Friday 28 August 2020

It's All About That Bass

On a wet Friday afternoon I headed into the city centre to mop up a few of the many bars that are overdue for a visit.  Sadly that makes today the exact opposite of a real ale pub crawl.  I started on Charlotte Street, literally next door to Wetherspoon's, in Ruby Blues:

I must apologise for the quality of the pictures in today's report, the traffic on Great Charlotte Street and a full taxi rank made things very difficult.

Anyway, it was good to start with a new tick, this used to be an NHS drop-in centre until it became Ruby Blues in 2015 so I'm only five years late.  A large room with a small stage in one corner.  Very good decoration mainly on a music theme, and I particularly like the chandeliers made out of wine glasses.  Hardly any customers at two on a Friday, but more came in while I was here.

No real ales, of course (I suspect the neon sign above the counter "It's all about that bass" doesn't refer to my kind of Bass.) so I had my usual lager.

A group of four youngsters sat at a table.  Their drinks orders included all sorts of shots and cocktails which the barman prepared with aplomb.  They seemed to get two of everything, for some reason.

Live music from 17:30 today, I bet it gets busy later.  Not really my sort of place, but admirably done and deserving of success.  Perhaps I'm biased because it's a new tick!

 Just next door is Smokies:

Last time I came in here it was called J.R's, the name has changed but it remains pretty much the same, a pleasant well done room with a tiny stage in the corner.  My notes from 2014 described the singer as "deafening", I suspect it'll be the same later, but at two on a Friday it was fairly peaceful, the background music about 50/50 with animated chatter.

When the barmaid asked "Have you got a card" I wasn't sure if she was referring to a loyalty card or a credit card.  I said no and paid by cash - Reading the signs after I sat down, they have a loyalty card scheme.

For some reason there were a lot more people in here than next door, mainly old blokes (By which I mean older than me!) 

More of an American theme in the decor, with Route 66 signs and a half size motorbike above the counter.

Next, once again just one door along the road, is Tess Riley's, not visited since 2013:

This place has an older feel about its atmosphere, the decor is 1950s traditional style although clearly all a lot more recent than that.

Well filled with cheerful people, my age or older, but I managed to find a table at which to write this and enjoy my Guinness.

The quiet music was mostly drowned by happy chatter, but I could make out Yellow Brick Road amongst other favourites.

Aside:  I got a replacement for my late lamented tablet a few days ago, and this was the first pub survey with my new Galaxy Tab A.  It seems to work very well...

It was only as I was half way down my pint of Guinness that it occurred to me that this place is an example of that increasingly rare phenomenon, the "traditional boozer".  Couples and groups of friends, all my age or older, out for a pleasant afternoon of chat and drink.  When I started surveying pubs twenty-something years ago, there were umpteen places like this all over Merseyside.  All filled with lots of people and a smoky haze.

A gang of about eight younger women came in, some dragging suitcases, lowering the average age significantly.  I wondered why they chose this place.  None of my business, of course, as long as they're enjoying themselves, and they seemed to be.  Given my comments above about this place, it is very good to see some younger customers as well.

Again, just one door further along is the Rocking Horse in the former TSB bank, which has been "Coming soon" for some time:

Five places next door to each other, I'm not getting my exercise on this survey!  So now, a bit of a stroll.  Is it a new tick? I'm not sure; located in the building that formerly held the famous Cabin Club is a new bar called Jimmy's:

I wonder if the odd red letters in the sign mean anything? O-SOTM.

No real ale here, and nothing "ordinary", so on the barman's advice I had some Lagunitas Daytime IPA which was the best beer of the day so far by a wide margin.  Very hoppy, delicious.

Not many customers at half past three but I imagine it's very popular later.  Modern decor, bare cable trays above, and a wonderful wall of fifty lava lamps as the bar back.  As an engineer I tend to disparage "designers" but whoever came up with that deserves an award.  

I remember the first time I saw a lava lamp back in the late sixties, I was fascinated.  And here I've got fifty to look at, all different colours.

