Pub Stagger 2
"Hung, Drawn & Northern Quartered"
Tuesday 6 June 2006
And so it continued, perhaps a little later than originally planned - but hey, that's life. The idea, as you might gather from the dry title, was to venture deep into the Northern Quarter, the not-so-new-any-more but probably still trendy area of town. What with darkness and alcohol being prevalent on most of the pub crawl evenings, spaceman's memory of Northern Quarter pubs was never less than hazy and vague. So with that, it was time to refresh those bar memories.
Pub 1 - Simple
Barney arrived fractionally before spaceman, who pulls up in a taxi (part laziness, part running late, part not exactly knowing where the hell it is) nearby Simple. Here it is!
It's a gloriously sunny day - what a time to be out supping beer for the sake of, cough, research. Barney gets in two pints of Staropramen (spaceman has blown most of what little change was possessed on the taxi) and we sink into two brown sofas. With almost unheard of planning and aforethought, we order some food. In order to remedy the cash problem, spaceman gets the grub on debit card (two chicken-type sarnies) while getting a couple of additional beers to take it over the magical £10 barrier (Budvar plus Tiger equals £6).
Spaceman has a view of on array of pictures on the wall as barney notices a sign by the bar saying "book tables for the World Cup". There is no obvious sign of a TV, but there is a probable projector screen, the projecting element of which may in fact be visible in the above photo. There are fresh oranges behind the bar (a little like Dry Bar). The food comes quickly and is enjoyed (a combination of tastiness and the fact we are naturally hungry). Below is an outward-looking view. Look how glorious the evening is!
Barney selects the Budvar by an eyes-closed selection method. Needless to say the food disappears quickly, before barney moves on to "do" the MEN crossword. Spaceman lets barney flounder for a little (to be fair, barney does get a few), before helping out. Spaceman does the honourable thing and researches the toilets (full bladder or not) before returning to help barney finish off the crossword (more or less...). Spaceman snaps the walkway type thing outside.
And that was that. (Quick note: the date is 6/6/6 - scary.)
Pub 2 - Odd
All the bars we visited on this jaunt were quite close together, but perhaps the longest walk was from pub number one to pub number two. And it wasn't that far. On our way, we were faced with a difficult choice...
Hmm, what to do. In the end, we choose beer. But not before snapping the Big Pink Post Office. Where, presumably, you can buy big pink envelopes and stuff.
Look, here's Odd, and you can see the crazy way they have spelt the name: with a little 'o' and two upside down question marks. That IS odd.
We wasted no time in ordering two pints of Staropramen and sitting at the far end.
"Have you listened to Slayer?" asks the chalkboard strip behind the bar (spaceman: "no", "barney: "yes"). The beers here are the same as in Simple - indeed, Staropramen seems very prevalent in Manchester these days (and no bad thing). Some of the bar staff put prices by the artwork that is located on the left hand wall (as you walk in, our right hand side as we sit) and shown below.
The jukebox plays the Kaiser Chiefs as barney points out the stag's head on the wall. And there are candles on the tables. Lovely.
We think of stuff to put in the pub guide entry. Barney is impressed by spaceman's line for "Do say", namely "Individualism is a characteristic worth treasuring". Spaceman, meanwhile, is confused by barney's "Don't say", which seems to be "Don't say 'don't say'". Erm, yes. We then focus on the décor: "random shit hanging in the windows" notes barney, "like some sophisticated fly trap". We suffer a partial then full dimming of the lights, but with the presence of windows and the fact that is the middle of summer, it's still not that dim.
One of the bar staff goes in a mysterious door by us, while barney tries out downstairs. There is another bit down there apparently (as well as the toilets) with 3 tables and mirrors on the walls. The décor in the gents is noteworthy enough for barney to describe it in detail - it's basically a visual cacophony of blue, white, brown and purple, with a generally 70s flavour. A leaflet on the table says "order your wee taste of Scotland". Yuk. We note a sign by us which advertises "post-punk, electro funk and charity shop junk"; a nice rhyme, but slightly meaningless.
And on that note we were gone.
On the way, we snap a wall-based painting done by Rodeo.
And we were going to go there next but then we spy this.
The presence of this establishment takes us by surprise somewhat - i.e. it's new and wasn't on our (well, barney's) original plan. But not to worry - we're flexible enough to give it a try. There are no customers within the small interior but, with plentiful seating out in the June sunshine, that's hardly surprising. It does mean, however, that we get plastic glasses for our £3-a-pop Peronis. Next door is a nice, upmarket Chinese restaurant called Sweet Mandarin, reckons barney. Here it is!
While ordering the drinks, spaceman debated with the barmaid as to whether barney should shave off his stubbly beard, but the barmaid suggested that spaceman grow one (some chance). Here is a shot of the interior, complete with Mr Chef in the background.
A sign advertises a 2-course meal for £11.95, which seems to comprise a Bloody Mary and roast beef dinner - "what could be more perfect on a Sunday...?". Erm, perhaps the same, just without the Bloody Mary. We are near the Smithfield Market apparently. Table service is offered for drinks, but we decline. Spaceman, as is his wont, tries the toilets. They are well kept, with the odour kept fresh thanks to an auto-smelling unit thing. The hand dryer went off a bit randomly, though. This is our view from the outdoor seating position.
When we came to leave, as the sun went down, there were few customers.
Pub 4 - Rodeo
Rodeo, as can be seen from the photo below, is not very big. Sure you could swing a cat; but a larger member of the feline family? You can forget it. That in itself is no bad thing and, by its nature, it is a very intimate venue.
