Sunday 18 February 2024

2024 Book

While I was relaxing in the Crows Nest yesterday afternoon and writing about the forthcoming Merseyside Pub Guide 2024 book, the proof copy was already sitting on my doormat.  So I can now put it on sale.

This year's edition lists 1,982 pubs of which I have visited 1,472.

You can order a copy direct from the printers by clicking here.  Or in due course it will be available from Amazon and other popular distributors.

Saturday 17 February 2024

New Ticks In Crosby

For today's research I headed up to Crosby, hoping for a favourite and a new one.  I started in the Crows Nest:

This lovely pub continues unchanged since I was last here in 2018, the highlights being gorgeous architecture, excellent real ale, and waiter service in the lounge.

The lounge side was completely empty when I arrived at ten past one, a group of three came in shortly afterwards.  I don't think there was anyone in the bar either.

I ordered my pint of Yorkshire Blond at the hatch and it was brought to my table soon after.

No music disturbed the splendid peace in this wonderful pub.  What a contrast with my first call last week, the Albert!  I contemplated cancelling the research and just staying here as it is so good, but the pub guide author's work is never done so I'll carry on.  Talking of the guide, the proof copy of the 2024 book is in the post as I write, so if it's alright it will be on sale in a few days.

On to the Birkey:

I should have realised when someone came into the Crows Nest to ask if they had the match on and left when told no:  They had got the match here, on umpteen small and big screens, and the place was full of reds.

Only one pump had a label, I gambled on London Glory and it was spot on, and only £3.24 with CAMRA discount.  (Unusually there was a sign on the counter directly in my eye line so I remembered to claim the discount.)

Everyone else was here for the footie, and I had to stand and lean on a pillar where I wasn't blocking anyone's view.

Next, in to the centre of Crosby, and a place I haven't visited since it was the Exchange, in 2002.  Since then it has been called Village and Suburb 24 before becoming Townhouse:

What I found in here was attractive rough wood decor, making for a very pleasant pub.  Some customers were in to watch the footie, Liverpool won 1-4 as I enjoyed my pint of Madri.

It's a shame I didn't get to visit the intermediate versions of this place in the twenty two years since I was last here, I would have liked to know what they were like.  I can't actually recall what I saw in '02 but I assume it was nothing like this rather well designed modern pub.   I noticed they have limited opening hours (In fact Google says they don't open until four today.) so they are presumably aiming for the busy evening customers.  I guess I was lucky Liverpool were playing or I wouldn't have got this tick.

Almost all the customers departed once the match was over, I hope this rather attractive places gets more people later.  It continued to tick over slowly with a few odd customers coming in but not enough, I fear, to pay the barmaid's wages.

The weather had now changed to heavy rain, so it was time to get wet.  I moved on to a new tick, Angus:

Having been in the Angus in Liverpool I had an idea what to expect here, but I was completely wrong!  A large cavernous front area was full of blokes and loudish music.  Sky sports news was on a giant screen, silently.

Before me at the counter were two "little old ladies", not seeming to fit with the vibes of the place; once they'd got their drinks they headed upstairs so perhaps it's more calm on the mezzanine?

No cask, unlike the branch in town, so for a change I had a fine pint of Erdinger.  I sat in the slightly quieter back of the room, but even here it was noisy and busy.

Right, I'm knackered already, time to head for home.  One classic gem and one new tick are enough to make this a good survey, I think.

But hang on a mo, what's this?  Only a few yards along my journey back to the station, I find Rocksalt:

A somewhat up market cafe bar, comfortable and pleasant and I enjoyed a pint of Camden Pale in one of those short fat glasses.  The leather sofa I sat on was very relaxing, with a significant risk of me dozing off!

They make a big thing about using local suppliers for their food ingredients, so perhaps they ought to have local craft ales, such as Love Lane, instead of London brews but who's complaining, the Camden was good,

It's always good to catch a brand new (To me, actually it has been here since 2019.) unexpected tick, so perhaps I'm a little biased but this is a rather fine cafe with plenty of customers, many of whom were enjoying the food which, I must say, smelled good.  Or do I mean smelt good?

Definitely time for home now.

Pub of the day: Crows Nest
Beer of the day: Ossett Yorkshire Blond
Miles walked: 1
Maybe coming soon: Fazakerley, Bebington

Saturday 10 February 2024

Desirable Targets In Anfield

Liverpool had a rare three o'clock kickoff today providing an opportunity to get some special ticks.  I took the train to Sandhills and joined the crowds on the long walk to the ground (The football bus is for wimps.)

