The Central Manchester Slow Pub Crawl - Day 18
Day 18 - Wednesday 7th April 2004 (Map)
Pub 138 - Revolution (Deansgate Locks)
It's spaceman's turn to be punctual this time - but barney is only a couple of minutes late. Spaceman almost has two pints of Carlsberg (£5.20) ready and waiting, but not quite (due to there being only one barman serving at that time). Pints of Stella are £1.95 until 9pm, Sundays to Thursdays, but it's a bit early for strong beer like that. It's got a nice and chilled feel to it in here - large sofas (not all brown - some black!), Massive Attack on the stereo, and it's open plan, light and airy. It makes it feel like summer, or at least late spring, even though the weather outside suggests otherwise. Unfortunately, however, there are no sofas left, so we settle for good, old-fashioned table and chairs. Suffering from a bout of the munchies, Spaceman eyes the bar snack menu, but decides against ordering anything. It's not long before the menus are collected anyway (spaceman hates it when that happens).
On the way here, spaceman carried out a brief investigation of Aqua Bar, which sits on the path between The Britons Protection and the City Road Inn. We think we investigated it in Day 17 but can't remember (comes with the job). It looks shut, anyway, not completely permanently, but not too temporarily either. Spaceman also had a wee look at the Sugar Lounge, another place we tried last time, and there's not welcoming party on the outside this time. We decide not to bother, though, as we reckon they still have a guest list.
Back to Revolution: it gets busy here at the weekends and is quite good - it's normally packed on the main floor so downstairs is a good place to go (they have a DJ down there, usually). There's an extensive menu here - snacks, sarnies, burgers, pasta dishes and other main meals are on offer. Barney has brought along the MEN and we attempt the cryptic crossword - we struggle at first but eventually get about half done (well, spaceman does, anyway - barney is a little short of suggestions this time). There used to be a lot of vodka bottles on the wall here, but these have been replaced. A Dido album is now playing - time to leave...
Pub 139 - Loaf (Deansgate Locks)
We come in through the second door, but not illicitly this time (see Thé Cafe Bar). It's very spacious inside, with one side a restaurant and the other a bar, with the obligatory comfy sofas. And what a bar - it's very long. Barney gets in two pints of Carling for £5.20 (nothing's cheap round here, it seems). It's spaceman's first time here, which is not the case for barney, who says that there's a downstairs, but can't remember what's down there. There's a similar menu to Revolution here and it's similarly chilled out and open plan. The décor is also quite similar, but it seems slightly more upmarket in here. There is almost always a massive queue to get in here on Fridays and Saturdays (or at least there used to be - spaceman hasn't tried for a while). The large queues partially explain why spaceman hasn't been here before. Barney notes the colour changing screens on the wall behind the bar, and notes how good they would look in barney's flat. We leave...
Pub 140 - Comedy Store Bar (Deansgate Locks)
A battery of staff (five to be precise) await us behind the bar, as we are immediately asked if we have tickets for tonight (presumably there's an act on). Spaceman replies that we are just here for a drink, if that's ok, and it is, and so orders two pints of Castlemain XXXX, which costs £5 exactly. The bar staff are so stuck for stuff to do that they divide the task of fetching the drinks between two of them. There's no-one in here really (it's only about 7pm in their defence) - it's just the staff and us. We studiously avoid the leopard-skin sofas (on barney's insistence) and instead perch on some high chairs at a table in the middle. Like previous bars tonight, it's airy in here, to the point of breezy (hence the jackets stay firmly on).
Spaceman gets a nasty aftertaste from the beer, but struggles on through. It's a long way to the toilets, as spaceman finds out on the first obligatory visit - it's all the way past the Helter Skelter bar downstairs (which is not currently open). There are some people down here, spaceman notices. On returning, spaceman cannot resist some Texas barbecue sauce flavoured Pringles (small pack). Barney initially declines the offer, but is soon eating loads of them. They'll tide us over, for a short while, anyway. There are lots of pictures of comedy stars adorn the walls. Presumably they've been here. Otherwise, it's a bit stupid. And off we go again...
Pub 141 - Atlas (Deansgate)
Another quite chilled place. A quick body count: bar staff = 1, customers = 6, so not massively busy. Two pints of Carlsberg set us back £5.60 (the most expensive of the night so far) as we seeks out the "high-backed" (says barney) seats. They're basically curved settees set against the wall. There are seats outside and will presumably me a nice place to come in the summer. It keeps threatening, as April so often does, to get nice, weather-wise, but a cloudy Easter weekend is forecast, and recent days have seen a bit of an arctic snap return. This is another place that spaceman remembers as being busy at the weekends (although, admittedly, we don't know if this is still the case). A weird noise comes from upstairs every so often - it sounds like someone moving a sofa, and has spaceman puzzled. Spaceman later finds out (barney already knew) that said noise is down to the train track that passes overhead. There's quite a cool deli opposite this bar - it used to be called the Atlas deli, but spaceman can't remember it is called now.