The menu here, burger, fried chicken and kimchi, and so on looks good, but it ain't cheap.  Neither was the beer.

A bloke came in and ordered a pint after a chat with the barman.  He sat next to me and we chatted; he had been a regular in the Cabin and wanted to know if I remembered it.  He advised me that the upstairs restaurant here has a good view out over the street, he wasn't sure if it was still operational due to Covid.

It's twenty-two years since I was in the Cabin Club.  It wasn't really my sort of night out but it was a shame to see such a Liverpool institution close.

Where next?  How about one of Liverpool's architectural gems, the Vines:

What a wonderful place, as good as or possibly even better than the more famous Philharmonic.  Sadly, no real ale, so I had to revert to Guinness.

I adjourned to the side room with its wonderful plasterwork and beaten copper fire surround, oddly the rest of the pub seems busy but this room is deserted.  Perhaps I walked past a no entry sign?

Gentle music and louder chatter formed the soundtrack as I sat back and admired the architecture.

As a real ale fan, I would quite like Nicholson's to take over this place but that's not really necessary, it's great as it is.  It has had a slightly dodgy reputation in the last few years with the owners rumoured to be closing it, but clearly this wasn't true, and it continues to be wonderful inside and out.

Five is enough, it was time to don my coat and get the train home.  Coat??? Isn't it supposed to be Summer?

Pubs of the day: Vines for historic interior, Jimmy's for tasty beer.

Miles walked: Very few.

Maybe coming soon: Undecided.

Thursday 20 August 2020

Moreton and West Kirby

I was aiming for West Kirby today but first I stopped in Moreton to tick off an outlier not visited since 2002, the Armchair:

What a pleasant surprise.  Doom Bar and Bass on the counter and the Bass was spot on.   The lady had trouble pulling it and called over the landlord, who fiddled with the sparkler before producing an excellent pint.  They apologised that they'd only just got real ale and were still getting used to it.  I got chatting to the landlord and showed him the guide.  He explained about the refurbishments he's done and the outside bar, I must say it all looks very good.  I commented that it was rather quiet, but he told me it's packed at busy times with all the outside tables occupied as well.

I must say in these difficult times it is great to find a place where a positive attitude has resulted in a successful pub serving quality ales.  Long may they continue.

I wandered on to the centre of Moreton where I demonstrated one of the quirks of pub collecting by ignoring the Farmers Arms, the Vineyard, and the Coach and Horses because I'd visited them in 2018, and carrying on to Wetherspoon's Mockbeggar Hall:

A busy but not packed Wetherspoon's, and for the first time in this chain I was asked to sign in.  No queue at the counter and I was soon served a fine pint of Coach House Post Horn.  I haven't had a pint of that since, er, yesterday evening in Blacklers.  

The usual Wetherspoon's mixed crowd of boozers and families were keeping the place busy.

Just outside is a stop for buses to my next destination, and I was soon in West Kirby. (Does anyone know where East Kirby is?)

I skipped the WRO Bar because it looks like it might be diners only now:

I'm probably wrong on that but I can only do so many pubs per trip and this is the one to drop.  So, two doors down is the West Kirby Tap:

Table service only but no signing in here and I was soon served with a gorgeous pint of Spitting Feathers' Thirstquencher.  (It's their tap.)

I sat in the main room, perhaps the quietest part of the pub, there were lots of diners and drinkers outside.

I must say, things are going well, three pubs, three quality ales...  Will it last?  Next, the White Lion:

I wandered up to the counter in this wonderful old place and quickly selected Titanic's Plum Porter, which was delivered to my table because it's table service only.  I went through a palaver using the QR code but it didn't work, so I tried entering the URL which went fine until the final page confirmed my visit to the Irby Mill!!  Oh well.

I sat in the wonderful stone walled front room and enjoyed one of my all time favourite ales.  

Those who have studied the actual pub guide will already be aware that some years ago I received an email from someone who claimed that back in the 70s this place had standard nicotine-stained anaglypta walls.  Does that mean the ancient stone walls are all fake?  Or were they covered over?  Or did he get the wrong pub?    Who knows?!