Once there, I headed for a very difficult target, the Albert.  I haven't been here since 2004.  Not only is it match days only, but I have seen the doors closed mid match, so I made sure I got here before kickoff, and it was open.  This picture was taken later when the crowds had gone in to the ground:

Wow!  It is a good few years since I've been in a pub like this.  The whole room was packed from wall to wall with vertical drinkers.  A rather good singer with a guitar was just starting American Pie, but with locally relevant words (No idea what)  I eventually squeezed my way to the counter for a pint of Carlsberg (£4.90) served by the efficient and very busy bar staff.

The fella served just before me paid with contactless and it didn't go through, by which time he had melted into the crowd.  Later I saw the poor barman squeezing through the crush looking for him in vain.  The order was two shots so they could have been drunk and out in 30 seconds.

I sang along with You'll Never Walk Alone and quickly swigged my beer, I'm getting too old for drinking in a throng like this.  Eventually I escaped and finished my drink in the relative calm outside.

Next, the Church:

This wonderful former church has pews for seating in the impressive main room.  I have to say when I came across it by chance in 2018 I was of the opinion that it couldn't survive for long as, apart from match days, I couldn't see why anyone would come in.  Happily, I was wrong and it's going strong.  

The bar staff were busy collecting millions (I think that's called hyperbole) of empty glasses as everyone had departed for the game but they still poured me a Carling, £4.

Everton had lost the early match according to the pictures on the stunning big screen which was clear and bright and I guess about eight metres wide.  I imagine they get a good crowd for away games, England matches etc etc

A slow trickle of customers came in, keeping the place ticking over and of course it will be wedged again come full time.

The giant screen moved to Sky Sports News, with appalling lipsync.  Someone needs to adjust something, it looks terrible.  

Meanwhile I'm off to that rarest of ticks:  A pub in the urban Liverpool area which I have never been in, but it's not a new one.  Yes, I only learned of the existence of the Old Barn last year (Thanks Steve), so let's see if I can get in...

D'OH! shutters are down.

Back to the ground and the Park:

Although not packed this one was busy enough that all the tables were occupied and I had to stand by the counter.

Knocked through into one room on two levels, the Park is a pleasant enough plain boozer and I enjoyed another Carling, £4 cash only.

We had a radio version of sports news in here, they were announcing Liverpool going 1-0 up as I came in, but I already knew because I'd heard the roar as I approached.

I now have two choices: Dawdle over a couple of pints and try the Old Barn again at full time, or just collect other ticks and head home before the rush.  I won't bore you with my medical problems (nothing serious, just a wonky ankle, I'll try not to go on about it too much...) but I think I'll take the easier option today.

I walked past the Albert, and the doors were shut as I expected.  I would have thought a gentle flow of beer sales between the two rushes would have been money for nothing, but clearly some pubs around here think otherwise.  Dodds Bar was also closed having been open before KO.   I expect they know better than me!

On to the Twelfth Man:

A rather fine two sided traditional boozer this one, and after touring both sides I managed to pinch the corner of a table and a chance to sit down and rest my ankle.

We had rugby on the telly in here, plus Sky Sports News on other screens.  We, and the crowd at the rugby match, watched what seemed like ten minutes of slow motion while they decided whether Scotland had scored a try or not.  They hadn't.

The pub was doing a steady trade which again makes me wonder why others don't keep the doors open during the match.  I assume it will be wedged come full time, but I'll try and get away before then.

As I relaxed on my comfortable seat I reconsidered my plans, can I dawdle and then get back to the Old Barn at full time?

I walked back past the Albert, still closed, and Dodds, open before, closed during, and now open again, joining the surprisingly large number of early leavers streaming away from the ground, and back to the Old Barn.  (Is it alcohol or the comfortable seat in the Twelfth that means I'm walking at normal speed now?)

That picture was taken on my abortive attempt at a tick earlier.  This time the door was open, so in I went.

A beautiful traditional two sided boozer this, the bar side at least is covered in football memorabilia LFC and EFC, it depends which way you look.  I was the only customer as we listened to the end of the match, 3-1 to Liverpool.

The "other side" doesn't have a counter, it is served from a hatch at the end of the counter.

I kept waiting for the crowd to come in but it remained two staff and just me for a good ten minutes until finally some more customers arrived, just one group of four.  And then a slow trickle of more, keeping the landlady quite busy.

