The Central Manchester Slow Pub Crawl - Day 17
Day 17 - Thursday 25th March 2004 (Map)
Pub 129 - Ibis Hotel Bar (Portland Street)
We initially debate where to go next, having met up by the Natwest bank on Portland Street. The debate centres around whether to include Ibis Hotel Bar as a bar on our travels, and how to decide which places we should go to (for example, Efes Restaurant and Taverna looks like it may have a bar, but we don't go in to find out). Before we get to the Ibis, we spot Princess Bar on Princess Street, but closer inspection shows it to have been shut for quite some time. Barney also mentions that there's another Ibis hotel past Sofa, but that's not the one spaceman means. Anyway, back to the Ibis Hotel Bar. We saunter up to the bar, which is just up from the hotel reception counter, shattering any illusions that we might not be in a hotel.
A sign behind the bar says that food and drink should be ordered at the bar and it is subsequently delivered to your table, but we ignore this custom and get two pints of Carling for £4.80 in the traditional style (the barman appears happy to do it this way). The sanitised feel of the hotel really does override the feeling of it being a separate bar - it's not somewhere you'd particularly come for a night out. It is trying hard to be a bar, though - golfing phrases and words of wisdom adorn the wall in true pub cliché style. We don't hang around...
Pub 130 - The Gallery (Portland Street)
Another bar attached to a hotel, but this one less obviously so, and this time to the Novotel. It's much more sectioned off than the Ibis Hotel Bar, however, and it has a more distinct feel. It also tries harder on the arty front (it is called The Gallery). Barney gets two pints of Carling for £5. We take a seat and come to the conclusion that it's actually quite pleasant here. Barney doesn't like the carpet, though. They've got Sky on a big flat screen on the wall near the bar (currently set, uninterestingly, to Sky News). A small mirror is embedded into our table (and others, it seems). We don't know why...
Pub 131 - Barracuda (Peter Street)
We again try Jumpin Jaks and we again get rebuffed - this time we find out that it's not open until 8pm. Another time, perhaps. So we carry on round the corner to another place that we couldn't get in on Day 16, Barracuda (formerly known as Springbok's). We get two pints of Carling Extra Cold in for £2.30 each as we see the movements in the transfer market on deadline day - quite a few for Oldham, we notice. There are booths against the walls, and they have mini-TVs showing Sky - good idea. Barney hasn't been here before (spaceman has) and tries to distract spaceman from Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, successfully, as spaceman then spots a pool table, which we settle for. It's a pound a game, but we have to hand over a £5 deposit behind the bar for the loan of the cues (and chalk). The table isn't great quality - it looks like it's had a few alcoholic drinks spilt on it in its lifetime.
Then follows one of the comedy moments of the whole pub crawl. Barney draws the cue back for a seemingly innocent pool shot and then, suddenly, the pint of beer behind explodes everywhere. It seems that barney clipped the pint, which then tipped over and managed to launch its entire contents everywhere. There's suddenly a large puddle of beer on the floor where barney once stood, a hefty splattering on the pool table (although it won't be particularly distinguishable when it dries out), and a small bit on spaceman's shoulder. Barney looks sheepish whilst spaceman looks both bemused and amused. Barney nips off to let a member of staff know, who comes over and inadequately mops up (the mop's still wet). We soon get our very own slippery surface sign.
Barney gets another pint - this time Fosters, again £2.30 - which is put a sufficiently large distance away from the pool table. Some of the aforementioned booths have leopard skin covers, which almost (but not quite) undoes the brilliance of having your own TV (although you can't change the channel or anything like that). The floor's beginning to get sticky where the beer was spilt - playing a shot from that side of the table is particularly treacherous, as spaceman cruises into a 2-0 lead. Spaceman dashes off to try the toilets, which are upstairs - they're spacious, and quite hard to spot (the gladiator picture on the door only just gives it away). Spaceman then pips barney to the last frame, and bounces out of the bar, pleased with a 3-0 win...
Pub 132 - Pitcher & Piano (Lower Mosley Street)
Another revisiting following the poor efforts of Day 16 and there's definitely no do on this time - it's quite quiet here tonight. It's located slightly off the beaten track, down the stairs past the Bridgewater Hall. Two pints of Calsberg are £5, and we order a plate of nachos for £6.95 to share (we're a little peckish). Barney points out a cool landmarks-in-Manchester painting to the right of the bar. There's a piano in the middle of the floor as you come in, with an array of today's newspapers resting on top. We take a seat by the window (having nabbed the Mail for crossword potential), and have a nice view of the nice little basin, which has a fountain. Lovely. The nachos weren't too bad - spaceman made sure that barney had most of the jalapeno peppers that liberally decorated the dish. We finish the nachos, the beers (but not quite the crosswords) and head on out into the night...