Whatever the history, I like this place and heartily recommend it to anyone who's in the area.

Gentle muzac and occasional customers was the soundtrack, I'm not sure the trade was enough to pay for barman plus waitress, both of whom were hardly stretched by the workload on a Thursday afternoon.

Finally, Wetherspoon's Dee Hotel, last visited in 2016:

Five pubs, five quality pints; what more could one ask for?  Here I selected Phoenix White Tornado and it was wonderful.

Not packed - I guess everyone had been in on the half price days - but still busy.  I reckon Wetherspoon's shares will be doing well, and they've got the job retention bonus to come.  

As I approached the middle of my pint, a roving waiter asked if I'd signed in, and got me to fill in a form.  Two consecutive 'spoons, just coincidence or are they clamping down?

I finished my fifth quality ale of the day, and headed for the station, and home.

Pub of the day: All of them had quality real ale but I'll have to choose the Armchair for unexpected improvement and a fine pint of Bass.

Miles walked: 1.5, a short one today.

Maybe coming soon: Odds and ends in the City.

Friday 14 August 2020


Off to Formby on another very hot Friday, and I started by heading for a place not visited since '06, the Pinewoods:

A large open place, built in the 60s or 70s I should think, knocked through into one open space or maybe it was always like that.  Very nicely decorated and well cared for.  Quite a few people, mainly families, were sitting outside dining while the inside was deserted.  I ordered my pint of Higsons Session Pale, which was delivered to my table. It was a bit cloudy but tasted OK, I've never been a great fan of the new Higsons and I've not been here long enough to comment on the original stuff.

I looked around.  Are some of the decorative beams and matchboarding original?  I think so.

Onwards in the increasing heat.  I hadn't realised how popular the squirrels and the dunes are, the road was full of cars looking for a parking space and walkers heading purposefully towards the shore.  I turned the other way, to the Freshfield:

The comedienne of a barmaid guarding the entrance suggested I couldn't come in without a booking, only joking, and then I couldn't sit inside I had to burn in the sun, again joking.  I was not amused.  I registered by scanning a QR code and sending a text but that's pretty pointless because there's no mobile signal here.

Anyway, on to the counter at last and they haven't quite got the fourteen real ales I noted last time I was here, but, they have got a good selection, including two of my favourites, Titanic Plum Porter and Oakham Citra.  I chose the latter as being more appropriate to the hot weather, and it was lovely.

A steady trickle of people came in, each one getting the long lecture covering registration and ordering procedures.

The inside of this pub hasn't changed significantly in my memory, is still pleasant rough bare brick and timber,I suspect it's all fake but what do I know.

Annoyingly, as I often do I had missed the CAMRA discount, ten percent in here.  

I watched some cricket, England struggling to finish the Pakistani innings.

On to the Grapes:

A slightly officious but polite landlady organised me on entry, allocating a table and instructing me on the procedures here.  Order drinks one side of the island bar and then collect them the other side.  There were a few handpumps offering Doom Bar and Hobgoblin but I decided to go for Carling.

Last time I was here, in 2016, I described it as "enormous, open, empty", and it's just the same now. As I was leaving the Freshfield it was filling up, but no danger of that here, they were gently ticking over but by no means busy at half four on a Friday.

I wonder where the gents is in this enormous pub?

Next, the Bay Horse:

Being a Toby Carvery, I did wonder if I might be out of luck here, but it was very quiet and non-diners were welcome.  Order at one end of the counter, collect from the other.  I didn't like the look of the Doom Bar so it was another refreshing pint of Carling for me.

Gentle muzac and conversation was the soundtrack in the mostly empty spacious interior.  They have knocked through a number of walls but retained some separation between areas.

Extra bonus points for this place, from my seat I could see two signs pointing to the gents.  In the current climate it's not very good to wander round looking for the toilet, as I had to do in the Pinewoods.

