The Central Manchester Slow Pub Crawl - Day 25
Day 25 - Friday 15th October 2004 (Map)
Pub 199 - Label (Deansgate)
We start this momentous day in Pizza Hut on Corporation Street, lining our stomachs with the all-you-can-eat pizza, pasta and salad buffet. It's momentous because we have taken the day off work to fit in as many pubs as possible, ideally with a view to finishing the whole damn pub crawl (as foolish a plan as it may seem). Barney has had a late night (until around 3.30am) and is suffering for it. No question whose fault that is and spaceman has no sympathy for the way barney is feeling. It's just plain careless. Stuffed and having planned our route using barney's skilfully (i.e. cribbed) hand-drawn map of the remaining pubs (that we know of), we reach our first destination by 3pm. Formerly Bar Med, we reach the faintly ridiculously-named Label, which is a jaw-dropping refurb-shock. It's totally different and has spaceman gawping all the way to the bar, but only once we have made it past the non-confrontational bouncer and been asked whether we are eating or drinking by the girl stood dutifully just inside the door (if only she knew). It's changed almost beyond the point of recognition, rivalling (although not beating, according to barney) the Slug & Lettuce to Queer conversion.
Of course, we're just drinking and we make sure the girl knows it. The draught lagers available are rather eclectic (for us), comprising Kronenbourg (White not 1664 we subsequently discover), Kirin and San Miguel. We initially ask for Kronenbourg, but baulk at the prospect of a "white" lager, and switch our request to San Miguel (they're all 5% strength anyway - not a great way to start an all-day drinking session). We have to wait a while, though, as the barman changes the barrel for the San Miguel mid-pour. In only slightly mock seriousness, spaceman offers barney a hand to shake to start the mighty pub crawl day we have planned (with the words "let battle commence", which has barney initially thinking that it's a competition - with the beer, spaceman means). We go the long way round to a curved sofa in the raised area at the back as barney, surprisingly, dashes to the toilets (having been downing water by the gallon in an attempt to quell the hangover), which, predictably, are in the same place. Barney can't remember what they were like before the redecoration and so cannot comment on any change there may have been. However, they are now pale grey with small blue tiles - "nothing special".
Barney keeps complaining about the apparent unevenness of the table and scours the menu as spaceman writes notes. Barney points out the giant jaffa cake described on the menu and immediately wants to eat here, despite the recent pizza marathon, and also notices that you can buy bottles of spirits for a mere £65 (not much mark up then). Apparently they reseal them with wax for you and then store them away ready for your return. Back to the décor, and it is now lots of brown and very upmarket in appearance, replacing the garishness of Bar Med (or "barmed" as barney calls it). Interior designers are having a field day in Manchester these days, it seems. For the final day of the pub crawl, spaceman is bedecked in a favourite brown "76" T-shirt, while barney has opted for a black V-necked sweater. We have both decided to go for black pants (i.e. trousers) and shoes in case anywhere gets a little fussy as the Friday progresses. Barney has now discovered that it may be the glass that is wonky, not the table, as spaceman's doesn't wobble at all (glass, that is). As we wander out, barney suddenly recalls that there are lots of mirrors on all sides on the way down the stairs to the toilets, which make it "spooky" due to the multiple reflections...
Pub 200 - Fridays In The City (Oldham Street)
We wander up Market Street, which is packed, wondering why there are so many people out and about - haven't these people got jobs to go to? We debate between here and Lord Atterbury as our next venue, but decide on Fridays as it's on a slightly more efficient route. We have an unplanned stop at Sasha's Bar & Diner, but the bar is all barred up, but barney still makes an opportunist grab for one of the many Metros lying on the side at the bottom of the stairs at the entrance. We get to Fridays, a first for both of us, and it's rammed, especially considering it's 3.30pm on a Friday afternoon. Spaceman gets two pints of Fosters in for a mere £1.80 (which doesn't please barney, having forked out in Label) - surely the cheapest place in town. It explains a lot. Naturally, with such bargain prices, there are no seats available, so we find a less well-populated corner and balance our beers on a precariously thin ledge.
