The Central Manchester Slow Pub Crawl - Day 22
Day 22 - Thursday 2nd September 2004 (Map)
Pub 173 - Sawyer's Arms (Deansgate/Bridge Street)
We initially meet at Albert Square for some pre-pub crawl food courtesy of the European food stalls set up for a week or two. We both munch on Bratwurst (hilariously a huge sausage on a tiny bread roll) while attempting the MEN cryptic crossword. This is barney's first visit to Sawyer's Arms, but spaceman, having been a Bridge Street local, has been a handful of times before. It's a smoky pub, with a couple of TVs and a couple of fruit machines. Two pints of Fosters are obtained for the bargain price of £3.30, and we head to the back of the pub to find a spare seat or two. Perched on stools, we continue with the MEN crossword and slowly but surely make progress. There's both a cash machine and a pay phone inside the pub - could come in handy. The TVs seem only to be showing racing results and as soon as spaceman recalls them showing live football matches here, they switch to a one-day cricket match between Sussex and Middlesex, with the former making a struggle of their innings. The food menu is old-fashioned with the occasional nod to modern cuisine - a bit like a Wetherspoons menu. We've nearly finished the crossword, but there a couple of awkward clues that we're never going to get the answers for, so we leave it behind and head out the door...
Pub 174 - The Bridge (Bridge Street)
Formerly the Bridge Street Tavern, this place has had an astonishing makeover, turning it from a slightly grotty and forgotten old man's pub to a trendy, upmarket bar or, more correctly, a gastropub. Spaceman has been in here in both forms but to barney it is a big surprise. The best summary of the change is in the form of the large arty painting on the wall opposite the bar - this used to be where the big TV screen previously hung. One slightly incongruous aspect is the sight of a fruit machine sat deserted by the tasteful scarlet curtain which divides the drinking area from the restaurant section. Barney gets in two pints of Fosters for £4.60 and find one of the few sets of stools left unoccupied (the restaurant appears less busy, but it is before 7pm). Red, cream and brown are the décor themes. Perched by the fireplace (not in use), we have a splendid view of Granada Cleaners on the opposite side of Bridge Street. Spaceman recalls that there is going to be yet another pub for us to do (if it gets a move on) - Bar Med on Deansgate has now closed, to be opened as something completely different. On that bombshell, we head back out into the (moderately mild) night...
Pub 175 - The Bench (Back Bridge Street)
This is definitely a first trip for both of us. From spaceman's (admittedly slightly unreliable) memory, this used to be a slightly seedy looking tapas bar called, imaginatively, Tapas Tapas. Spaceman never went. It's round the back of Bridge Street, just off the small square in front of the ubiquitous Starbucks, which is also new (previously being Oceans Apart, a furniture store, and it's only just changed). It's above Starbucks, so we scale the flight of stairs and enter the stylishly decked out new bar. We order two pints of Castlemaine XXXX - for £4.80 - and the barmaid offers to bring them over, but spaceman would rather wait at the bar for them and get some bearings of the place. The stairs have obviously taken it out of us. We sink into brown sofas, which are very comfy.
Barney takes a look around and openly admires the lights in here. And the fans ("they look cool") but they're not spinning. Spaceman challenges barney to pull the little cord to get them going, but barney's having none of the challenge (unlike spaceman's drunken store cupboard exploration effort in the The Hog's Head). They're showing very old (black and white) films on the TV in the corner - Flash Gordon seemed to be one of them. Massive Attack and Royksopp are some of the bands played on the sound system. There are a few people in tonight, but some of them are being moved due to a private party (we later discover a sign on the door outside saying private party from 8pm, but don't recall that being there before). We're going anyway (although our seating didn't appear to be under threat)...
Pub 176 - Mulligan's (Back Bridge Street/Southgate)
Barney gets the beers in (£4.60 for two pints of Fosters) in this long, thin Irish pub. It's freezing, though, as they've cranked up the air conditioning, which unfortunately over-compensates for the relatively mild weather outside. We perch on stools facing the wall near the back of the pub, as barney complains again about the temperature (spaceman is ok, having brought a coat, although it is not currently being worn). Barney is confused about the toilets - one says "fir" and the other "mna" - only knowing which is which by carefully watching the gender of the clientele that use each. Until, that is, barney notices the illustrations in the middle of each door which makes things much clearer. The toilets pong just a wee bit. Again, spaceman, having lived round the corner, has frequented this bar before, but it's another first for barney.
There is a fruit machine in the corner and they quite often have live Irish music here (which spaceman can vouch for - it was plainly audible in the back window of spaceman's flat on Sunday nights). There's a really old TV in the corner, but it's not currently switched on. "Retro", says barney, "with a capital 'Ret'". Barney is slowly turning blue (taking the full force of the air con) and spaceman, tongue in cheek, asks whether barney is cold (it's been regularly stated during our short stay here). "Yes" says barney (actually, spaceman is paraphrasing - "fucking freezing" are barney's actual words). We finish our beers and hunt to the relative warmth of the next pub...
Pub 177 - Prohibition (King Street)
We never quite got round to visiting Prohibition in its former guise, Bar 10, although barney did sample the toilets. A combination of being shut or hosting a private party had previously kept us at bay but this time we were not to be denied. And what a transformation the bar has undergone. It's actually quite dingy inside now, making it difficult to read anything. But they've deliberately gone for an atmospheric look, essentially trying to recreate the 1920s/30s (hence the name of the bar). We get two pints of Carlsberg for £5.60, which the barman tries to convince us as been "Heineken'd", i.e. upgraded to 5%. We're not so sure (which is not to say that we're right and he's wrong). We take a seat by the window and spaceman reads the menu, which gives a little history lesson.
