Thursday 31 August 2023


Medical matters once again took me out, this time to Rainhill, so why not tick a few pubs?  Starting with the CookHouse Pub and Carvery:

I was last here a couple of years ago when it was still called the Victoria.  Going back much further, in 1998 my first visit found a rather grubby pub full of noisy youths.  In subsequent years it was vastly improved and popular with customers of all ages.  They even offered real ales for a while.  There was also a period where half the pub was a restaurant.  Shortly after my last visit it closed for refurbishment, to reopen as the CookHouse. 

Never mind all the history, what's it like now?  Obviously aiming at diners but welcoming drinkers, it is a standard chain style food led pub.  The above average decor, pastel coloured walls, distressed wooden counter front etc. looks very good.

Not surprisingly it was quiet at ten to twelve on a Thursday, but there was a steady trickle of early lunchers coming in and ordering food.

I scanned the menu:  Fish, chips and peas £12.95, so not the cheapest, but Rainhill does have pretensions of poshness!  (That's another group of readers alienated.)

As I enjoyed my Guinness the place got busier and busier, they are really doing well.

Next, the Black Horse:

Another food-led operation, this time with the "sizzling" brand.  Again, ticking over nicely on a Thursday lunchtime, all the customers I could see were eating.

Pleasant decor here, with mostly light and dark grey paintwork.  One part of the space is designated as the dining area, but there are people eating elsewhere as well.  With fish, chips and peas costing £8 the food is significantly cheaper than the previous place.

Once again there was a steady stream of dining customers arriving, one group were told there was a thirty minute delay on food and decided to go elsewhere.  The landlord (or barman?) wasn't happy about this and commented to me (after they'd left) that good food can't be instantly cooked, and if your meal comes out in five minutes it must have been already prepared in the kitchen.  He's right, but thirty minutes is a little on the slow side; I'd hate to come here when it was busy!

Next, I'll double back though the middle of Rainhill to the Rocket, named after the famous locomotive, of course.  But wait, who's that shouting my name across the road?  A former colleague and his missus, I haven't seen them for a number of years so a quick chat before I headed to the Rocket:
Last visited during COVID restrictions - I remember incorrectly approaching the counter and being politely rebuffed - Let's see what it is like now we are back to normal.

Pleasant and popular is the short answer, the bright cheerful well done interior has quite a lot of customers keeping the chatter level up.

One corner had a substantial buffet laid out, covered in cling film, so I'm guessing there'll be a wake before too long.

Unlike the other two this place isn't about food, no menus nor diners were in evidence, although as a sign says, special occasions are catered for.

Poor old Everton were on the telly.  Are they playing on a Thursday afternoon, or is it a re-showing of a previous game?  Losing as usual, anyway.

It's been great today to see three "ordinary" pubs doing well, long may they continue.  Time for home.

Pub of the day: Too close to call.
Beer of the day: Guinness
Miles walked: 2.1
Maybe coming soon: Prescot, Thatto Heath, Wavertree

Friday 25 August 2023

Mainly Mathew Street

Too lazy to do a long range survey this week, I just headed into Liverpool where there are plenty of targets to aim for, starting with a brand new tick, Gravity Max:

I'm not sure if I ever shopped in the Debenhams but I'm pretty certain it didn't look like this!  Rather well done modern decor, neon lights, flashing TV screens, loud music, bowling lanes, fruit machines, VR games, go-karting, video games, pool tables and so on.  I don't think I'm in the target demographic.

There are three bars in here, I think, but I only sampled one where I selected Carling from the bog standard drink range.  Ouch - £5.80.

A steady stream of families were keeping the bar staff busy selling beer, pop and bowling tickets.

So obviously not my sort of destination but you can't fault the place.  Busy, friendly, spotlessly clean, it deserves to be successful although I can't see me returning any time soon!

After I'd written that and finished my pint, I took a walk round the rest of the place.  The electric go-karts are on two levels so you get to drive up and down ramps as well; looks like fun.  And then I discovered they've got Wendy's burgers.   Forty-something years ago I was working in San Francisco for a few weeks, and the nearest food to my hotel was a Wendy's.  Their burgers were so much better than McDonalds and I became quite a fan.  Years later I used to arrange any visits to London to include the UK branch at Leicester Square, long since closed.  I'll have to give this one a try some time.

