The Central Manchester Slow Pub Crawl - Day 14


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Day 14 - Tuesday 27th January 2004 (Map)

Pub 102 – Prague 5 (Canal Street)

As we head for Prague 5 we are awash with confusion and poor preparation.  Have we done Prague 5 before?  If not, how have we missed it?  It should have been visited on Day 11 but it wasn’t.  We start panicking and wondering if we’ve missed any others.  Gradually, after a great deal of thought, spaceman puts forward the idea that we were refused entry due to a private party.  Yes, that was it.  Bar Risa is shut again, though – might have to do it on a more popular day than Tuesday.  Barney reckons it only opens when there’s something on at Jongleurs, the comedy club upstairs from Bar Risa.  Barney might be on to something there.


Still, Prague 5 is a familiar haunt, offering, as it does, a splendid and extensive happy hour.  There are no details on the walls or anything, but from memory it runs for much longer than an hour.  And pints of Castlemaine XXXX are £1.40 each, we discover.  We feel a little out of touch with this pub-crawling lark as we’ve let it slip a bit (spaceman has even forgotten the requisite mini-pad and has to make do with scraps of paper) – the last day was back in November, over two and a half months ago.  We have renewed spirit, though, and have scheduled the next couple of pub crawl nights to be soon after tonight.  A recent count-up gave an estimate of around 80 further pubs to do but this figure keeps on rising as we discover more and more…


Anyway, it’s quite a good place, Prague 5 – nice comfy sofas, good music, and it’s popular at the weekend.  It had a refurbishment a couple of years ago (or so), which made it more inviting and comfy (before it was a little more dungeon-esque).  There are two floors and two bars – upstairs for lounging and eating, downstairs for dancing (loosely speaking).  The main bar on the first floor was rarely used before the refurbishment – now it’s the central point.  Barney, when prompted for comments, says that it’s big but that the roof’s too low (for a tall lad like barney, anyway).  Barney’s too busy looking at the MEN crossword that’s been separated from its mother paper.  Pints drained, we reluctantly lift ourselves from the sofa and depart…


Pub 103 – Eden (Canal Street)

The only bar on Canal Street that’s on the far side, Eden used to be called Metz (about six months ago, barney reckons, and something else before that, spaceman thinks but can’t recall).  “Outside or in” asks barney ironically, referring to both the outside seating and the fact that it’s absolutely bloody freezing outside (quite literally – except the bloody bit, obviously, although it might possibly be cold enough to freeze blood… er, anyway).  Barney struggles with the door a little (that old push or pull thing) and we potter down the stairs to the bar.  We ask for two pints of Castlemaine but are told that all draught beers (including Stella and Grolsch from lager-world) are £1.50 (and that this applies Sunday to Thursday, and Fridays up to 7pm).  But we stick with the weaker Castlemaine as we’re sensible (sort of) and, more importantly, very much aware of our task in hand (i.e. do as many pubs as possible).


It then gets surreal (just the way we like it really, otherwise there’d be nothing to write about).  A guy sat at the bar with a pint chats cheerfully with the barman – he’s apparently meeting the most beautiful Vietnamese guy ever.  “I wouldn’t know” replies the barman, a little uncomfortably.  In an effort to ease this discomfort, he asks where Vietnamese are from, rather unfortunately.  Vietnam ” says the customer, somehow without laughing at him.  Quickly covering his tracks, the barman asks where Vietnam is.  “Near Cambodia ” replies the customer, clarifying it perfectly.


When sat down, we later overhear (it’s not hard) the same customer refer to FHM and how he used to love reading the top 100 she-males (huh?).  We turn our attention to the surroundings – it’s another dim lights and brown sofas place, which suits us fine.  Across from Eden , Abbaye remains shut, a former (oyster) bar (or something), which spaceman had visited once or twice.  Never had (or saw) oysters, though.  We wonder how lucrative it could be in the summer.  Today’s soup, a nearby blackboard informs us, is Cremé Du Barr’y – what the hell is that?  It doesn’t help with the confusing use of apostrophes.  We think (from anecdotal evidence) that it does quite nice food here too, but we don’t try it out.  We must move on…


Pub 104 – Manto (Canal Street)

It's a bit cold here in and £5 for two pints of Carling.  We curse (well, spaceman does) as we realise that happy hour kicks in at 8pm (it's just turned 7pm).  D'oh!  It's a good offet, though - buy one get one free until midnight.  We take a seat facing the central area, with the bar to our left, on a nice comfy sofa, surprisingly (brown too - score three out of three!).  Barney reckons that it was briefly called something other than Manto a short time ago, but can't remember what except that it was only for 4 or 5 months.  (Bar 46 we think/discover later, much later - days rather than hours.)  There's a little row of computers offering internet access to the right as you come in, which is reasonably new (although spaceman hasn't been here for a while).


Barney notices that "Manto - buy one get one free" is projected onto the building opposite in very large, rotating words.  Neat trick.  Barney also notices (on good form, it seems) the letters m-a-n-t-o hanging from the ceiling, rotating slowly.  Spaceman is first to venture forth to the lavatorial facilities (surprise), for which, it seems, you have to go up to the first floor, then out into the stairway corridor, and up again, into a lushly decorated (in red) lounge-type area, which perhaps serves as a restaurant too.  You have to circumnavigate a DJ's equipment (so to speak) to get there (surely these can't be the nearest ones).