Perhaps I'm biased because this is such a desirable tick, but I think this is a really beautiful pub and it's a cert for pub of the day today!

I noticed quite a few of the customers were heading up the stairs where I believe there is a function room.

Gradually more groups came in, am I the only loner in here?  A few minutes later the place was busy, more and more came in, but I'd already got my seat and table, so I was happy!  I did wonder if the pal who recommended this place would come in and recognise me, but he didn't.  Perhaps he walked past and neither of us noticed.  Soon every seat was filled.

I took my time over my pint, of Guinness for a change, hoping the crowds would disperse before I headed home.

Another match came on the telly, with close-ups of players and stewards clearing thrown objects off the pitch.  Little plastic footballs and other rubbish.  Who's playing?  Oh, it's Bayer Leverkusen, isn't there a late match in the premiership?

In conclusion, a wonderful survey, one pub not done since '04 and one brand new - to me - but it's an old pub.  I have to confess that in my conceit I'd assumed there were none of those left, but clearly one can never be sure.  If you know of more, please tell me.

Pub of the day: Old Barn
Beer of the day: Guinness
Miles limped: 3.7
Maybe coming soon: Fazakerley, Bebington, Crosby

Saturday 3 February 2024

Wallasey: Cask and Architecture

Yesterday I suffered a bit of a pub failure:  I was in Chinatown for some shopping so I thought this would be a good opportunity to tick the Liverpool Marina, where I last drank back in 1999.  You can imagine my irritation when I walked all the way round the docks to find a notice saying the bar was closed.  I marched grumpily back to James Street and got the train to Lime Street, where I cheered myself up with a wonderful pint of Oakham Citra in the Crown before getting the train home.  (It could have been worse, at first I thought there was no Er Guo Tou Jiu in the Chinese supermarket which would have rendered the whole walk pointless, but they had simply moved it to a different place.)

Back to today:  As is often the case nowadays Merseyrail was in a mess, but my train turned up on time and I rode in 507001 which has been repainted in its original livery to celebrate the end of these units.  I hope to travel on the farewell tour in May.

I began my Wallasey research in the Nelson:

This is a very well done chain dining pub in a rather fine building.

I was pleased to see two handpumps and my pint of Yardbird was excellent, and it was served in a Yardbird glass. 

Everton were on the TV, one group of lads might have been watching but most of the limited population of the pub were not.  One or two were watching racing on a different channel.

I looked around.  Compared with other chain pubs this one seems better; there's nothing exciting about the decor, it is just beautifully done and maintained.  For architecture fans the inside does not reflect the outside, there is very little original apart from some leaded glass in the windows.

The menu is standard fare with fish and chips at £12, from my seat I couldn't see anyone eating.

Next, the Lighthouse:

This time the architecture aficionados will recognise a classic 1960s construction, and once again it has been substantially modified inside.

Just like the Nelson this is a Greene King dining operation, but with one big difference:  It is busy in here.  I was OK for a table but most of them were occupied by family groups, many of them eating.  Fish and chips is £13.19 so it's not a food price differential that causes everyone to come here.

There were four handpumps on the counter but the only ale available was IPA which came out of the Old Golden Hen pump.  This hints at poor cellar work but my pint was of excellent quality, so no complaint.  It was significantly cheaper at £3.70 than the £5.40 I paid in the Nelson.  Perhaps that's why everyone comes here!

Again Everton were on the telly, and again not many were watching.

The sounds in here were faint football commentary mostly drowned out by happy chatter.

Just a few yards further along the road is the Farmers Arms:

Another architectural gem, this time there is no doubt about when it was built as it says 1924 on the front.

The inside is beautiful with dark wood panels and leaded glass partitions splitting it into a number of separate areas.  I am most definitely not an expert, but I'd say much of the interior is original.

Three cask ales are on offer and I chose a guest from Conway.  The barmaid took my money while it was settling.  Next, she topped up a pint from the IPA pump.  "No No, Conway" I said, "I know" was the reply, then I realised it was the previous order she was finishing.  Oh dear, there's only one thing worse than correcting the bar staff, and that is correcting the bar staff when they are right!  Oooops.  Never mind, no damage done and I soon had the third excellent pint of the day.

Everton were on the TV in here too, the majority of the regulars were watching.  I retreated to one of the side areas to drink my ale in solitude.

I contemplated the survey so far and decided that three quality pints is an excellent score.  Can we make it four, or even five?

