The Central Manchester Slow Pub Crawl - Day 19
Day 19 - Thursday 15th April 2004 (Map)
Pub 146 - The Commercial Hotel (Liverpool Road)
Spaceman, having rushed back to the flat first after work, meets barney outside the Castlefield Hotel (where we shall go shortly). It was a lovely spring day earlier, but it's raining now, dammit, so we arrive at the Commercial Hotel a little damp. This pub was completely off barney's radar, but spaceman has been once before, a fair while ago. There's virtually no-one else here - one barman and one customer (who could be an employee, we don't know). Barney gets in two pints of Fosters (spaceman initially asking for Carling, but it's off today) and they cost £4.10. Another customer enters, then a couple. Maybe we're just too early (it's a little past 6pm). Some gentle easy listening music plays over the speakers.
There's a mounted fish in the wall near our seat by the window. A caption underneath it says "Fred Jaw's Radio & TV star "piranha fish" the most dangerous fish in the world", which puzzles us both greatly. Barney says that the fish is the wrong shape (being an avid fish expert). And there's a mounted owl above the piranha. It's all very leisurely in here, like the pub that time (and most people) forgot. We have no knowledge of the hotel facilities, that is presuming they exist and the hotel bit of the name is real. We head off back into the spring rain...
Pub 147 - Castlefield Hotel (Liverpool Road)
A sign on the canal-facing side calls this the Barge Bar, and it's a reasonably distinct part of the Castlefield Hotel. A language barrier between the barman and a customer (apparently a resident) slows things up a little, but reinforcements arrive and we eventually get two pints of Carlsberg for £3.00 (although we forget the price and spaceman reckons it's £3.00 from pocket change remaining). Spaceman knows this hotel reasonably well, being a member of the Y Club gym downstairs, although this is the first venture into the hotel bar for spaceman. We can actually see the sports hall through a window with the blind open, but there's nothing much going on. Barney has had a Christmas meal here once, apparently.
It's quiet in here too, but more in volume than anything else as there's a few people here. Only ITV News on a big TV makes any noise of note. Barney is a bit confused by a blind near the sofa we sit on. It's in the middle of nowhere and not on any window. The sofas are brown, needless to say. Open All Hours comes on (so they must have switched channels, but we didn't notice). It prompts spaceman to start talking about the recent top 10 British sitcoms programme that was recently shown on BBC2, which Open All Hours got into. A gargantuan travesty of justice occurred when the Vicar of Dibley got 40,000 more votes than the great Fawlty Towers and managed to get all the way up to third. Spaceman had to cover the eyes in disgust while watching it as Carol Vorderman went unashamedly for the chick vote.
A surprisingly high-placed Blackadder (also a classic) claimed second, 70,000 votes clear of the VOD and the unsurprising winner was Only Fools And Horses (the results can be found here). Personally, spaceman would have liked Yes (Prime) Minister to win (but would have been happy with Fawlty Towers or Blackadder). And where the hell was I'm Alan Partridge? (42nd that's where.) Barney asks spaceman, somewhat out of the blue, what the highest plughole spaceman has seen. Spaceman suggests, gently, that barney might mean plug socket. Barney sheepishly agrees and points out two plug sockets above a painting on the far wall near the bar (which spaceman had spotted).
There's a menu here, and a specials board at the bar, featuring, amongst other things cheese and spinach tortellini, tuna pasta bake and lamb balti with rice. The sofa that we perch on appeared quite firm but was, in fact, deceptively saggy. Unfortunately, it's only plastic, rather than the what-looks-like-leather settee opposite. The sign outside says that the Barge Bar has two happy hours and a large screen TV. We can certainly verify the presence of the TV. On the way out, we check with the barman, who smells of garlic, how much it is for two pints of Carlsberg. He confirms it is in fact £3.00 as suspected, because of happy hour, and goes on to tell us that the two happy hours, one from 5pm to 6pm, the other from 7pm to 8pm. This rather bizarre set-up leaves a "sad hour", as the barman put it, in the middle. We reckon everyone stacks up on beer before the first hour ends. If indeed that many people ever come here...
Pub 148 - The Ox (Liverpool Road)
Two pints of Carlsberg in one of spaceman's locals - spaceman is a regular visitor and partaker in the Sunday evening quiz. The current rollover jackpot is £43 (typically, you have to guess the year exactly for some event, such as the first heart and lung transplant in the UK, to win it). Barney has never previously visited the Ox. It's very busy tonight - there's barely a table free, but we do manage to get one. Barney has got the morning off the next day again, the bleeder. Spaceman is well used to that hangover feeling - a bacon butty will surely beckon tomorrow morning. Spaceman recognises a few of the bar staff here tonight from the quiz night.
They apparently do lock-ins here, but spaceman has never been on the right side of one, sniff. We check out the fancy menu - it's a very upmarket pub this. Spaceman can certainly vouch for the Sunday roast (2 courses for £11) - it's excellent. Barney insists that the place is red, but it's more of a red-brown hue. We discuss a possible venue for a post-pub crawl snack. Maybe the chippy? Slightly peckish of belly, we head back out into the night...
Pub 149 - The White Lion (Liverpool Road)
Barney has been here too, due to match day barge and pub combos, and so has spaceman, but not for the same reason. Two pints of Carlsberg are £4.80, as spaceman notes the chef's specials advertised above the bar. They include such dishes as Lion burger (hopefully not literal), chilli & rice, chicken fajita and Lancashire hotpot (served with red cabbage). It's considerably less busy (and upmarket) in here tonight than the Ox. They play music from the last four decades here, and at the weekend it blares out.
