The Central Manchester Slow Pub Crawl - Day 20
Day 20 - Thursday 6th May 2004 (Map)
Pub 155 - The Sports Café (Quay Street)
Spaceman arrives first and just gets a round of drinks (two Carlsberg for £2.20, taking advantage of the 2 for 1 drinks offer, which is available from 3pm on Mondays to Fridays) before barney arrives, not too far behind (the smell of beer, you see). Spaceman and barney independently eye the spread of food at one end of the bar, and then barney attempts to count the number of TVs visible from our stools at a table near the entrance. Barney reckons there are 20, and they are all showing Sky Sports channels, it seems. Which is a good thing. It's definitely the place to come if you wish to watch sporting events. It's quite open-plan and, today at least, a little chilly (i.e. we keep our coats on). The dining area is on your left as you come in, and the tables have miniature TVs, but neither of us have tried out the nosh here.
There's a pool room upstairs with 8 or 9 tables, but they're not great quality (not like Riley's for example, but that is a specialist pool club, of which spaceman and barney are members). There's lots of the obligatory sports memorabilia on the walls. Sports Bar is down a bit from the Opera House, where spaceman recently saw the excellent Ricky Gervais (from the back row). Barney sings back and sits to Travis as spaceman scribbles notes. At the weekend, this place can be a bit tacky, like Walkabout. It's not somewhere spaceman comes often for a night out. We finish off our ales and head out into the evening...
Pub 156 - The Old Grapes (Quay Street)
As it is at great pains to point out, this is Liz Dawn's (aka Vera Duckworth from Coronation Street) pub. There are so many photos of her around the place (mainly with various other celebs of varying quality), which makes it strangely reminiscent of that Alan Partridge episode where he goes to the house of an obsessive superfan. Two pints of Fosters set us back £4.90 and we supplement them with a packet of dry roasted peanuts in an attempt to quell our rising tide of hunger. It's rammed in here, jam-packed full of suits, and the space available is not helped by a currently unoccupied reserved area on the far side which many of them are perhaps destined for.
According to barney, someone looking a bit like Les Battersby (i.e. the character from Corrie) has just walked in. In fact, it is [the actor who plays] Les Battersby, and he nonchalantly strolls behind the bar and right by us in jeans and white sneakers, and sits by the bar. Brian Conley then joins him - all the stars tonight! It turns out that BC is to join the Coronation Street cast and will apparently punch LB in an argument. We wonder much later whether they had just filmed this scene when we saw them. We can't cope with the celebrity status of this pub, so we finish our drinks and, needless to say, our peanuts, and head across Deansgate to Peter Street...
Pub 157 - Squares (Peter Street)
Squares is scarily empty - there's a barely a soul here. The one barman informs us that there are no draught beers currently due to the cooling in the basement being knackered. We take his word for it and get two bottles of Peroni for £5.90. We inevitably have a vast choice of seats from which to choose, and eventually opt for a semi-circle booth with very low seating. We had initially head for Bar 38, but spaceman has a change of mind (having worked out a better bar-path), gives some directions to a stranger, then runs back across the busy Peter Street to Squares. Barney tells a story of some organisation getting done for copyright violation for reproducing maps (spaceman can definitely sympathise), although barney isn't sure who.
The large TV hanging over the middle of the pub seems to have been replaced by one made up of lots of small screens. Barney recalls watching England versus Greece in the World Cup qualifiers. There's a big cocktails menu and spaceman wittily says that they should have a Tequila Mockingbird. There's a sign in the toilets advertising a Summer Carnage Student Pub Crawl - 50,000 students and 1,000 T-shirts (sounds horrendous). The theme is pimps and prostitutes with the tagline "wear to tease aim to please" (ditto). We get bored of the lack of people, finish our drinks and carry on up Peter Street...
