The Central Manchester Slow Pub Crawl - Day 16
Day 16 - Tuesday 2nd March 2004 (Map)
Pub 120 - Fab Café (Portland Street)
Otherwise known as the Cult TV Movie Theme Bar, Fab Café is suitably full of tacky memorabilia, which seems more obvious in the cold light of day than on drunken nights out. Spaceman is initially distracted more by the happy hour, during which pints of draught beer are on offer for £1.50 (Monday to Friday, 5:30pm to 7:30pm), and sneakily suggests getting the first round (which consists of two pints of Carlsberg, for £3 obviously). There are two people eating at the bar - one has a plate of spaghetti hoops, and the other has a plate of what looks like, er, spam, we think. All becomes clear when we see the TV-dinner-themed menu, which includes such culinary delights as the aforementioned, plus, amongst other things, super noodles, fish fingers, a host of tinned items, findus crispy pancakes (which get barney all excited) and Smash (ed potato).
The memorabilia includes, behind the dance floor (which, bizarrely, we are sat on... on chairs obviously), a dalek, and some other strange creature that we can't place at all. The Longpigs are playing on the stereo, which impresses spaceman. Barney suggests that Fab Café should win the 'Value for money' award, as nothing on the menu is above £2 (but we know why that is). It's more like a club here on Friday and Saturday evenings. The Pink Panther cartoon theme tune then comes on, but with a bit of a remix (not a dance remix, though) and later, as we leave, Gomez are played. A varied selection, then..
Pub 121 - The Paramount (Oxford Street/Portland Street)
Two pints of Carling Extra Cold are £3.38, which isn't bad, but it is a Wetherspoon's pub, the fourth and final on our travels, we reckon. Another customer has a strop at the bar for not getting served for ages, but barney has relatively little trouble. We had tried Jumpin' Jaks en route but it was shut. The sign outside said that it was shut from Mondays to Wednesdays (well, "open to private hire" and therefore mostly shut, it seems), Thursdays are free to get in (when we shall return at some point in the future), on Fridays it's free before 10pm, and it's also open on Saturdays and Sundays.
Enough of Jumpin' Jaks, what about this place. Well, it's your typical Wetherspoon's pub - old men, cheap beer and food, crap carpets and fruit machines. And Curry Club on Thursdays, but alas it's not a Thursday. It is, however, as barney points out, Steak Club on Tuesdays. There appears to be an upstairs bit, but we decline to investigate. We consider whether this place has any redeeming features (other than cheap beer and food and the Curry Club). We can't think of any. And there's no music. We leave...
Pub 122 - Henry's (Lower Mosley Street)
We didn't expect to be here this soon. The bar next door to The Paramount, Springbok, was pay-to-get-in (admittedly only a pound, but that's not the point - see The Rules), which it is every Tuesday, apparently. Then we tried Elemental on Oxford Road, but that was shut too (our current ratio of two in five attempts being less than impressive). So, after a small debate, we decide to come here, to Henry's, which is just off St Peter's Square and opposite the Midland Hotel. It's open at least, which brings our hit rate up to the dizzy heights of 50% for the night (certainly our worst ever). We're back to normal Manchester beer prices, though, as two pints of Fosters are £5.00.
It's very brightly lit in here - a little too much, really. Barney, the observant soul, points out that the paintings of nude women behind the bar have been removed. Spaceman recalls that this is the "post-cricket" bar (well for spaceman, anyway), it being near the St Peter's Square tram stop. It is therefore the pub with the highest ratio of spaceman being sunburnt, by a long way. We find a corner and attempt (in the loosest sense) the Telegraph crossword (which some has left casually on the table we choose). After several minutes of bashing our collective heads against the wall (we did have some success - with the crossword, not the bashing the wall thing), we decide to move on...
Pub 123 - Peveril Of The Peak (Great Bridgewater Street)
Again we are thwarted, as the Pitcher & Piano is another no-go area, as there's a posh do on. So it's off to the Peveril Of The Peak, the forgotten pub, isolated between roads. We're freezing so we don't hang around and dive into the "public" side of the pub, ordering two pints of Fosters for £4.50. We're not up to pretending to be a local just yet (this is spaceman's second visit and barney's first). The barmaid says that the pub is over 200 years old.
In the fairly small public section, we have a table football game, Eastenders on the TV, and a jukebox with a fairly mixed selection (and which has a rival in the other side of the pub). The mirrors on the far side of the bar makes the place seem a little bigger than it actually is (er, we think). We notice an array of photos of famous people visiting here on the wall, including, amongst others, Steve Coogan (with big, curly hair), John Thomson and Gary Neville. They're not here tonight so we move on...
