Saturday 24 February 2024

Fazakerley Failures

On a lovely sunny day I took the train to Fazakerley hoping for some overdue ticks.

I started at the Foresters Inn, but annoyingly it was shut.  I couldn't tell whether it was permanently out of action or simply a late opener.

So I walked westwards towards more targets.  I passed the never ticked Longmoor Social Club, which was also shut but to be fair, a big sign says it doesn't open until two.  And onwards...  But the Prince George was also shut, this one looks more like like an operational pub, perhaps it also opens at two?

Not a good start but just across the road is the Farmers Arms:

At last, a working pub!  A well cared for plain boozer, the inside of this classic sixties construction has been knocked through into one open room.

A steady stream of custom was keeping the place going, not surprising when it's the only open pub in Fazakerley!  The jukebox was mostly drowned out by lively chatter, laughter and the clack of pool balls.

One regular was telling his pals, in the pub and on the phone, about the trials and tribulations of his hospital treatment.  He was wandering about the pub dressed in pyjamas and a dressing gown.  All life is here!

Should I dawdle until two to see if the George opens?  No, I can't be bothered.  It was still shut when I left at 13:40 so I abandoned Fazakerley and strolled on towards Walton Vale. 

Firstly, I wanted a picture of Jaxon's, a good micro I visited just the once, in 2021, and since closed, but there was no trace.  I think it was the shuttered shop front with no sign.

On to a less risky tick, the splendid building that houses the Black Bull:

This is another proper traditional boozer, retaining two sides both pleasingly busy with a mix of customers; punters watching the racing, family groups with young kids, blokes my age chatting and joking, etc.

This is what a real pub looks like.  Busy, cheerful, people coming in and out, even the occasional toddler running around.  Gentle background music (Radio Gaga as I wrote this.) largely drowned by animated conversation.

Some sandwiches appeared on the counter, I resisted the temptation, they might not be for everyone.  I imagine eating someone else's food would be a major faux pas.

My plans have been somewhat broken, but luckily I have a fallback option because despite my survey here only a couple of months ago there remain a number of required ticks in Walton Vale.  So let's head on to a post war classic of a building.

I emerged from the Black Bull into the sunshine to find a sea of flashing blue lights.  Are my plans to be broken again?  The road was closed to cars, with all three emergency services attending a car crash, but pedestrians were free to proceed so I soon reached the Windsor where I took the opportunity to snap a picture without the usual heavy traffic in front:

I remember being in here on a wet Sunday afternoon years ago, enjoying a pint of cask Tetley in a deserted pub.

Once again, a popular busy traditional boozer, and once again gentle background music is mostly masked by cheerful chatter.  The interior looks particularly well cared for, is that fresh paint I can smell?  Brand new or not, everything is beautifully maintained.

I selected a seat by the front windows to drink my third Carling so I could see what was happening in the street.  Soon the crisis was over and traffic flow was restored.

I looked round.  Every table I could see was occupied, so in the 2020s this counts as a busy pub.  They are obviously doing something right here, I hope they continue.

Next, not far away is Joey Orrs:

A very nicely done traditional boozer once again.  This one is perhaps a little more distinctive, decor wise, the dark green wallpaper with leaves and flowers combining with green matchboarding on the walls and counter front to create an excellent style.

There was some kind of buffet food arrangement in the rear of the large open space, I couldn't discern whether this was a function or open to everyone if they paid.

I sat in "Frank's Corner" to enjoy another Carling, hoping that Frank wouldn't turn up and claim his table.  Not quite as busy as the Windsor here, so if he did I could move elsewhere.

I watched the chef prepare a large bowl of chips and sniggered as he ate one before heading out to deliver it to the appropriate customers.  Somewhat to my surprise, it was his lunch and he adjourned to a free table to scoff the giant portion.

I consulted Google to see if I could tick the Orrell Park Bar which is mainly a function suite, and up popped the L9 Sports Bar.  If it exists then this could be a first visit...

The sign outside says L9 Lounge so I think that's the correct name, let's get a brand new tick:

Inside this shop conversion is a rather well done bar.  Rough wood cladding on the walls, with comfortable looking bench seats along the walls, the transformation has been done very well.

This is not a CAMRA-style micro, no cask ale so I had my fifth Carling of the day .  They did appear to have a better than average offer of lagers, such as Cruzcampo.

Ticking over nicely, but not full, so I managed to get a table.

I wonder how long this place has been going.  [Streetview shows it opened after July 2019 and before September 2022.] It is great to see new operations, I hope it does better than Jaxxon's which only lasted a couple of years.  There was a steady stream of people in and out which must bode well for the long term survival.

As with all today's pubs, the sound in here was piped music with chatter on top.

After a shaky start today's research turned out rather well, especially with the new tick in a bar I didn't know existed.

Is Fazakerley really a one pub town now, or was I just unlucky with opening times?

Pub of the day: L9 Lounge because it was an unexpected bonus.
Beer of the day: Carling
Miles walked: 1.8
Maybe coming soon: Bebington

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