The Central Manchester Slow Pub Crawl - Day 10
Day 10 - Thursday 15th May 2003 (Map)
Pub 68 - Yates's (Piccadilly Station)
We start tonight within the luxurious confines of Yates's in Piccadilly Station. We get two pints of Carling for £3.70 (special offer available Sunday to Thursday all day). We request plastic glasses (strange phrase that) so we can sit "outside" on the "balcony" in the "sun", whereas in fact we remain indoors technically, with the effect of the sun amplified by a big glass window. Barney says "it's like being on holiday" (sarcastically it is then claimed).
Piccadilly Station certainly looks a lot better since the full refurbishment - we struggle to remember how it used to look - but it's hardly the ideal place to come for a night out (unless, perhaps, you want to get a train afterwards, or some time during). The sun's actually quite bright - it's been reasonably nice the last couple of days (as spaceman's slightly reddened face achieved by sitting in the sun watching Lancashire at Old Trafford the previous day confirms.)
The drumbeat coming from Yates's speakers makes the station announcer sound like she's been given a dance remix. Barney, keen birdspotter, spies a (possibly lost) pigeon in the rafters. To be hones, it's not a great view from where we are inside the station. We can see (a) buildings, (b) some trees and (c) a lot of commuters. Barney compares it to Victoria Station - the people here, needless to say, are more awake and/or alive (admittedly it's earlier in the day). It's got a better, more lively atmosphere all round! But the beers don't last forever, and we have one more bar in Piccadilly Station to do...
Pub 69 - The Reef Café Bar (Piccadilly Station)
This bar is a little more chilled compared to Yates's. More chilled and less smoky. We take advantage of the "today only" offer of £1 for a pint of Carling (or Grolsch), thus making this one of the cheapest places we've been to (but only for the next few hours, unfortunately). The barmaid hardly made us work for the special offer flyer - it's virtually thrust in our faces. But she's very friendly, so we forgive her, as she tells us that pints of Carling are normally £2.45 here. We struggle to place her accent, which is clearly not English, or even British. "What accent is that?" inquires spaceman, to which barney replies helpfully "foreign".
Barney says that they do 20% off everything on match days (presumably meaning Manchester United match days) - asking for trouble, surely. The vouchers we get also include a free slice of pizza, but we resist somehow (mainly because the queue is quite big). Strangely it is barney who is the driving force for pizza resistance. There's a game zone here too, but the pool table is bent, says barney. Some guy wanders in fully clad in leather (trousers and long jacket). Spaceman suggests that he may be going to the piccies to see The Matrix Reloaded next week (woo hoo!), and so barney shouts "Neo!" and the bloke turns around as he is walking away. Funny! (However, later attempts by spaceman to similarly distract him with shouts of "Morpheus!" fail miserably. It's good fun, though. Well recommended.) It soon becomes time to escape from Piccadilly Station...
Pub 70 - The Bull's Head (London Road)
Not to the Star And Garter, as it appears shut (barney swears hearing music coming from there last week, and we do here a band practising on the upper floor), but to the very pleasant and seemingly ever-reliable Bull's Head (check out, if you have lots of spare time, their official website http://www.bullsheadpub.co.uk). We're a little annoyed at another closed pub, but what the hell, eh? The signs on the S&G did appear to suggest that it is open on Fridays and Saturdays. We'll have to try it again some time.
Anyway, we get two pints of Carlsberg for £4.70 and settle down in the corner, opposite an open fireplace - nice. The pub's tagline, on the blackboard behind the bar, is "the local in the heart of the city". The same blackboard shows 4-pint pitcher offers (£8.80 for Carlsberg). The now-standard alcohol-related witticisms adorn the upper wall areas, such as: "No strangers enter here, only friends we've yet to meet". They've obviously not lived in Manchester very long. Barney points out the behind the bar looks a little Christmassy and it does, with lots of bright, white fairy lights.
We also see a notice for "Bully's Quiz Night" every Tuesday at 9pm. "Great Fun Prizes" it continues - wonder what they could be? We don't intend to find out. The sign outside the pub promised "fabulous food, brilliant beer and wonderful wines". We can't comment, really, except to say that beer in general is nearly always brilliant, so it's nowt to do with them. "All the classics" says barney, as Frank Sinatra plays through the speakers. Spaceman nips to the loo before we leave, easily avoiding a suspicious looking puddle near the urinal...