So maybe I will be back soon after all.  Also, the upstairs bar was a bit more peaceful than the one I used downstairs.  Oh, and I should add crazy golf to the list of activities.

Next, I moved on to Mathew Street for some overdue revisits.  The Cavern Club had a queue of tourists waiting to get in, so that'll have to wait for a quieter time and I walked on to the Grapes:

This place hasn't changed much over the years, except that they seem to have dropped the "famous" epithet from the signage.  It was surprisingly quiet inside; given how busy the street was with tourists I expected this place to be packed.  In fact, it remains an "oasis of calm" as I noted many years ago.

I didn't risk the lone handpump and had a Guinness for a change.

A steady trickle of Beatles tourists kept the pub ticking over, with hundreds of pictures being taken.

Next, just across the famous street is Flanagan's Apple which, inexcusably, I haven't ticked for ten years:
Another tourist trap, again unchanged for many years, a rather fine, dark atmospheric interior where I had another Guinness.

Shortly after I sat down a large group arrived and chose the next table.  I tried to work out what language they were speaking but I couldn't make it out.  After a lot of conversation from which the only words I could understand were "fish and chips" they sent an envoy to the bar to order some food.

Next, how about somewhere I haven't been in for twenty-five years, and I wasn't very complimentary about it then, Remeniss:
It's a bit down market in here:  Cheap lager, and plenty of rowdy old pissheads, but on the other hand nicely done out, clean and tidy.

As he poured my £3.50 Carling, the barman warned me the prices go up at three o'clock.  Good to know, but I won't be having more than one!

Last time I was here, when it was called Labinsky's, my report was somewhat disparaging:  "The small dance floor had a sign saying "dance floor", possibly indicating the intelligence level of the clientele." The sign has gone, now.

In preparation for the three o'clock threshold, the disco lights were fired up.  Is this supposed to drive the drunks out?  It worked on me, anyway!  The tellies were still showing two racing channels while the music got louder and the lights brighter.  Quite a clever transformation, get some income from selling cheap ale early afternoon and then switch to a disco later.

Finally, across the road again and in to O'Brien's:
This is a narrow corridor bar, and it was full of drinkers.  I had to sit at the counter, the only seat available.

I recall last time I was here, when it was called Glass Onion, being a little scared of a very drunk hefty bloke who was refused service.  The customers seem similarly inebriated under the new name, no surprise when a pint of Carling is only £2.50.  That's less than in spoons!

All the people in here were about my age, mostly but not entirely male.

One of the tables became vacant, so I decided to move from my counter seat.  My foot impacted on something, it was a shoulder bag vaguely similar to mine.  I checked and then double checked that my own bag was already on my shoulder, and then, aiming to be helpful, I lifted the other one up and placed it on the counter.  I hope its owner comes back to find it in due course.

What a classic cheap boozer this is, how does it survive in the otherwise expensive city centre?

I noticed it is attached to Hardy's next door, with a doorway leading through.

Just as I was about to leave, a bloke came in and retrieved his lost bag.  Time for home.

Pub of the day: Grapes
Beer of the day: Guinness
Miles walked: 1.7
Maybe coming soon: Wavertree

Saturday 19 August 2023

Haydock and Earlestown

Time for a long overdue visit to Haydock, starting with my first time at the Lymewood Farm:

A standard modern chain dining place, this, one very large room partly subdivided, and filled with the delicious odour of carvery.

I ignored the "Please wait here to be seated" sign and stood at the counter while the sole barmaid processed a complex food order.  The cakes in the chiller looked tempting, less so when I discovered the portions are kept in individual plastic tubs in a fridge behind the counter, for who knows how long.

Somewhat cautiously I ordered a pint of Greene King IPA from the one operational handpump, but I needn't have worried, it was good.

At half twelve on a Saturday there was a steady stream of dining customers coming in.  Having waited to be seated they were advised to sit anywhere!

I looked around at the other customers.  A couple nearby were at the bottom of their pints with no sign of food, so I'm not the only drinker in here, but pretty much everyone else I could see was eating.  £12.49 for fish and chips used to put a place in the higher price bracket but with the current inflation I'm not so sure.  Having checked further, that was fish, chips, scampi, peas and curry sauce, with standard fish chips and peas being a more reasonable £10.  Mmmm, now I feel hungry!