Everton equalised in injury time.  (I could hear the commentary but I couldn't see a telly from my quiet corner.)  Finally, full time and a good result, I think.  Suddenly some footie fans who had been in a back room appeared and left the pub.

For my next move I walked past Sheridan's, saving it for later, and on to the Cheshire Cheese:

I cannot recall the source of the information but I marked this pub as closed in 2021, so I was rather chuffed when undertaking this morning's pre-flight checks to find it isn't, as it was something of a gem.  Is it still?

Well, as a cask ale destination it is perhaps not as good as I remember, there were only three on, but my Boltmaker was excellent, so no criticism:  One is enough, three is wonderful.  I'd forgotten just how good Boltmaker is; a slight hint of toffee raises it from classic bitter to something rather special.

As a pleasant pub, it is just as good, with multiple areas around the two part servery.  Customers were fairly sparse but it wasn't completely dead.

The TVs here were showing rugger, England were losing. Did I hear there is a campaign to ban school children from playing rugby?  It never did me any harm - Apart from instilling a lifelong aversion to participating in any sports.  Actually, that's not harm that's a benefit!

More regulars arrived, perused the pumps, and also chose Boltmaker.

To complete the Wallasey pubs, back to the former Black Horse, now Sheridans:

Another fine building, brewers' Tudor is the style.

My quality cask streak couldn't last for ever; none in here so I finished the day with a Carling.

Ale choice notwithstanding, this is another rather good boozer, pleasantly done out, spotlessly clean and if I'm allowed a negative, rather chilly.  Custom was a little sparse in here although the place was ticking over, and some people were eating.

Sky sports news was on a telly above my head, no one was watching.  (Where's Jeff Stelling?  Oh, he's retired.) 

Judging by the signage, accommodation is an important part of the operation, the cynic in me says no one would want to stay here in the middle of nowhere Wirral, but hopefully I'm wrong.

A fine selection of pubs for today's research and four out of five offering quality cask which is a bit better than last week's zero out of five!  Time for home.

Pub of the day: Cheshire Cheese
Beer of the day: Boltmaker
Miles walked: 1.5
Maybe coming soon: Fazakerley, Bebington, Crosby, Anfield

Saturday 27 January 2024

Everton At Home

As Everton were at home for a proper three o'clock kickoff today, my objective was some pubs near Goodison which may have match day only opening hours.

But first, a chance to tick off one in town as I pass, Central Sports:

This is located upstairs above Tess Riley's on Charlotte Street, making it the eighth bar on that short road.

I wasn't sure exactly what to expect here, imagining a scruffy shed designed to sell lager to as many fans as possible when there's a match on.  However, what I found was a very well done sports bar offering tables large and small, booths with individual TVs and even some sofas facing a giant screen.

I was the only customer, I suggested to the barmaid it would be busier later but she opined "it's only FA cup, so probably not".

I couldn't see Carling so I treated myself to Stella instead.  A text came in from my brother who was enjoying Oakham Citra in the Live and Let Live in Cambridge, making me somewhat jealous!  A great pub and a favourite ale. When I said I was unlikely to see a handpump today his reply was "Oh dear".

On to Central Station to join the throng on their way to Kirkdale.  Actually, the train was surprisingly empty.

I exited the station to find crowds of people heading towards the match, the pavement was so busy I had to queue for two cycles of the traffic lights to get across the road.  The first pub I came to was the Melrose Abbey, but I wasn't going in because I ticked it less than a year ago:

I peered into the open door to see how busy it was and there was former work colleague, drinking buddy and Evertonian John, so naturally I joined him for a pint and some catching up.  I do like it when this sort of thing happens on a survey.

The Melrose Abbey is a plain two sided boozer, naturally doing very well an hour before KO.  The other side is in the process of refurbishment, with missing bench seats and temporarily exposed pipework.

When I exited the Melrose I noticed a large black cloud in the sky, not a thunderstorm as I first thought but the emissions from a large fire nearby.

Next, on to pub number three which was the first target on my plan, the Saddle:

This gem continues unchanged, there are some wonderful ceramics inside and the lounge is still served from a hatch at the end of the servery.

Having poured me a Carling the barmaid warned that they hadn't got the match on.  When I indicated that was fine she assumed I was going to watch it on my tablet.  As if!

The counter was almost full of empty glasses but all the fans had gone by now and I was briefly the only customer until I was joined by one other, who requested racing from Uttoxeter on the telly.

Rapid loading of glassware into the dishwasher occupied the staff, one also hoovered the lounge side.