However, barney's eagle eyes soon spot a spare seat or two which we swiftly take up. There's only one thing that springs to barney's mind - "Brook's". "But cheaper!" responds spaceman. Looking around, it seems that we are roughly half the average age of the crowd in here. It's very smoky and noisy too (and did we say busy?). Having sat down, we attack the Metro cryptic crossword, getting all but one tricky last clue. The 90p a pint deal has clearly started to affect people - approximately 2 in 3 people seem to be talking nonsense. We simultaneously try to rush our beers in order to be able to leave, but yet also take our time as we have a long way to go. We do finally finish our beers, but our drinking rate is not the best yet (barney's slacking just a wee bit as hair of the dog is yet to kick in). We head off up Oldham Road...
Pub 201 - Lord Atterbury (Great Ancoats Street)
After the quick march up Oldham Street and along Great Ancoats Street in the Mancunian drizzle, we reach Lord Atterbury, formerly The New Land O' Cakes (indeed, there are telltale remnants in the form of the not-quite-removed letters from the original sign. We initially start to go through the hotel entrance but, spaceman, wary of such places, quickly notices the error because of a sign. "Hotel entrance only" it says, and directs us to the main entrance. When we finally do enter, it's another fairly big shock as they've done it up, although Label has already stolen its thunder for today. It's had wooden floors fitted, a lick of paint, plus the obligatory plethora of brown sofas and chairs (although it doesn't seem quite finished - for one, there aren't enough chairs). There's barely anyone here, though (it is still Friday afternoon), so taking two pints of Carling Extra Cold over to an uninhabited sofa is not a problem. Current clientele includes a drunken old Irish man mouthing unintelligible obscenities only to be mildly berated by the barman, who has an air of resigned melancholy about him.
Barney has to go to the toilets again, which, if not quite a first (see Label), is definitely a second. For most of our stay here, barney can't stop yawning, sighing and moaning (whose fault is that?). The large TV in the corner plays videos with music while the speakers play different songs - very confusing. It's still quiet in here - there's maybe 5 customers (including us), plus a girl who seems to be the barman's niece or granddaughter or something like that. We're making slow progress, having consumed just over two pints in an hour and a half. Barney has the MEN cryptic crossword (from Thursday it later turns out) up the sleeve (well, in the pocket), in which barney has singularly failed to write in any answers. Barney lobs it to spaceman, who gets a few, which in turn prompts barney to get a couple (of answers). Spaceman finally tries out the toilets (rather here, calmly, than at the next place, frenetically - it's only taken spaceman 25 pub crawls to learn this rather basic concept), noticing on the way a sign advertising vacancies at the hotel for £25 a night - bargain. Barney texts a mate, Rich, as we suspect (well, spaceman does) that we have not yet done Bar Risa. Rich confirms it - oh no, another one! Realising that we had better get a move on, we get a move on...
Pub 202 - Cuba Café (Port Street?)
Shut last time we came here, this time we strike gold, the pure gold of success. And lager. We tried it on the off chance, but you don't get anything if you don't take chances, etc, etc. And it's full to the brim of musical equipment, which takes us a little by surprise. There are no draught beers tonight, only cans and bottles, so spaceman gets two cans of Red Stripe for £5. Spaceman innocently asks the barmaid what bands are on tonight - she simply points at the fairly obvious sign on the bar. There are five bands on tonight, starting at 8.05pm. There's nowhere really to sit, so we stand by a ledge near the ladies, which smell, predictably, of soap (the opposite of the odour typically emanating from gents' lavs). A guy comes up to us and asks us if we are in a band - we say we're just here for a drink. Guitar-playing barney offers to join in but is declined.
It's very crowded in here with all the musical equipment laid out everywhere, so much so that the bongos are behind the bar. It's not often that that alliteration is used. Barney points out the random objects hanging from a wooden trellis on the ceiling, which include lots of vinyl records, suitcases, a random hat and, strangely, a bike. Not that suitcases hanging from ceilings is typical of bars in Manchester either. There's a very varied collection of videos on a shelf behind the bar which appear to be used for continuous play on the two TVs behind the bar - they are currently screening some Clint Eastwood film or other. All the while we are here, some guy is jamming on his guitar. Looking around, we're not sure if there any non-staff, non-band members in here at the moment.
Barney thinks its like Hard Rock Café but different. Eeek! The drummer suddenly starts practising... very loudly. That's woken us up. Spaceman notices a diagrammatic equation above the entrance to the ladies' toilets essentially showing that song + alcohol = fun times! There is actually a small table near us with three high chairs, but a cap on the table seems to say that it's occupied (like the Mancunian equivalent of the German towel by the swimming pool). We get a full version of a song from the band. Soundchecking, for free! What lucky people we are. They seem quite good too (y'know, for a band playing in Cuba Café). Spaceman does notice, later on, a couple more tables on the other side, but it's too late now.