Pub 71 - Harry's Bar (off Altrincham Road, UMIST)
It was like an adventure finding this place. It's in the UMIST complex and therefore a student dig, as the price for two pints of Carlsberg (£3.20) and Coldplay playing on the stereo testifies. We have, however, unluckily missed Happy Hour (5 to 7pm), during which they would have been 99p a pint. Anyway, about the adventure. It's a fair bit off the beaten track (at least from the way we approached from). We had already wandered hopelessly through another building, all on the promise of a bar around here from one of barney's mates. In this previous building, we spied on students in a lecture theatre, who were watching a film which seemed to depict a theatre. Useful.
We then saw signs for "Renold Tavern", so we wandered through, but it appeared to have been turned into an auto-lit careers service centre, and there was a café next door (which was both shut and dry, alcohol-wise). Confused and a little lost, we succumbed and asked a passing student who told us that it's been shut for six months. However, he did direct us to another bar, Harry's Bar, before shuffling uncomfortable off. Back to present times, and barney points out that there is a band setting up, on a stage upon which they can just about fit the huge drumkit, never mind the rest. We don't have time to hear what the band sound like as they're still pissing around with the set-up by the time we've drained our beers...
Pub 72 - Retro Bar (Sackville Street)
Another wander and we find Retro Bar on Sackville Street, where two pints of Fosters are £4.20. We spy a small pool table in the corner and head straight for it (after getting our beers, obviously). This place is not massively well populated; the Q music channel plays on the TV nearby. Barney is on form and takes the first and second frames (the second game won via three fluked yellows - we're playing UK 8-ball). It's one of those pubs where the pool table has been squashed into an area big enough to fit the pool table in, but not much else. Consequently, there is an array of different size cues to cope with the fact that the wall is frequently obstructing the natural cueing position. We still end up playing plenty of shots at 45 degrees or so, though...
Pub 73 - O'Shea's (Whitworth Street/Princess Street)
Barney moans about this place on entering, having come here on a Friday night when it was rammed, and rather amusingly gets told by a bouncer "not to bother, then". He stops short of not letting us in, however, as we think of telling him that it's part of our designated pub crawl and we're going to give it a try anyway. After sitting down with a couple of pints of Carlsberg, spaceman realises that for the first time on the pub crawl, the crucial little notepad has been left behind. Presumably in Retro Bar. Spaceman has to leg it back there and breathes a sigh of relief to see it beside the pool table.
We play on some card game but realise too late that we can't actually win any money out of it (what's the point?). Back in our chairs, we notice Sheffield United vs Nottingham Forest on the TV in a 1st Division play-off match. Spaceman, an Oldham fan, has ceased to care about the play-offs this season. The Irish music, we note, is distinctly naff and there's no doubting the accent of the barmaid in this place. We decide to make an exit after finishing our beers and try not hang around near the bouncer too much...
Pub 74 - Overdraught (Princess Street)
It's very smoky in here, but two pints of Carling are only £2.50. The Monday offer is 99p a pint (as in the Piccadilly Tavern). We find a sofa to sit on, sort of opposite two girls (the sofas are plenty big enough), who don't seem to mind (there aren't many seats around). Spaceman has been here before, at lunchtime to watch Brazil vs Turkey in the World Cup. The exact location in spaceman's mind was a bit vague, but we found it eventually. The music being played is quite good (and includes the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Kills, two bands whose debut albums spaceman has recently purchased). And did we say it was smoky? We leave in a blur of smoke and our own dimming memory...
Pub 75 - The Whitehouse (Ducie Street?)
It's open this time, as it's after 8pm, and we have a choice of two doors - lounge and bar. We choose the lounge, even though the bar has the pool tables. Two pints of Carling set us back £3.80. Our long journey to this place (it's way out from tonight's route) took in the local Spar to stock up on supper rations (bacon, egg, cheese). It's a deceptively large pub - it's not massive, but from the outside it looks tiny. It's not that busy and a nice old lady serves us. Overall, it's a pleasant little place, we think, as we wander out the door and off to barney's for some cholesterol on bread.