What else can I say about this pub, I think the word beautiful sums it up.

Leaving the Saddle I noted the smoke plume was thinner than before but there was a sprinkling of pieces of ash on everything, pavement, parked cars, front yards, it must have been a major fire.

On to Walton Road, and the first pub I came to was the Saint Hilda:

A plain well cared for place with an L shaped main room plus a side lounge.

It was ticking over, much busier than the Saddle, with miscellaneous groups of locals enjoying the calm between the pre and post match rushes.  Or perhaps the rush doesn't reach here?

The walls in the side room were decorated with classic albums, I checked them all but I only own one, Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water.  Can I renew my not recently repeated complaint, that classic vinyl should be preserved, not nailed to the wall.

I was interested to see some hotel guests checking in, I had assumed one would stay here only if visiting for footie, but apparently not.  It's good to see another source of income for the establishment.

I proceeded up Walton Road.  The advantage of bumping in to John is that he knows my interests and advised me someone had told him the Salutation had reopened.  So I walked past my next planned target, the Clock, last visited in 2018:

... and on to the Salutation.  My last time here was in 2010 and it is recorded as closed in my database:

Oh yes, it's open!

A two room plain boozer, with a counter only in the front room.  Lots of tellies, mostly switched off, and a large number of regulars chatting, some watching the footie.  Everton weren't doing very well, but then they equalised.

It is good to see a plain pleasant comfortable boozer surviving, especially when I had it down as closed.  Long may it continue.  I'm guessing it'll be packed after full time, so perhaps long term survival is at risk once Everton go to their new stadium.

What a great survey, nothing like what I'd planned this morning.  One new bar, one I thought was long closed, and an unexpected reunion.   You can't ask for more than that.  OK, maybe some real ale!  I headed home before the post match rush.

Pub of the day: Salutation, welcome back.
Beer of the day: Carling
Miles walked: 1.8
Maybe coming soon: Fazakerley, Crosby, Anfield, Wallasey.

Saturday 20 January 2024

Shiny New Ticks in Town

Today's plan was for a trip to Crosby to revisit a favourite and catch some new ones, but I decided I couldn't be bothered and only went as far as the city centre where I had learned there was a new pub.  So, up to Hope Street and the White Hart:

A freshly minted pub (This is only its third day.) in a location which has had various operations including Clove Hitch, Bread and Butter, and finally Keystone which I visited a couple of years ago.

Inside I found a rather wonderful multi room multi floor pub with quirky decor that immediately caused me to suspect that it's a new operation by The 36 Pub Company (The Vines, Queen of Hope Street, Red Lion etc.)

The fine choice of six cask ales confirmed my suspicion; I selected Proper Job which was very good, just as it was in the Big House on Wednesday.

What a beautiful pub, "Dickensian decor" according to one puff piece I read, with the usual trademark real fire, candles, stuffed animals and some ancient furniture.

Where next?  As I enjoyed my pint I was checking the internet to confirm the owning company and I'm very glad I did because I learned that the White Hart opened on Thursday along with another bar from the same company.  So I headed out the back of the Hart, through the conservatory and in to the Engineer:

Now, one might argue these only count as one pub, but the Engineer has a street entrance and its own toilet so I'm claiming two ticks.

The decor here is very different to the Hart.  A sort of industrial vibe, bare brick, tiled floor with cracks, and a mezzanine walkway made of wood which affords access to some small upstairs rooms.

"Only" four handpumps here, I had a lovely pint of Ossett Silver King.

A couple came in with two dogs, one a giant shaggy thing whose head was higher than the counter.  (And the dogs were quite big as well!  Sorry.)  I was pleased when they headed through to the White Hart.

Unlike the other half they had footie on the telly here.  Arsenal scored, with Jesus awarded an assist.  That reminded me of the very old graffiti outside a Liverpool church.  The sign said "JESUS SAVES" and someone wrote underneath "but Dalglish scores on the rebound".  I see today is another Saturday with no 3 o'clock matches.  Next time a manager whines about fixture congestion ask him what they were doing in January.

You know that thing where a real ale pub has a collection of previous pump clips on display?  I've always had a little suspicion that they buy in a job lot of clips.  Well there's a row of them behind the bar here and since it's only day three of operation they obviously aren't beers that have previously been on sale!

The Silver King went off sale as I drank mine which was a touch cloudy but tasted fine.  Another member of staff came over from the White Hart and disappeared into the "cellar" behind the counter, and I could hear the sound of a mallet working on a cask.  Soon the Silver King was back on.