Pub 203 - Portland Bar (Portland Street)
Otherwise known as Portland Street Restaurant & Bar, we find the separate bar area to the left and barney gets in two pints of Castlemaine XXXX for £5.70. Spaceman rushes off to the toilets, which are in the main hotel area. Barney thinks this should mean that we don't do it (as part of our pub crawl, that is), but it is definitely a bar that is separate and open to the public. While spaceman is in the gents, two guys rush in to the urinals, with one saying "that was desperado". Spaceman knows how they feel. Barney says that the Radisson on Peter Street has a bar but spaceman thinks that we have already discounted it when trying Jar Bar. The rain is a little heavier now, as barney reads out curries off the menu (it's not exclusively Indian, not by any means, but there are a few mild ones on the menu - well, three). There are still too many pizza slices in spaceman's belly to even think about food. As we sit in the corner, we chat about the Simpsons before barney finally announces being awake. It's quite warm in here, we note. Alas, we must leave the warmth and move on...
Pub 204 - Malmaison Bar (Piccadilly)
We nearly give Malmaison, a hotel, a miss, as it looks like it only has a restaurant, but we try anyway. We ask the question and, sure enough, there's a bar, which spaceman vaguely recalls from a few years ago. We are asked to take a seat and shortly we are waited on. We select two pints of Kronenbourg 1664 and wait patiently. We had tried the Beer Keller on the way, which looked half-open, but the doors were looked and spaceman could just make out a sign inside saying that it only opens between 8pm and 3am on Fridays and Saturdays, which explains why it has not been open to us and previous visits (this being our first ever Friday pub crawl). The sign does not, however, specify any entry fee. We both consider going for number twos (it's been a long day). Our beers are brought at 6.30pm (to give an indication of our drinking rate, we have had five pints in three and a half hours). We sit at the back in a seating area on red and black comfy chairs next to a funky glass table. Barney tries the gents. The bar area seems to be midway between the restaurant and the hotel.
The wall behind the bar glows red and the waiter brings a double tray of olives and nuts (but spaceman is too fussy to try either - if they're not peanuts, they're not worth trying). Barney is still away. One of the nuts appears to be a bacon-flavoured peanut, weirdly, but the rest are not peanuts. Barney returns to confirm that they are brazil nuts, but we then later decide that they actually may be cashew nuts. Spaceman then also decides that a long visit to the toilets is in order. Having both lightened our respective loads, we feel ready for the night ahead, although spaceman suddenly feels a bit dodgy. It will pass. Strangely, we get delivered a bill for £8.70, which seems a bit extortionate, until we discover that the bill is for two diet Cokes, one Absolut and a Tia Maria. We are sat near two old-ish blokes, one of whom, we both agree, sounds uncannily like John Peel (it's a very distinctive voice).
Barney debates liking olives after making a good stab at demolishing the cashew nuts, and eventually tries a green one, but immediately regrets it, as the small edible fruit invokes an all-over body shiver (spaceman can't replicate the noise within the constraints of the English written language, but barney suspects it is written something like 'brrrbrrhhhh'). The correct bill finally comes and it's two pints for £6. A large party congregates near us in the raised area and we feel a little claustrophobic. Feeling like we should leave soon, we quicken up the pace as we have only a quarter of a pint left. There are so many old-ish people in our way, it doesn't seem like an obvious exit is going to be available. Spaceman passes them our leftover snacks and a bit of friendly banter ensues. We finally escape...
Pub 205 - Monroes (London Road)
We run, well spaceman runs, barney walks casually, to the next place. We initially try the bar in the International Hotel (named, we think, the Capital Bar), where they are showing A Question Of Sport on BBC1, but it's residents only, to our relief (we have enough to do tonight as it is). So we go to Monroes, where it is boiling hot, and there are a lot of pictures, unsurprisingly, of Marilyn herself. Barney gets two pints of Carlsberg, possibly Extra Cold (we're not sure which one the barmaid pours), for £4.70. Barney reckons there's a random picture of Foo Foo Lamar - spaceman hasn't a clue. Barney says that he is a drag artist in Manchester who died recently - spaceman just shrugs. There is a version of the classic photo of working guys eating their lunch on a girder high up in New York, only this time it features Marilyn, Charlie Chaplin, King Kong, etc, etc. Monroes is a hotel too, but the bar is not residents only like the International Hotel - well, not until 11pm...