Pub 142 - The Knott (Deansgate)
A first for both of us. We presume that Quay Bar is shut (it has been recently), but we'll check it out later. Spaceman, desperate for the toilet, hops around waiting for the beers to come (two pints of Carlsberg for £4.90. As soon as we find a table, spaceman's off and at great speed. While the girls have a toilet inside the main bar area (well, not quite, but you know what spaceman means), but for the boys it's back out the door (not completely outside, though) and up some carpeted blue stairs. In between the girls' toilets and the bar, there's a weird pool-style game (but it's not pool). Alas, it is currently occupied. Today's soup is vegetable and tarragon (although they spell it with one 'r', spaceman notes). We continue to decline a serious meal - it's quite busy in here and we haven't got time to hang around.
Spaceman is half-convinced of having been in here before in some guise (the bar not spaceman) - but maybe that's just confusion with Quay Bar. A menu on the table advertises "organic and vegan beers" - must be a small market, surely. The list of these beers includes "Chorlton-cum-hazy" (ahaha), which is a popular, light, dry session bitter, and is 3.8% in strength. Barney locates a pile of about 20 beer mats at the table and, Record Breakers-style (spaceman thinks), we try to flip them off the side of the table and catch them in the same movement. Barney's first effort is rubbish but soon catches on. We succeed with 10 at first, but then improve to 20 next go, and with relatively few problems.
We can hear a train in here - and see it too. (This is where barney has a laugh at spaceman's expense when spaceman only just realises that the sofa moving is in fact a train.) The food in here looks quite good - especially the melted stilton and Parma ham on focaccia (yum!). The fish of the day is shark steak (yuk!), and barney checks with spaceman that the shark is a member of the fish family - spaceman confirms. A poster on the wall (of which there are many) shows Skegness in cartoon form. Spaceman has been twice for childhood holidays - classy! - and that is the only reason why it is mentioned. On that note, we head off...
Pub 143 - Choice (Castle Quay)
A bit of a posh, sorry, upmarket place, Choice, which is essentially a restaurant but with a clearly definable, separate bar. Luckily, they're not so fussy that they don't let us in. They have quite a restricted selection of draught beers - basically, the choice is between Stella and Guinness, so we settle for Stella (£5.60 for the pair of pints). Choice is situated next to Key 103 and has quite a fancy menu. For some reason, spaceman says "hi" to a passing old (ish) woman, without having a clue who she is. She just looked at us and so spaceman blurted it out, and she responded, a little puzzled, with a "hi" of her own. On the way back, however, her decision to ignore us is palpable.
There are awards mentioned on the fridge, such as "Manchester Food & Drink 2002 Best Wine List, Restaurant Of The Year 2003". The fridge is huge and walk-in, with a large selection of wine and champagne. Spaceman has to dash off to the loo (again) but it's a slightly weird experience, with a long, scary, slightly weird corridor, like some game. There's even the evil hum of some system keeping the air flow going (or something). (It had been a long night.) Spaceman takes a little time with the beer, perhaps feeling a little uneasy at drinking Stella on a (virtually) empty stomach. Eventually it is consumed and we head over a couple of bridges to...
Pub 144 - BarCa (Castle Street)
On the way here, we walked past the now-shut Jacksons Wharf (it closed in December 2003, coincidentally, and unfortunately, around the time that spaceman moved to the area). As you come through the main door into Barca, you walk across a bridge that lights up as you cross it. It's not particularly busy in here, but it's not empty either. Two pints of Fosters are £4.60 (the cheapest of the night, which we tell the barmaid) and take a couple of seats by the window. The barmaid knows nothing of the progress of Jacksons Wharf. It's starting to pick up, but hasn't reached capacity yet. Surely Jacksons Wharf will open for the summer - it must be a gold mine. BarCa, and the whole of Castlefield, get much, much (almost disproportionately) busier in the summer, compared to the winter. We finish our drinks and head across the way to...
Pub 145 - Dukes 92 (Castle Street)
A very familiar place for spaceman as it's a regular haunt, plus spaceman and barney came here for an enjoyable New Year's Eve. Two pints of Carlsberg cost us £5.20 and there are no crisps available. We start reminiscing about said New Year's Eve, which featured an amusing Bucking Bronco competition (neither of us took part, but friends and colleagues lasted between 5 and 40 seconds) and spaceman's mate Eddie getting chucked out after a drunken scuffle in the queue for complementary bacon butties and cans of Red Bull at 2am.
Dukes 92 is a sister pub of the Mark Addy (towards the bottom of Bridge Street and, due to being just across the river in Salford, out of our target zone), and as such does a vast range of cheese and paté served fresh from a counter, together with a menu of sandwiches and jacket potatoes (click here for review). This is our eighth pub of the night, but we're starting to flag a little, mainly because of the temptation of bacon and cheese (no egg - thanks a lot Tesco.com!) sarnies back at spaceman's. It proves to be the deciding factor as we stagger back across the bridge to scoff said food while watching a classic episode of The Day Today...