Time to move on, perhaps I can continue with places never before ticked?

Down towards the other (Anglican) end of Hope Street is Papillon:

Despite the sign saying "a public house" it is actually very close to the pub/restaurant borderline.  Ignoring the Please wait to be seated sign I stood at the counter by the pumps, but my order was taken by a passing waitress who pointed me to a table and soon brought me a fine pint of White Rat.

Could this one also belong to 36?  Similar ale selection and candles on the tables suggest so but the internet says no.  Anyway it is a rather good place although more of a restaurant than a pub in my opinion.

That's two new ticks, can we get more?  Of course we can, let's try Antisocial:

Here I found a completely empty one room bar where the friendly barman poured me a pint of Camden Hells.  He had seen me taking a picture and apparently there's something special about the building's frontage which causes architecture students to take photos, so I explained the Guide and why I was here.  He bemoaned the problems of being on the borderline between bar and restaurant, it looks like a restaurant from the front so they don't get the drinkers that they deserve.  On reflection, perhaps it would do better if they wrote the name in big letters on the front!

Our chat was interrupted by two more customers but they turned out to be enquiring about a function booking, so didn't actually buy any drinks.

The decor in here is sort of modern plain, in my opinion rather well done with just enough clutter to make the place feel comfortable.

Two more customers came in, they had some complicated coffee/chocolate order which kept the barman busy for ages.  Still, custom is custom.

Someone else came in, but he seemed to be staff, so once again no sale.

Time to go home, but maybe one more brand new tick?  On the route back to the station on Hardman Street is Metrocola:

The picture was taken on my way up some hours ago, it was getting dark by now.

How does one pronounce the name?  My guess would be metro-cola but it could be met-rock-o-la?  Aha, their web site says Metro-cola.

Annoyingly, being four pints to the good I wasn't on the ball so I completely failed to spot the handpumps and ordered a fine pint of (real) Budweiser.  I wonder if the Cheshire Cat would have been any good.

How can I sum up the decor?  Distressed wooden floor, bare brick walls, yellow tiles on the counter front, neon signage and lots of hanging greenery, I really like it.

Quite a few groups, my age and much younger were keeping the place going so obviously they're doing something right.  At four on a Saturday afternoon they are ticking over, I bet it's a lot busier later, at least I hope so.

I wondered if I had been in here before, in the days before the pub guide I used to frequent night clubs around here on a Friday night, but I think Plummers and Kirkland's were elsewhere on Hardman Street, so this really is a new one.

My electrical engineering mind kicked in:  There are a number of METROCOLA neon signs around the room, but are they really neon or some modern simulacrum?  I have to say the one nearest my seat had the blacked tubes between each letter which suggested to me it was genuine.  If I'm right it's good to know someone is still making real neon signage.  Google to the rescue once again, the answer is yes and there's a company in Bolton for example.

Well, how about that!  Two brand new pubs and four brand new ticks taking my grand total to 1,470.  Can I make 1,500 this year?  Time for home.

Pub of the day: White Hart
Beer of the day: White Rat
Miles walked: 1.8
Maybe coming soon: Fazakerley, Crosby, Anfield, Wallasey, Kirkdale.

Saturday 13 January 2024

Where Am I?

A bus under the river soon dropped me in, er, is it Liscard? Or Seacombe?  Who knows!  My first target was the Rose & Crown:

I was a little concerned as I approached:  Two shut doors and Christmas decorations still on display, could it have closed?  Happily no, the third door was welcoming and I was soon in the bar side which was deserted apart from the friendly barmaid who quickly poured me a pint of lager.

The decor in here is plain, one might even say down at heel, but well maintained and spotlessly clean so really all it needs is a few more customers.  And the removal of Santa and Rudolf painted on the windows.

I could see some people in the lounge side even though the entrance door was locked.  There must be another way in.

More "customers" came in, three youngsters who headed straight for the toilets and left a few minutes later.  That won't pay anyone's wages.

Next, Sandbank:

According to my database we're now in Seacombe, but I wouldn't place much trust in that.

Exactly as last time I was here, 2018, this is a pleasant one room boozer populated with cheerful locals.  So much busier than the Rose and Crown it's hard to believe they're well under a mile apart.

Just two female customers amongst two dozen blokes, mostly about my age with one or two a generation younger.