We purchase a couple of bottles of beer (one San Miguel for spaceman, one Corona for barney - with a lime!) for £5.80 from the barmaid; bottles because there is nothing on draught. The size of bar matches all expectations, while the flash of the camera pings off the back wall mirror with reckless and unadulterated abandon.
Spaceman inquires as to the presence of bar snacks (purely in the interests of research you understand). Immediately, we are furnished with salsa (so to speak) and then, later, nachos (they first had to be located by our eager and friendly host). Barney expressed admiration for the hastily brought mini-meal, commenting that "the salsa has a bit of a kick".
Look at that - what more could you want out of life. "There are more candles per table than Odd bar" rambles barney, in what has become a relentless tradition, "but Odd bar has more tables, so..." before breaking off in a mess of mathematical confusion. We again appear to have located a seat near a staff door, but this time it is labelled as such. Spaceman eventually persuades barney to go to the toilets - do it for the website! Barney goes alone. And was, apparently, drawn to a blue light for the unisex toilets. Like a fly to, um, stuff. In true Mexican style, there is a wide selection of Tequila. Well, compared to most places.
The beer soon goes, aided by its necessity to quell the salsa flames and soak up the nacho's salt. And this is the view outside, which we soon head for.
Pub 5 - Bluu
It's been nearly two years since we went to Bluu in day 22 of the slow pub crawl. And here it is.
We get a little distracted while outside the entrance, however. First by the presence of the unique Hunters BBQ & Asian Take Away
And then by a different angle of Rodeo, this time noting the big Spanish sign above it. More than that, though, look at how small Rodeo is! It's just a room!
Finally, despite beer calling our name very loudly indeed, spaceman gets distracted by a private cab outside and chats to its driver his profession. He has a luxury private taxi, complete with TV in the back (linked up to a DVD player in the front). He is currently spending the night cruising around looking for business (this sounds dodgier than it is). He relates a couple of sordid stories to spaceman, none of which can be remembered. He was a sound guy.
Anyway, it's time to drink, so we get two pints of Fosters for £5.60 and get the only table apparently available. Barney calls it "the gay table" for some reason (not sure why), which is unfortunate as an old bloke starts to eye him up. It soon turns out that the old fellow is clearly as pissed as a fart and he staggers out of the door. He is just about visible in this shot, albeit silhouetted.
Barney checks out the drinks menu, noting that there are 15 different types of bottles of beer, one or two of which are a whopping 8.5%. All but one of the beers appear to be lagers. One of the (non-beer) drinks says "egg whites optional" - yuk. Barney notices the presence of a "hangover cure for Sunday", which is basically a 2-course Sunday lunch for £9.95 (noon to 5pm), or £12.95 for 3 courses, with a free Bloody Mary - this is turning into a common theme. Here is the bar area.
Don't know who they are, though. We investigate downstairs - it is seedy, red-lit and contains hidden away seating. The bar is currently closed by the downstairs capacity is 60. One satisfying amber nectar later and it's time to be on our way once more. Here is a shot of Bluu by night.
We also stagger past Hunters to check out the crazy menu. Partridge, venison or pheasant curries anyone? No, thought not. Didn't think you would be game (sorry).
Pub 6 - The Bay Horse
On the way to the Bay Horse, we catch a shot of details of the "extraordinary food" and "devilishly fiendish DJs" proclaimed by Odd.
Anyway, here's a shot of our next proper destination, The Bay Horse. First one's a bit dim, so another (close-up) shot is provided for full-on visibility. While spaceman is fannying around taking these pictures, barney dives in to get down to business and order some beers.
Spaceman takes a snap of the barman, which seems to disturb him and he asks if it can be deleted (spaceman does not oblige). Here you can see his reticence while pouring us two pints of Staropramen. Say 'cheese'!
Hey, but the beers... don't they look good? So elegant and sippable.
There's not much to entertain us up here ('specially now the barman won't play), so we head downstairs to the basement room. Before we do, we shoot the long, thin blackboard food menu (entitled "Soup Kitchen Franchise"). It's quite tricky to read, but it displays various "Hot Sandwiches" and "Satisfying Salads", and today's soup is "Mediterranian (sic) Tomato".
The pool table is occupied (d'oh!) so we grab a sofa nearby, whereupon barney, seeking comfort, struggles to lounge in a sophisticated manner. We notice an always-amusing sign adjustment.
Suddenly, everyone downstairs clears off and so the pool match is inevitable.
Barney takes the first, but spaceman pisses then equalises (in different places, you understand). The toilets have lots of piccies on the wall, which have had their fair share of graffiti.
It's weird being down here. With just us, it's like we own the place (forgetting, of course, that there are staff upstairs). There is a downstairs bar, but it is not in use at present.
But it does feel like its ours - we realise we want our own bar. Back to the pool, spaceman wins the last frame in slightly controversial circumstances (something to do with a free ball). No matter, they all count.
Pub 7 - Common
We stagger on to Common and purchase two pints of Staropramen (original!) for £6. Here is the outside view (it's dark now!)...
...and a view of the bar from where we order the beers.
We plonk our weary souls by the window, chat, take the odd photo, but don't take too many notes (we're no longer in the right state for ground-breaking investigative journalism. Look! Here is the bar again!
Upside down alphabets on pillars, meanwhile, our bound to screw with our beer-addled minds. Spaceman goes to the toilets - there is a male toilet with a urinal and, we a mixed toilet which wasn't investigated (hey, how many toilets does one need to use?).
You can tell how blotto we are, we can't even focus on the crazy wall mural. Barney notes some things, but it's unreadable now.
It really is time to go home, and that we do...