Pub 158 - Bar 38 (Peter Street)
We get two pints of Fosters for £5 and order food on the promise that the food will not take too long. We've had enough of being hungry all through a pub crawl. Barney goes for the beef burger, spaceman for the chicken breast sandwich. The sun is coming in from a nasty angle from behind spaceman and is occasionally blinding poor barney. Bar 38 is quite a good place to come in the summer, having as it does plenty of outdoor seating - it's not warm enough tonight, however. The food does indeed come relatively quickly, was nice enough and, needless to say, was consumed quickly. Downstairs can be found a large room with another bar and the main toilets - this is busy at weekends. Upstairs comprises a small-ish room used for private parties (spaceman has attended one there). We're on the main (and middle) floor. And then we move on...
Pub 159 - Life (Peter Street)
Again ordering two pints of Fosters (price currently unknown), spaceman dashes off to the gents' lavatories. They tend to have quite a lot of live bands here. These days it seems that whenever spaceman walks past on the way to Sainsbury's, there's a band rehearsing. We're sat in the window and can see our previous pub, Bar 38, directly opposite. The bar staff must have to pass an exam in pointlessly juggling glasses and bottles here - they're always at it. Surely it will just end in tears - they're not Tom Cruise out of Cocktail. Next door and upstairs from here is the Late Room to which spaceman has never been, but is a private function bar that is part of Life. We notice many TVs above the bar showing fashion shows and also that the air conditioning is making it very chilly in here. We finish our drinks and make another short journey to...
Pub 160 - Brannigans (Peter Street)
The Brannigans sign outside the bar says "Dancing, Drinking & Cavorting" - we, alas, are only interested in the middle of the three tonight. To highlight this, we get two pints of Fosters for a mere £3, but it's drafty in here too - obviously Peter Street policy is to ram the air-con up full blast. We again keep our jackets on. We perch on stools near a big screen TV to watch Marseille vs Newcastle in the UEFA Cup (1-0 to Marseille so far). Brannigans is very cheesy. You will not find Brannigans located in the dictionary under the definition of the word "upmarket". It always seems full of either over-age (i.e. those that should know better) or under-age people. It's spacious, tackily decorated and has plenty of TVs. We've had enough (i.e. a full pint's worth) - we leave...
Pub 161 - Persia (Watson Street)
Barney rushes to the toilet for the first time tonight, and spaceman follows (with the required length of time in between, obviously), but for the third time. While waiting for the required time to elapse, spaceman gets in two pints of Kronenbourg for £5.50. It's gone a bit more loungy in here from when spaceman last visited. At one time, they used to have a late licence and it was open until 2 or 3am every day, but it didn't seem viable due to lack of customers. There's a new summer menu - Thai nights it says. There are no snake charmers in tonight in what is a generally Middle Eastern-themed venue. We manage somehow to finish most of a Daily Express cryptic crossword. We move on...
Pub 162 - Teasers (Deansgate)
There are no dancers in here tonight at the moment and we get two pints of Fosters for a mere £6 ("a kick in the bollocks" says barney). We get seats at the back in an empty bit. There's mainly blokes in here tonight with cheesy pop music playing over the stereo system. It's generally a cheesy place, although barney and spaceman haven't been here for a while (spaceman not for ages). It's the most expensive place tonight and one of the most expensive places in town. When they do have dancers, they (both men and women) dance in skimpy costumes and white socks (probably). Our commentary on each venue is, as tradition and alcohol dictate, getting ever more limited and fractured. We stagger onwards...
Pub 163 - The Baby Grand (Peter Street)
Jar Bar is shut so we come to the Baby Grand, which is a first for both of us, although not in terms of the building itself, which has been other bars (including, spaceman recalls, Doop in the days that Royal's was around). The only lager on draught is Stella, so we get two pints of the evil liquid and hand over six sovs. Barney disappears to the loos while spaceman finds a comfy (brown) sofa to sink into. Barney has been 'got' in the toilets, so to speak, as he stinks of aftershave. Spaceman, on going to the toilets, manages to avoid the dodgy guy lacing everyone with cheap toiletries with some nifty movement, but then gets lost in the labyrinthine passageways and ends up heading the wrong way at first. An intriguing upstairs remains unexplored by the pair of us (we have far too little energy or curiosity for a start) and instead we sit comfortably in the expansive brown sofas. Until our drinks are (slowly) finished. Whereupon we venture forth on our separate ways into the night...