Next, a look at the Haydock Reading Room:

This is a members only club, and you need a conversation over the intercom to get through the door.  So, despite the local CAMRA's enthusiasm for the place I didn't go in.

That's it for Haydock, I'm afraid, so I took a long pleasant walk of a couple miles through Lyme And Wood Pits Country Park to Earlestown where I started in the Newmarket:

A classic two bar multi-roomed boozer this, with plenty of customers at two o'clock.  Plain but well done decor, clean and tidy.

The two handpumps on the counter didn't look like they'd been used for ages, so I cooled down after my long walk with my usual Canadian fizz.

Not much else to write about this place, it's just a plain ordinary pub doing a great job.  Little touches create a good impression:  Momentarily idle, the barmaid mopped the floor behind the counter.  She found a coin and popped it in the charity tin on the counter.

Multiple trays of food appeared in preparation for a function of some sort, with some discussion as to where they would be put.  Luckily they didn't choose my table, or I might have been tempted!

Moving on, a quick check of the Rams Head which I believe is closed:
And it is, which is a shame; there was some historic architecture inside.

Now, not visited since December 2019 is Wetherspoon's Nine Arches:

Here I enjoyed a great pint of Wily Fox's Karma Citra.

Doing very well, but by no means full, this excellent Spoon's in a former Methodist hall has always been rather attractive inside.

Quite a few customers were enjoying the intermittent sunshine in the yard, including a large hen party; if they were inside I imagine the noise would be deafening!  Oddly, part of the party were sitting away from the rest.  Already fighting, or just not enough seats in one place?  Everyone seemed cheerful so I suspected the latter.  Or maybe there were two hen parties - Further study of the tee-shirts and sashes worn revealed that this was the answer.

Both parties departed, leaving behind a lot of empty glasses and a solitary hen whose shirt said she was called Terence.

Finally, the Wellington:
On a previous visit here I felt it was a bit of a dump.  I now can't say if I was wrong then or it's been substantially improved since.  Anyway, what I found today is a plain but very pleasant two sided classic boozer.

I ordered a Carling in the bar side and then sneaked through to the lounge to enjoy it in comfort.

Soon, a pub crawl arrived, about twenty men and women mostly wearing brightly coloured "Hawaiian" shirts.  I failed to deduce what they were celebrating, but they seemed to be enjoying themselves in a well behaved way, and certainly kept the lone barmaid busy.

I checked my train home.  Not looking good, it seems to be stuck at the Airport.  But wait, it's on the move and "only" eighteen minutes late.  I'll keep an eye on progress while I enjoy my fizz.

The big group hid themselves in the other side so it remained fairly peaceful in my corner of the lounge.  (Apart from the irritating property programme on the telly just above my head.)

My train decided to skip a number of stations in Manchester, so it might be only ten late.  As long as it doesn't skip Earlestown!  As always happens, it lost more time.

Have I had too much to drink?  No, the floor really does have a slope to it in parts, possibly exaggerated by the "graph paper" pattern of the carpet.  I'll have to be careful when I head to the gents.

Nearly time to go, and then the bright shirts returned to the counter for another round, once again keeping the barmaid busy.

My train was twenty minutes late, but at least it came and took me home.

Pub of the day: Nine Arches
Beer of the day: Karma Citra
Miles walked: 3.4
Maybe coming soon: Wavertree

Monday 14 August 2023


A visit to Kirkby for non-beer-related reasons provided the opportunity to tick a couple of pubs, starting in the Carters Arms:

What a pleasant boozer this is.  Very nicely decorated in both sides, peaceful but not deserted at half twelve on a wet Monday.  If I'm being hyper-critical the seat coverings are overdue for a deep clean, as is the carpet.  And the three signs on the counter "NO DRINKING AT THE BAR" are a little unfriendly.

Despite being a Greene King house there's no sign of cask ale, so Carling for me.

It feels a bit different compared with my regular Friday night visits back in the 90s, but here I am thirty years later still downing cheap lager.  Some things never change.

Next, my other 90s Friday night haunt, the Railway:

Another very nicely done down market boozer, the slightly quirky interior layout partly knocked through but with some side rooms as well.  I sat in one of the little rooms where, irritatingly, I had horse racing commentary in my left ear and different horse racing in my right.

Very rare in a Merseyside pub, they don't seem to sell Carling so I went even more flavourless (if that's possible) and had Fosters.  I didn't try to order any but later learned that they had run out of Guinness.