There are plenty of seats outdoors which make it a good place to come in the summer, when the sun is shining. They also do a Sunday roast and karaoke sometimes. And they have Sky. Spaceman rushes off to the toilets, having left it a bit long. They are a bit pokey with surreal and/or rude graffiti adorning the walls in the cubicle. Beers finished, we carry on along our Liverpool Road run...
Pub 150 - Cask (Liverpool Road)
Cask is quite new - it only opened earlier this year, initially being known as number 29 (i.e. before they'd had chance to put the name up). We get two pints of Cruzcampo for £5 and find a brown sofa on the back wall (which is small, but manage to fit on it okay). The initial smell of paint it had when it first opened has begun to subside now. It's quite a trendy looking place, with a varied selection of continental beers available on draught. Spaceman is tempted by crisps, and gets some Mexican chill flavoured ones, which barney particularly loves, so much so that barney rushes back to the bar to get some more (spaceman's persuasion ensures we try the another in the McCoys Spice range, this time sizzling beef.
The crisps are stored in a random box underneath the bar and we then spot some pork scratchings on the wall. We get some for a bit of a novelty gesture but, having tried one each, we leave them at the bar. We're unimpressed - they're rank. They have quite a good jukebox here, a fact highlighted by the excellent Kings Of Leon being played while we drink. There's an outside bit, which could come into its own in the summer (obviously, having opened in the winter, this remains untried). The only food stuffs they seem to sell here (besides crisps and pork scratchings, obviously) are sandwiches, according to the sign on the pavement outside. We carry on up to Deasngate to...
Pub 151 - Galvin's Bar (Deansgate)
Another bar that spaceman has visited regularly, due to the closeness to home. Two pints of Castlemaine XXXX are £4.40, which barney hands over, as spaceman again rushes off to the toilet (all these pints, you see). Relieved and beers in hand, we head over to the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire quiz machine, on which a bargain 3 games are available for £1 (compared to the normal 2). There's a pool table nearby too, but unfortunately it is rowdily occupied and so we don't play. The jukebox plays what seems to be an Oasis medley.
The best reason for coming here is the 2pm license on Friday and Saturday nights - one of the few places you don't have to pay to get in after the mass 11pm shutdown. They sometimes have a DJ on, who appears to hack into the jukebox for his tunes. It's an amusing sight. We have a reasonably successful go on WWTBAM, winning £2 from our initial £2 stake, but then foolishly putting in another £1 and finishing that amount down in the end. We start our northward stagger along Deansgate now, first stopping off at...
Pub 152 - Dimitri's (Deansgate)
Primarily a Greek tapas place, there's a definite division of restaurant and bar. We get two pints of Red Stripe for £5 and squeeze round a table on the left side. The food is excellent here, as can be seen from the its review on this website. Barney scans the menu, on which there are some excellent dishes (one of spaceman's particular favourites being the Istanbuli dip). Barney points out that there are a lot of small bands in the window.
Live bands play here on Friday and Saturday night. A classic combination of tunes play over the stereo system, featuring such delights as the Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays with Waterfall and Step On respectively, as we came in. Barney thinks its "retro Manc music night". Happy hour is advertised as 5pm to 7pm on Mondays to Thursdays when pints are £2. We easily miss out, though, as it's past 9pm. Not far to go to...
Pub 153 - Pig & Porcupine (Deansgate)
A first for both of us, and we get in two pints of Fosters (definitely not a first) for £4.80 (possibly, and Carling may or may not have been off again, we're not sure). It's very quiet in here tonight, too quiet really, but still the pool table is taken. It does get much busier on Friday and Saturdays night (as do most places, admittedly). There's a big TV, a jukebox and fruit machines available, but we venture no further than our seats (by this time of the night, we're always relatively settled, i.e. lazy). We realise that we're doing quite well time-wise, as this is our 8th pub and it's only 10 to 10. We can't quite figure how we've made up this time. We've still the 8th pint to drink yet, though.
We've long since decided that we're not going to do El Rincon - it has a bar, but it's really a restaurant and the bar is more for waiting at. It would be the next on our path. Barney reports back from the toilets, saying that they smell like erasers. Spaceman persuades barney to stick some money in the jukebox, but gets Robbie Williams with Angels (groan) for the trouble, much to spaceman's frustration. Barney promises spaceman that next song will be more mutually agreeable, but unfortunately barney persists with singing along to Robbie. We carry on along Deansgate to...
Pub 154 - Walkabout (Quay Street)
Although initially we try Teasers, it's shut from the Deansgate side (and possibly altogether, but we're too drunk to investigate - besides, going to Walkabout suits our path much better). We get in free (they charge at the weekend, late on anyway, and there's always a pointlessly large queue along Quay Street) It's busy here tonight. Spaceman disappears to the toilets while barney gets in two pints of Castlemaine XXXX for £4.90, barney thinks.
The dance floor has a big cow on it for some reason. It can be quite tacky in here, but occasionally they play a classic selection of pop songs (although, frustratingly, they often cut the songs short). Beer finished, spaceman suggests the chippy nearby, but barney is reluctant to leave, and indeed stays, perhaps hypnotised by the vague presence of the opposite sex (a heady mixture, especialwhen combined with 9 pints of lager). Spaceman gets some chips and heads home for more food...