Can't remember what the toilets were actually like, though.  Note to customers: on the way back, don't go down too many flights of stairs, as spaceman once did.  You find yourself back out on Canal Street.  It's still quite empty in here (and deserted upstairs).  We muse that, given the happy hour at 8pm, the place perhaps gets busier then.  Maybe, we wonder, they are after the partying crowd, rather than the post-work crowd?  Who knows.  We don't ask and aren't particularly bothered.  This isn't market research.  This is alcoholism.  Speaking of which, we have drained our glasses and require more beer.  Off we go...


Pub 105 – Spirit (Canal Street)

Barney's been here a bit recently - there are three levels, apparently.  There's a lounge bar, a roof terrace and a restaurant.  It's £4.70 for two pints of Fosters and spaceman spies a quiz machine.  But we have to wait our turn as it is occupied.  Initially, this seems to be spaceman's first visit, but no, it rings a small bell somewhere.  Barney has been to the restaurant and seems to think that it served up quite good food.  The roof garden is good in the summer (it's all flooding back to spaceman now).  We finally get a go on the quiz machine but kinda wish we hadn't.  Several relatively fruitless attempts to win money on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire later and we head off back into the chilly night...


Pub 106 – The Union (Canal Street)

A first time visit for both of us.  We go into a quiet side first, where there are no draught pumps; just a guy drinking a can (of Special Brew, we initially think) so we move quickly and quietly to the other side, which is vast in comparison.  It's £4.00 for two pints of Carling, and we get two packets of crisps as well, in a vague attempt to ward off the fast-approaching munchies.  As we sit down, spaceman dashes off to the toilets, but hasn't a clue where they are.  After a fair few seconds of headless chicken behaviour, spaceman gives in and asks some random bloke standing around on his own, who quickly points out the gents right behind spaceman.


The helpful but sarcastic gentlemen asserts that spaceman may not have visited this establishment before.  He's right, of course, but it doesn't make him Einstein.  Unless Einstein was the master of stating the bloody obvious.  Someone else on this side is drinking from a can of lager too - it's not Special Brew we decide.  It seems to be more like some cheap European beer (although it does look a little like Special Brew from a distance).  We finish up (beer and crisps) and head off...


Pub 107 – Bar Med (Princess Street)

It's completely deserted here - the barmaid looks slightly surprised but pleased to see us.  We're quite pleased to see her too as she tells us it's £2.98 for two pints of Fosters ("only in January!" she hastens to add).  It was snowing outside on the way - it's the first time we've seen snow for ages.  We think it's not going to stick but as we sit in Bar Med by the window, it gets heavier and heavier - big thick flakes that are bound to stay intact when they hit the streets.  They do tapas, but it ain't exactly El Rincon, spaceman reckons.  The toilets are easy to miss here, but colourful.  As we make our way onwards, it's still very quiet here...


Pub 108 – The Garrett (Granby Row/Princess Street)

Barney takes over the diarising as, basically, spaceman can't be arsed.  There's a pool table, which we immediately head for, a hot heater and short pool cues (necessary due to the confined space).  Two pints of Fosters set us back £4.60, and the Streets album plays over the speakers.  Spaceman sneaks the first frame on the black as barney notices an odd crowd and four older people.  And some nice wooden floors.  Barney also spots an odd bloke with funny hair with a red and green stripe.  As in a red stripe and a green stripe.  In his hair.  Which make him look odd.  And he's a bloke.


Barney comes roaring back to take the pool 2-1 before some bloke challenges barney to a game.  Spaceman darts off to the toilet (ok, it seems like a lot, but it's a lot of alcohol we get through) and on returning discovers barney ensconced in a game with said challenger, even though the beers are finishing.  Still, the Stone Roses are playing on the sound system with 'Waterfall' and the snow is still falling.  Barney beats the challenger too and bounds gleefully out of the pub, with spaceman sauntering behind...


Pub 109 – Sofa (Princess Street)

The skulking doesn't last too long, however, as the snowfall is really coming along and the pub crawlers get all excited.  That's what seven pints and two inches (of snow) does for us.  We have (drunken) snowball fights and everything - it's great.  Everywhere is pure and white and untouched (except where barney and spaceman have just come staggering from).  It's £3 for two pints of Castlemaine XXXX as we gravitate towards the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire quiz machine again.  Which turns out, in fact, to be The Weakest Link.  It's no more generous to us.  Increasingly bleary-eyed, we stumble back out into the unfamiliar blank-canvas world...


Pub 110 – Lass O’ Gowrie (Charles Street)

A hat-trick of new bars on the trot, we take stock and discuss where the hell we're up to.  It's not a bad place, this.  We spot another quiz machine, but this time we can't be arsed to have a go - we've suffered enough.  We start to consider Monsoons, a local kebab place (see Where To Eat) and the possibility of throwing more (increasingly inaccurate) snowballs at each other.  They brew their own beer here, barney reckons.  It's well after last orders here and we swiftly find ourselves alone with the bar staff and lots of upturned chairs.  We're not getting any hassle, but we take the hint and head off for some chicken tikka specials at Monsoons (with, in spaceman's case, everything but the cucumber and mint sauce)...



On to day 15