Intermittent chit chat with the barmaid mixed with the racing as I swigged my Australian pop.  Gradually more and more customers came in.

My mind wandered to the "Ask for Angela" sign on the wall.  For those who don't know, it is a scheme where, if you feel something is wrong with your night out, perhaps your drink has been spiked or your date isn't what you expected, you ask for Angela at the bar and the staff will organise a taxi and make sure you get in it safely.  What an excellent scheme but, always looking for snags I wonder what happens if you're a barmaid whose name is Angela?

It is increasingly rare in these post-COVID days to see pubs open at twelve on a Monday, so I was pleased to find these two still going well.

Pub of the day: Railway
Beer of the day: Carling
Miles walked: 0.4
Maybe coming soon: Haydock

Saturday 12 August 2023


Sorry I've been absent for a few weeks; visiting friends, friends visiting and last weekend a severe attack of cantbebothered combined to create a break but here we go again, off to Waterloo for a Saturday survey.

Town was busy with Evertonians looking forward to the first match of the season, but I was soon on my way north.

My first call was the Railway:

Last time I was hereabouts this place wasn't open so I was chuffed to find it available today.  My recollections from five years ago were that it was a bit of a dump so I was pleased to find a spotless room with excellent decor.   (Actually, having checked my records I find that the scruffy recollections were from twenty odd years ago and it was looking good last time I was here.)

As well as the large room I was in which is knocked round the servery, there is a smaller room with its own counter.  The blinds were drawn in there.

Only one or two other customers were here at two o'clock, plus a few more in the pleasant yard outside, I hope they get more later.

A quick look at Parnell's but it would appear to be shut.  At two on a football Saturday?  I think that means it's no longer operational, or perhaps it's an evenings-only sort of place?
On to the beautiful Volunteer:
This gem continues unchanged, I was really happy to discover, with its historic architecture and quality ale.  Plus table service, is this the only pub to still offer that?  Technically I suppose the answer is no because every Spoons does it if you order on the app, but you know what I mean.

Every time I come here I celebrate the survival of this gorgeous pub, let's hope it continues for ever.  If this were my local I'd abandon the pub guide and just come in here every day!  Thinks... I wonder what property prices are like in Waterloo?

Just a handful of customers on a Saturday afternoon, hardly keeping the barmaid/waitress busy, as I enjoyed my pint of Iceberg in the peace and quiet of the lounge side.

Next a stroll right through Waterloo to the other end, but just for a change I'll go via the back streets and not up the main road.  What's this?  A bar I've never heard of, Paul's Bar L22:
A standard shop conversion this, looking rather good.  No cask so I had Love Lane, always tasty.

The barman (Is it Paul?) was chatting with regulars, jumping up to serve me when I came in.

I looked at the food menu on a blackboard, nibbles, olives, that sort of thing.  I'm guessing Paul, if it is him, would disappear out the back if I ordered some.  But hang on, the only door is to the toilet, so where would he go to?  Come to that, where's the beer?  Six draft beers (actually, one is cider) requires six kegs and there's certainly not room for them behind the counter.

A few minutes later the mystery was resolved when he disappeared down a staircase behind the counter. It looked like that old joke where someone fakes descent of a staircase and ducks down behind the sofa!

I checked the weather radar.  If looks like the forecast heavy rain has failed to materialise.  I could have done my planned Haydock and Earlestown trip today which I rejected because it involved a longish walk in potentially heavy rain.  Next Saturday maybe?  The internet tells me today there is racing at Haydock, so perhaps I dodged a bullet?  See you next weekend.  Maybe.

I carried on on my intended course up to Crosby Road, passing a number of borderline bar/bistro/restaurant locations which I think may merit another visit after some internet research, to the Four Ashes:
What has this place got that raises it above the average micro pub?  I don't know, but it is.  Five cask ales were on, including something I haven't had for some time, a decent pint of Bass.  And it was more than decent, it was perfect.

There were enough people in here for there to be more than one conversation, but still plenty of empty tables for more drinkers to come in.

A friendly popular bar this, with a steady stream of people in and out, most of whom seemed to know the barman and the other customers, with just one solitary pub guide researcher sitting to one side talking to no one!  And listening to everything - You have been warned.

Pub of the day: Volunteer Canteen
Beer of the day: Bass
Miles walked: 1.3
Maybe coming soon: Haydock