Pub 124 - Rain Bar (Great Bridgewater Street)
Not far to go from the POTP - just across the road in fact. We're getting a bit peckish and so, in our infinite wisdom and hunger, we order a couple of burgers (£6.50 each) along with our two pints of Holsten Export (not a great selection of lagers, it's more a bitter place), which cost £5.30 for the pair. Unfortunately, the Holsten tastes awful tonight - it's a case of grinning and bearing it. We're promised our food in 20 minutes or less, ideal for our quick-fire visit. We'll see. Apparently, according to barney, this used to be an umbrella factory, hence the name. It's nothing, as barney says, to do with Manchester being rainy as, in a recent MEN article, it was put at 9th rainiest in the UK league table for such things.
Spaceman queries whether this particular weather league table is judged by rainfall or time spent raining, suspecting that Manchester scores higher on the latter, given its penchant for endless drizzle. There's a good lunchtime deal here, which spaceman has recently tried out a few times - £6.95 for two freshly served meals, which include curry and rice, sausage and mash, chilli and rice, etc. Well recommended. There are a few floors to Rain Bar, but we don't know how many. Spaceman has certainly has a Christmas do on one of the floors, probably the second. The two burgers aren't bad at all, spaceman opting for a bacon and stilton topping, barney choosing salsa and cheddar, both served with token salad and a barrage of small French fries, and they do indeed come within the promised timescales. Barney, with the infamous beer-fuelled munchies, doesn't hang around, and spaceman is not far behind. Food and drink consumed, we head off back into the night, to revisit...
Pub 125 - Elemental (Oxford Road)
It's second time lucky for Elemental as we try it again and succeed in getting in. Barney gets a round in - two pints of Carling for £3, an offer which runs on Tuesdays from 8pm to 2am. We get a pair of very low seats, well stools really, near the window and enjoy the chilled bass-driven music playing on the music system. Unfortunately, by the window means by the door, and it's bloody freezing as the door is wedged open (by instruction by the boss, according to the barmaid). There's not much room in this part of Elemental - the main club bit is upstairs, we think (spaceman has been before, but was inexcusably drunk, as per usual, and it was a long time ago). Apparently tonight, Will T. Jools is "cutting up hip hop funk and breaks", which doesn't sound too bad (if that's what we can hear at the moment). We continue to say how cold it is in here, even though we manage to find a pair of seats further away from the door. It's such a small room, there's no escape from the blustery winds, which we must now face once more...
Pub 126 - Po Na Na Souk Bar (Charles Street)
We have a bit of a strange moment. We missed this place first time round (it's close to the Lass O' Gowrie), but we can see why. It doesn't look obviously like a bar from the outside. And as we walk up to it, an alarm is going off - it looks like a burglary! It's not, though. The alarm apparently goes off when the back door is open. Before we came here, though, we had gone past to check whether the Granby is still open (we'd seen information on various websites) - but it is definitely extinct. It's a whole new experience for both of us here. It's decorated Moroccan-style, and Tuesday night is "jam night", which is as horrifying as it sounds. It certainly explains the racket that's suddenly started up. We get two bottles (no draught beer) for £5, but the barmaid tells us that it's £4.50 for 3 bottles of Grolsch (too late, alas).
Barney thinks that it's a bit like Persia in here. Material hangs down from the roof to give it that Moroccan feel. We engage in a little bit of banter with the barman, who clearly revels in giving a bit of cheek. He asks spaceman what he's writing down, who comes clean and tells the barman about this website, giving him the address. Tonight's special is Chilly Chilly for £1 a shot, which we decide to decline. We finish our bottles and head back into the night...
Pub 127 - Zumbar (Oxford Road)
A bit of a surprise, as we'd missed this one last time. We asked the Po Na Na barman what pubs there are nearby to ensure that we hadn't missed any, and this was one he mentioned that we'd not yet tried. On entering, barney is quick to say that it "smells fantastic", primarily due to some people having pizza (although barney swears it's a curry smell). We get two pints of Red Stripe for £5.30. Barney wanted Staropramen, but didn't shout loud enough. The barmaid sides with barney, saying that Staropramen is the best lager on offer, and that Red Stripe gives bad hangovers, but it is the cheapest (at £5.30?) - well we're only having one each. There's no pleasing some people, spaceman thinks. Apparently, this place sells the first all-vegan pizza (vegan cheese, bacon and sausage). Seems unlikely. Before we go, spaceman tries out the toilets before we leave. They're up carpeted stairs, with one urinal and two cubicles - strange ratio. We drain our glasses and set off for the last place tonight...
Pub 128 - Scu 2 Bar (Chester Street)
Our final bar of the night and one that was off our pub radar (but within the catchment area). We have to rush as we're near last orders. Two pints of Fosters are £3.80 and, having purchased our drinks, we look around and see that it is full of students. We both feel a little old as a result. A nearby table football game tempts us and we drunkenly shuffle the ball back and forth (i.e. we play a couple of games). Barney walks off with a 2-0 win. Spaceman then spots a fruit machine, which subsequently sucks spaceman dry of pound coinage. And that is all for the evening...