I remember a previous time here when I was politely asked to move from where I was sitting because the table was reserved for bingo players.  I don't recall actually moving so perhaps I said I'm leaving after this pint.  No bingo today, just a cheerful crowd with no one watching the rugger.

This boozer is a bit of a classic, I think, long may it continue.

If I were to predict pub closures, my next target would be top of today's list but let's try the Mona Castle and see...

Sadly, my prediction was correct and although it still looks almost like it might be an operational pub the doors were closed.  A great back street boozer, I'm sorry to see it gone.

On to the Five Bars Rest:

This was another one I thought might have failed, but the door was open, albeit with a rather unwelcoming "PROOF OF ID MUST BE SHOWN ON ENTRY" notice.

I entered (Without showing any ID) and soon sat down to enjoy another Carling.

Only three or four other customers so the place was hardly even ticking over, but at least it's open.  The interior is plain and perhaps even a little untidy, but as usual nowadays very clean and well maintained. Actually, looking round I think the untidy is undeserved, it's actually rather a nice pub.  Long may it survive.

When I was researching this location last night I came across a police report when they attempted to get the place closed back in 2008, complete with fascinating extracts from the incident logs.  I'm surprised this sort of information is freely available, it doesn't show the pub in a good light even if the licence wasn't withdrawn.  Names and addresses of the protagonists are sometimes shown.

Oh dear, the witty sign behind the counter "YOUR IN MY PUB NOW" is rather spoiled by the your/you're error.  I blame the education system.

Next, along to Egremont where there are two ticks close to each other.  The weather had worsened to dark drizzle as I passed the long closed and never ticked Brighton:

Carrying on, I passed by the Vaults (Saved for later) and headed down to the river and the Ferry:

A really busy pub aiming at diners but welcoming of drinkers.  Two operational handpumps on the counter and I soon had a carefully poured Wainwright.  Spot on, it was.

My report from my previous visit - Is it really twelve years ago? - included the phrase "a little tatty".  Not true now.

I found the only free table in the whole place, they are certainly doing a roaring trade.

Down on the waterfront with a scenic view of Everton's new stadium, this is a great location for a pub and it's doing very well even in today's horrible weather.

Unfortunately, my seat obstructed the way in to the ladies, so by the time I'd drunk half of my ale someone wanted access.  I jiggled my chair to let her in, bumped the table and tipped my pint over.  How annoying!  Fortunately no one, not even me, was splashed with beer so I just finished what remained in the glass, mopped up some of the mess with blue roll provided by a barmaid, and then departed, somewhat embarrassed.

Finally back up the hill to finish at the Vaults:

Another classic boozer this one, one open room (but I think there might be another room down the hill?), well filled with cheerful locals, but there were enough spaces for me to have a table and comfortable seat to enjoy my final drink, a Guinness this time.

The regulars in here were certainly enjoying their cheerful banter, it was completely drowning the football commentary on the TVs.  And a remarkable lack of swearwords, I must say.

By the way, I see the premiership football today is one early match, one late match and none at all at three o'clock.  That's a new one on me, another result of Sky's influence?  Has the historic 3pm Saturday finally been destroyed?  I hope not.

So in conclusion five required ticks, the last two haven't been done for twelve years so very overdue.  Only one real ale, but a number of decent boozers.  And one regrettable loss, if the Mona has closed it's a shame.  (Or two regrettable losses if you also count one third of a pint of Wainwright on the floor of the Ferry!)

Pub of the day: Sandbanks, a classic.
Beer of the day: Spilled Wainwright
Miles walked: 2.5
Maybe coming soon: Fazakerley, Anfield, Crosby, Wallasey

Friday 5 January 2024

Bootle Bonus Up High

Today's jaunt started with a foolish decision:  As I loaded tablet and map into my bag I glanced out of the window and was pleased to see sunshine.  So I was a little miffed when I exited the front door a few minutes later into heavy rain.  The sensible choice would have been to let the shower pass and catch a later train but I was in "I've started so I'll finish" mode so arrived at the station rather wet.

The rain, of course, had almost stopped by the time I reached Liverpool, my train was somewhat delayed due to what appeared to be signaller incompetence.

Anyway, I was soon at Kirkdale station for a stroll to my first target, the Mons:

This large pub is now branded Stonehouse.  On the first Friday of "dryanuary" it was pretty deserted, I could only see one other customer as I waited at the counter.  After a short delay the lone barman spotted me and poured me a Guinness.  It was taking some time to settle so he brought it to my table.

The decor in here is rather good, bog standard "traditional" with pastel blue matchboarding below the dado.  Everything appeared well maintained.