Apparently, alcohol was banned between 1920 and 1933 as "the noble experiment" in order to reduce crime and corruption, solve social problems, reduce the tax burden from prisons and improve health. Luckily, it didn't work - underground bars popped up and crime increased. It also prompted the invention of cocktails as splashes were added to mask the bad taste of illegally distilled booze. Prohibition has even named a drink "The Noble Experiment". Spaceman is fascinated but is brought down to earth by barney's moaning about sore arms from doing weights in the gym the previous night. The Noble Experiment contains 5 litres of liquor, fruit juice and a bottle of champagne. It costs £45 or you can gamble on picking 3 envelopes, which essentially give you the random choice between getting it for free, paying £45 or paying £90. Report from the toilets: there are lots of blue tiles. It's time to move on...
Pub 178 - Caffé Uno (Albert Square)
Feeling a little bit peckish again, we rush back to Albert Square hoping that one of the food stalls is still open (we were specifically after fresh pizza slices), but they have all shut. Returning to our original route, we suddenly realise that Caffé Uno is still open (it's before 9pm) so we make an unplanned stop there. We get two bottles of Peroni (there are no draught beers - although barney still asks for some, despite the lack of visible pumps) for £5.90 and barney is forced to go to the toilets (it's the bladder not spaceman that forces this visit). We order at the bar but it's table service here and so we find a seat. We overlook Albert Square and the town hall through the open window-doors (barney was about to comment that the glass was very clean, before realising that they were open). Caffé Uno is more of a food café really, but it is just about acceptable as a drinkerie for the purposes of the all-encompassing slow pub crawl. Barney says that there are too many doors to get to the toilet (and that it just says "toi" on the door). A very bright ("unnecessary" says barney) light shines from Albert Square, slightly blinding us. Our bottles don't take long to be consumed, so we head back to Deansgate...
Pub 179 - Soundgarden (Blackfriars Street)
Again, we have been here before, but when it was Havana, so under the rules of the pub crawl we have to revisit it. We go down the stairs to the basement level bar and, on entering, decide that the décor has not been changed (i.e. they've still got the garish tiger-print sofas). We get two bottles of Budvar for £5.80 (draught isn't working tonight, just like the last time we came here). They offer late night snacks, which tempts us enormously. Spaceman floats the idea of ordering the whole lot (this being nachos, toasties, chips, onion rings and wedges) but backs down after realising it would be a bit piggy, and a bit overkill on potato-related snacks. So we stick with a ham and cheese toastie, accompanied by cheese-topped nachos and a portion of onion rings - £8.75 for the three. Placebo's Nancy Boy plays on the stereo system as we find a seat by the open windows. Then Queen and "Killer Queen" comes on and barney sings along. Then the Red Hot Chili Peppers come on and barney sings some more. The food is plentiful and enjoyable (although barney complains about the nachos being all stuck together, solved by spaceman's less than judicious use of a knife). We finish off both food and beer to the strains of "Kelly Watch The Stars" by Air and head back up the stairs...
Pub 180 - Paparazzi (Printworks)
Thinking this bar was called Babushka, we ask to come in, but they tell us to give them a few minutes. Alas, a few minutes we do not have, specifically because spaceman is desperate for the loo. So we try instead Lucid but, with spaceman starting to hop around, Lucid is £3 to get in tonight (perhaps after 9pm). Spaceman can't handle it any more and runs into Old Orleans solely to use the toilet facilities. Once spaceman comes back out into the Printworks, we think "Babushka" may be now open. It is free to get in at the moment, but bizarrely only for "half an hour or so". It's beneath ground level, so we head to downstairs, only to discover that it's completely empty (not entirely surprising since it has only just opened). The lack of a name sign at the entrance leads us to question what the place is called. There's no draught beer so we are forced to get bottles again (um, can't remember which, though).
We find a settee near a tropical plant, next to a bass-heavy wall. They do some of that artificial smoke here in order to make it atmospheric but, as the place is deserted, it just feels like a holiday resort in November here. We don't know what it would have cost to get in here had we come half an hour later, but it still makes it on to the pub crawl list. We discuss the possibility of getting a T-shirt with the names of all the pubs we have visited during the course of the slow pub crawl. On the way out, spaceman asks one of the barmen what the name of the bar, but he doesn't know! He instead has to ask his barmate, and we find out it is apparently called "Scandals". This week anyway. (We find out subsequently that it has been named Paparazzi.) We head back out into the night for our last pub of the night...
Pub 181 - Bluu (Smithfields)
On the way here, spaceman tries a slightly tongue-in-cheek "evening ladies" to three girls walking past but gets little (i.e. no) response. Still got it! With Lucid out of action, barney is in charge of navigation, having seen it previously in passing - spaceman doesn't have a clue where it is. It's loud and it's busy, and it somewhat takes us by surprise. It's seems like quite a trendy bar and there's an eaterie out the back. It looks fairly packed (where has everyone come from?). We get two pints of Fosters (well, spaceman does) for £5.20 and we find a low settee near the stairs. Barney explores downstairs, primarily for toilet usage. Directly opposite us, across the road, is the intriguingly-titled "Hunters BBQ & Asian Takeaway".
Barney reports back from the toilets and says that downstairs is like the upstairs but more moodily lit and with its own little bar. The toilets have blue and pink doors to help with quick toilet location. It's quite busy down there too, barney confirms. Barney points out that the pillars are bizarrely encased in glass. They have glowy red lights which seems bit like hairdresser dryer machines. We both turn down the possibility of going to Hunters as the food in Soundgarden as done the trick. Spaceman hops in a conveniently-parked taxi as barney wanders off into the night...