Minus points, on the other hand, because it was so empty at five on a Friday; not doing very well, I think, despite their good efforts to provide quality service while following covid-19 rules.

Back to plus points again, there was quite a bit of chatter between regulars and staff, giving this place a better "local boozer" atmosphere than some of my previous ticks today.

The heat was getting to me at this point, should I give up and go home or could I manage one more pub not visited since 2014, to properly tick off Formby? 

Wrong decision!  I walked to the Royal to find it closed.

Drat!  Time to go home...

Pub of the day: The Freshfield for having my favourite ales on.
Miles walked: 4.5
Maybe coming soon: Er, I haven't decided yet.

Thursday 6 August 2020


A bus took me to Kirkby on an intermittently sunny Thursday afternoon.  I was aiming for some pubs I last visited a long time ago, and I began at the Park Brow:

A good start, one family were sitting outside and I entered a plain and very well cared for room with a counter at one end.  The barmaid soon served me a pint of fizz, paid for in cash.  There was no one else in this side but I could hear hints of activity from the other bar.

I can't recall much from my previous visit twenty-two years ago, but I suspect it has changed little and it remains a pleasant plain working class pub as I described it then.

The dray arrived and the whole place shook as kegs were dropped into the cellar.

I departed via the gents and the lounge side which was very nicely decorated.

On to the Kingfisher:

Another classic estate boozer, the two sides are partially knocked through here.  Another Carling for cash from the cheerful barmaid.

I sat on a comfortable bench seat and looked round.  Quite a few people in here, and a game of pool underway.  Unusually, no music at all, I could just about discern some racing commentary under the general chatter.

My memory clicked into operation:  I think the three pubs in this part of Kirkby were one of my first research trips back in 1998.  Slightly intimidated by the area's reputation I was more than a little startled when, as I walked down a residential side street, a video recorder suddenly flew out of the front door of a house and crashed in the front yard.  It was rapidly followed by a very young boy who grabbed the mains lead and proceeded to drag his new toy round the yard.  The windows of the house concerned were boarded up, the local children had obviously gained entry and were having fun with what they could find inside.  I walked on, a little more nervous, but nothing untoward happened to me on this nor many subsequent visits to Kirkby.

Next, the Falcon:

A third classic estate boozer, but it opens at five, so no tick today.  Drat!  (There is a rule amongst pub bloggers that says I should here insert a rant about opening hours, but in this case I hadn't undertaken any research in advance so it's hardly the pub's fault.)

On to Kirkby's centre.  I'm looking for Brambles, not visited since 02, but first I spotted the former Wetherspoon's which, unbeknownst to me, is now the Market Tavern:

It's been taken over by Greene King, who'd have thought it?

Rather to my surprise, there were two handpumps and my pint of Old Golden Hen was a ridiculous £1.29.  Yes I did say pint.  And it was in good nick as well.

The place was very busy, in fact I had some difficulty finding an empty table at which to sit.  I couldn't see anyone eating but I guess three in the afternoon is not a peak time for food.

Nought out of ten for Greene King's software people, their app that I had to download last week doesn't know about this pub.  What's the use of that?

The place got busier and livelier as I enjoyed my ale, the chatter rising to a crescendo as more and more regulars came in.

Finally, Brambles:

I was last here in 02 when it was called Central, I think, and it doesn't seem to have changed since.

There were plenty of people in, the sound track being Johnny Cash mixed with lively chatter.

The sign said table service only but no one was taking any notice and I joined them at the counter to order another pint of Carling.

As I reached the end of my pint, I watched the bar staff (2) thoroughly cleaning the counter and the room.

The TVs were showing gardening programmes, not really right for a sports bar.   Why not the cricket?

The pub "salesman" here was offering me pizza, I think.

So, four boozers all doing well post-lockdown, what more could one ask for?  I was disappointed to have missed the Falcon, though.

Pub of the day: Market Tavern, for decent ale and lively atmosphere.

Miles walked: 1.8

Maybe coming soon: Formby