Pub 133 - The Britons Protection (Great Bridgewater Street)
A nice old-fashioned pub, the Britons Protection. We walk up to the bar (it isn't far to go) and get two pints of Castlemaine XXXX for £5.20. It's like a mini-cave in here - lots of little rooms all over the place, which makes it deceptively large (but not that big). Spaceman manages to find the toilets... eventually. It's cosy in here, and quite busy tonight. We meet a couple of "proper" pub crawlers by the bar (it doesn't seem like there are any seats), who have to do half a monopoly board by 9pm. Ours is much more leisurely. We like it that way. We're still a bit hungry and enquire if they're still doing toasties - only at lunchtime, though, unfortunately.
The food offered here includes Steak & Guinness pie and the bizarrely named "Grunt Gobble & Zoom Coo pie - featuring wild boar, turkey, hare and pigeon in red wine and brandy sauce - hmmmm. We joke with the barman about the pie being locally done (don't know where they get the wild boar from, though). There are more monopoly pub crawlers in here (the previous ones having barely touched a couple of halves of lager and left). They have a question - what place in town is associated with electricity. We rack our brains but think of nothing (we're thinking of pubs but it turns out it could be any place) - the girls in the pub crawl have Livebait as their only suggestion. They too barely touch their drinks before they are gone - they are all meeting up at 9pm or something. We finish a little later (but we do finish our drinks) and move on...
Pub 134 - City Road Inn (Albion Street/Deansgate Locks)
Our first visit here and we get in two pints of Castlemaine XXXX for £4.50 - quite cheap relative to other places tonight. We look around and see Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, Liverpool vs Marseille on the TV (Marseille have just equalised) and a jukebox. We can't resist Millonaire, though, and we don't have too bad a go (given previous pub crawl night's attempts). We win £2 for a £3 put-in. Barney then spots a classic games machine called "hyperolympics", plays it and loves it. It's the standard joystick-waggling, track & field affair - think Daley Thompson's Decathalon. Barney outplays spaceman, a combination of greater experience and greater wrist speed. We have finished our drinks and eventually we finish the game, barney just not able to master the high jump...
Pub 135 - Baa Bar (Deansgate Locks)
We first try the Sugar Lounge, which is the first on Deansgate Locks (heading from the top). There's a bouncer and a woman with a clipboard who asks if we are on the guest list. Fat chance. It's apparently guest list only this place (must be full of footballers and Hollyoaks "stars"). It's especially difficult to get in on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, says the bouncer. We'll not include it on our lists (hey, we can be selective too!). We settle instead for the considerably less fussy Baa Bar. It's a bit more clubby in here. The seats are minimal and on the side walls, with a large expanse of potential dance floor in the middle. Drinks served are primarily bottles and shooters, and deals are regularly available on either.
We get two bottles of Castlemaine XXXX for £2 - not bad. It's very much similar to the other Baa Bar but spaceman has been here several times before. There are lots (and lots) of glitter balls hanging from the ceiling, a DJ and funky lights. The toilets, from experience, are mixed sex, and in some of the cubicles you can see the whole main area (only if you stand up, though). It's a cool place to go at the weekend. Barney is still talking about the glitter balls, reckoning that there's about 60 of them (or more, even!). We also notice a Stella can machine in the corner (on the immediate right as you come in). It's new and quite handy. There's a massive variety of shooters on offer, including the classic Slippery Nipple. We carry on our journey down Deansgate Locks...
Pub 136 - Thé Café Bar (Deansgate Locks)
We're into unfamiliar territory here and we go in through the wrong door, which is heavily curtained but, crucially, not locked. We still manage to find our way to the bar, from which we can see the main door (which is considerably less curtained) and realise our error. Barney hands over £5.80 for two pints of Kronenbourg (it's that or Becks, really) and we perch on some stools in middle of the bar. Barney reports back from the toilets, saying that they are scary because of a bloke sitting there dishing out perfume (and stuff like that), whom barney fastidiously avoided. Barney spots a large group of girls, the little tiger. Barney recalls that the Pitcher & Piano is the only place that barney has been to before tonight. That's what this pub crawl is all about - it's a veritable voyage of discovery. Barney spots an upstairs bar and wonders what is downstairs. And we stagger onwards...
Pub 137 - The Fat Cat Café (Deansgate Locks)
Our last place tonight and we're tiring. It's also getting quite late (last orders or thereabouts). Whereas the other places tonight were quite busy, Fat Cat is fairly quiet. "Quite chilled" says barney. It's £5 for two pints of Fosters and we settle on a sofa near-ish the door. There are lots of other large brown sofas here - a good sign. There's a boat-type structure above the main bar, we notice. There are toilets downstairs, where there's another bar, and what spacemen thinks is a private party.