As I enjoyed my pint a few additional customers came in but there was still acres of empty space.

I looked at the menu on my table which offered a good selection of bar snacks.  Don't they do meals any more?  Perhaps there's a full menu in the other side.  On my way to the gents I learned that there is a restaurant part, complete with a carvery option.

A rather bedraggled looking Just Eat guy came in to collect an order.  Not a job I'd fancy in this weather.  Or in any other weather, come to think of it.

The other day a friend asked me if Guinness Extra Cold is still a thing.  Here there are two Guinness taps, one says Extra Cold and the other doesn't, and I wondered if there was actually any difference.  My pint came from the extra cold one, I think that was because that was where I and the barman were standing.  Does anyone in the trade know if the difference still exists (Assuming it ever did.)

Next comes my Bootle bonus.  While checking my targets last night I discovered 14 Bar and Grill.  To be honest, I did wonder if this was a fictitious place - I remember some years ago searching residential streets in Birkenhead for a bar that appeared on Google Maps but had never existed.  But there's definitely something sparkly on top of Daniel House:

The entrance doesn't give any clues:

but after going up thirteen storeys in the lift, and then walking up one more I found this spectacular greenhouse of a place.  Definitely more of a restaurant than a bar but they seemed happy to pour me a pint of Mahou and bring it to my table, in a Mahou glass.

I love the decor in here, the entire ceiling is covered in sparkly baubles.  Is that just for Christmas?  I hope not.

More customers than the Mons, the muzac mixed with a number of gentle conversations.

The menu looks good although not cheap, fish and chips is £17 and I noticed a 14oz chateaubriand for sharing is £75.

They have a substantial outdoor area which must be good in better weather, and I think there's also a terrace on the roof for even better views.

So, not really the type of place my guide aims at as it is definitely a restaurant, but well worth a visit if only for the decor and the views of the docks, three football grounds, two cathedrals etc etc.  Not the sort of place you expect to find in Bootle, perhaps, but deserving of great success in my opinion.

My most expensive pint so far this year, it cost £6.

Next, another tower block but this time it's the ground floor for the Cat and Fiddle:

Years ago this was something of a real ale gem, but sadly no longer:  On my 2017 visit I recorded low quality cask, and this time there are no handpumps at all.  Nonetheless it is a pleasant comfortable boozer, well maintained, clean and tidy.  I had another Guinness.

Quite a few regulars were in, indulging in chatter or, in one case, working on his laptop.

Rather odd sound in here, the TV's are showing a music channel, Now 80s I think, but silently, while the speakers are playing another music selection.  On the plus side, we don't get to be annoyed by the adverts from the telly, but it does rather render the screens redundant.  Also, if the screen shows a song I like, it's annoying to listen to something completely different.  As I wrote that both TV and muzac were rubbish.

Next, the Jawbone Tavern which I'm ashamed to stay I haven't ticked since 2016:

Another one formerly providing real ales, and it says cask ales on the signage, but no handpumps were in evidence so I had another Guinness.

Ticking over with a number of customers here, and the music mixed with animated chatter.  It's half three on a Friday, places really need to be busier than this.  As I've said before, come on folks, I can't save the industry on my own.  (So far this year I've drunk in nine pubs which is not bad in five days, so I think I'm doing my part!  Probably one more today plus one or maybe two tomorrow.)

There's just one more target in Bootle so I can't go home without call in to the Addison Arms:

Formerly a Yates's, this enormous pleasantly done one room boozer is, in stark contrast to my four previous calls, busy.  Not packed out like I used to experience back in the 90s, but I had to tour the whole room before finding a free table to enjoy my final Guinness of the day.

There was some vague music playing but I couldn't identify it under the loud chatter of umpteen happy drinkers.  I think one day I should bring an audio recorder to one of these places, as this cheerful hubbub is something you just don't hear very often nowadays.

The lively atmosphere in here really makes the place, and the contrast to the quiet Mons and Jawbone is amazing.

I could see some food menus on display but no one in my end of the pub was eating, this is certainly a drinkers' boozer and none the worse for that.  

Two horse racing channels were on different tellies, and as I looked around quite a few of the customers were watching with interest.

Time for home I think, with the satisfaction of my first new tick of the year, plus four required revisits.

Pub of the day: 14 Bar and Grill
Beer of the day: Guinness
Miles walked: 2.2
Maybe coming soon: Fazakerley, Crosby, Egremont, Wallasey