little past its best.

Most of the customers were outside enjoying the sunshine, with just three or four of us inside.

The sign says this is a community pub with profits re-invested in local projects.  A laudable scheme, it's a shame we don't see more of these, I think this might be the only one in Merseyside?

My next destination was the Mayflower.  Checks on the internet seemed to suggest it was probably closed but no:
My notes from 2004 described this as a plain smoky two-sided pub.  This time I could see no evidence of the other side apart from a padlocked door, and of course no smoke, but it's still a plain, clean and tidy boozer, quite popular on a Friday afternoon.

Obviously no real ale but my lager was cold, cheap, and refreshing.

Two different silent racing channels were on the tellys, mostly ignored.  The main sound was animated chatter and laughter, with music very much in the background.

Next, the Merton:
I must say this is an imposing building from the outside.  It was a Wetherspoon's between 2009 and 2016, this was my first visit since then and, like other ex-spoons I have visited, they have kept the styling and signage.

There were umpteen handpumps on the counter, only one with a clip, but I decided not to risk it, and stuck to cool refreshing fizz.

The place was ticking over well, with most tables outside occupied, and quite a few drinkers inside as well.

I noted smugly that I have drunk in here previously, both before and during Tim Martin's tenure.  There was also an occasion in 2004 where they wanted three quid entrance fee (On a Thursday) - On principle I "made my excuses and left":  As a general rule I don't think a pub should charge an entrance fee, although where that leaves beer festivals I don't know.

Next, a stroll past some pubs visited more recently and/or closed, so I didn't go in today.  The Jawbone:
The closed Stanley Arms:
I was disappointed to see that the Laburnum is also now closed:
...while I knew Kingies has been closed for some time:

At last, on to a bit of an outlier on the other side of Bootle, the Albion which I last ticked in February 2000.  Would it still be open?  Oh yes:
Knocked through round a three-sided servery, this is a classic like you don't often see nowadays.  Dark wood panelling and (fake) etched glass mirrors make for a splendid feel, just like hundreds of pubs I've visited but not many in the last few years.

A small number of locals were keeping the place going and creating a gentle chatter under the music.  The jukebox moved on to Shine On You Crazy Diamond - Someone's got good taste!

Pub of the day: Difficult to choose one from such a widely varying selection.
Miles walked: 2.3

Thursday 1 August 2019

A Butchers At Garston

A little trip to Garston to tick off some pubs, actually starting in Allerton at the Butchers:
A pleasant micro-pub converted from a butchers' shop, retaining the tilework and meat-hooks etc.  More of a cafe than a pub, really, but with two handpumps and a great menu of bottled beers from around the world I'm happy.  All the other customers were on coffee and/or food I think, but my pint of Shropshire Gold was perfect.  Served at my table, as well.

The menu looks good, especially the breakfast.  But I resisted.

Continuing the theme of Tuesday, this was a first visit for me, but I'm not expecting any more new ticks today.

Off to Garston proper, and the Masonic:
I selected a real ale from the two handpumps in the bar side.  We've got loads more in the yard, said the barmaid, come and have a look.  So I followed her through to the lounge and then outside to see a selection of tapped casks.  "They're £2.90 a pint, or £10 for all you can drink"!  "You need to be careful about turning the tap off", she added as she poured my pint of Hooky.

Oh my goodness!  The temptation!  All you can drink, and pour it yourself.  Am I dreaming?

I manfully resisted, and only had the pint of Hooky, which if I was being super critical might have been just past its best, but I couldn't be sure.

A peaceful pub on a Thursday afternoon this, with a few regulars chatting and the racing commentary in the background.  Why haven't they got the cricket?  Australia wobbling at 108 for 5.

On towards the centre of Garston, skipping the Derby which I ticked two years ago.  I was rather doubtful as to the status of the New Wellington, but here it was, open:
I seem to recall this was a very large two sided place, I think one half is no longer a pub but what remains is a rather fine one-bar boozer with two rooms nicely decorated.  The handful of regulars were somewhat boisterous, but they took no notice of me in my quiet corner.

No real ale, so a cool and refreshing lager was in order.

Truly a local's boozer, every newcomer was greeted by friends already in; a pub where everyone knows your name.  (Except mine, of course.)

The locals calmed down a little, and I monitored the Test Match.  122 for 8, who'd have thought it!  (Little did I know...)

On to the Swan:
I entered the bar side, and risked a Doom Bar from the solitary hand pump.  It was foul.  I should have complained but I couldn't be bothered.

Again, plenty of regulars chatting in this gem of a pub only let down on this occasion by the quality of the ale.

I abandoned my pint of vinegar and headed for the final target of the day, the Alexandra.  Sadly, when I got there not only was it closed, but it had been demolished and replaced by a KFC.  Streetview research shows it was still standing, albeit boarded up, just a year ago.  I gave up in disappointment and headed for home.

Pub of the day: Masonic, for the beer offer!
Miles walked: 2.3
Maybe coming soon: Bootle, Southport