Pub 206 - Bar Risa (Chorlton Street)
Bar Risa is definitely open and all technoed out. The people in here are all crowded round the bar as we give a cheery hello to the barman. Spaceman couldn't survive the journey here without nipping to the toilets in Taurus. A bit cheeky but needs must. There's no draught on tonight (don't know why) so spaceman gets two bottles of Budvar for the bargain price of £6.60. We perch ourselves on a spacious brown sofa on the right hand wall (as you come in) and peruse the venue. Suddenly, as if by magic, everyone clears off upstairs to Jongleurs, the comedy club, for a comedy night (presumably). There are now about 10 people in here. We've both been here before once or twice, but never for the official slow pub crawl. It's down to about 4 or 5 customers now - oh dear. A sign outside the bar says "passenger lift to all floors", presumably for those who are too pissed, or lazy, to walk up the stairs. Or perhaps it's just very helpful for those less fortunate than ourselves.
Oh my god - the DJ suddenly ramps up the sound levels for the enjoyment of the handful of people sticking it out by the bar. It's shitty dance music too. A random old-ish guy who sounds a bit like Peter Kaye (and indeed could easily be one of his characters) sidles up to us and asks us both to do an electronic survey. It's a reasonably "fun" quiz (obviously, the standard is improved in our minds by the alcohol in our bloodstreams), which asks questions such as how many times you come to Bar Risa, what other bars you go to, etc, etc. Barney really enjoys it - it's the quiz you can't get wrong. The quizmaster guy is working his way around the bar - shouldn't take him long. We had previously seen him looking a little incongruous, stood at the end of the bar, minding his own business and drinking his drink. Questionnaire and drinks finished, we head back out into the night...
Pub 207 - Joshua Brooks (Princess Street/Charles Street)
We briefly consider going back to try the Beer Keller, but decide against it. The rain has finally stopped, having been falling for most of the evening. Rotten weather it's been. Spaceman gets the number for Beer Keller from 118118. Barney gets two pints of Carling Extra Cold for £4.40, while spaceman more or less simultaneously tries out the toilets and the recently obtained Beer Keller number, but just gets voicemail. Barney reckons Joshua Brooks hasn't changed at all since its Sofa days ("worst makeover of the night"). Spaceman, meanwhile, hasn't got a clue about the décor, despite having visited it in its previous incarnation as part of the pub crawl. There's a drinks menu on the table, which includes the obligatory "Orgasm" cocktail, but we're not interested. 'This Fire' by Franz Ferdinand comes on the stereo and we consider investigating the mysterious downstairs area, but it appears to be staff only. There's a gate at the top - crazy. We move on...
Pub 208 - Copper Faced Jacks (Oxford Road)
Again it's drizzling as we make our way to the 10th pub of the night, which we expect to be closed. It's not though, which surprises us greatly. Spaceman even checks with the bouncer, via the incisive questioning line: "are you free to get in?". With a slightly confused affirmative behind us ("we're always free"), we bound (not really) down the stairs into the main bar area. The reason for our pessimism is that it has been shut on our travels before. We'd more or less given up on it. Barney gets the beers on spaceman's behalf (guess why), shelling out £5 for a brace of Castlemaine XXXX in pint-sized glasses. Spaceman dutifully replenishes the funds owing on the way back from the toilets. Barney had asked the barman when it gets going, to which he simply replied "it doesn't". Ah well, more room to sit down and chill, to cogitate and ruminate on the night's work so far. It shuts at 11pm and barney wonders how it manages to make enough money to stay alive (we think it only opens on Fridays and Saturdays, with seemingly only one member of staff, so wages will be low).
There's a pool table but it's occupied by some of the few people in here. The music thumps relentlessly to the meagre number of customers. Spaceman has actually been here before in the prelude to a Christmas do, drinking, playing pool and going on the fruities (fruit machines). Barney hasn't. Barney is actually enjoying the music, perhaps a bit too much, and insists repeatedly that we head for McDonald's for a nutritional (or not, as the case may be) pit stop. Barney's munchies, it seems, are stronger then spaceman's, but spaceman doesn't want to go there - we have a job to do and McDonald's is not very good. Barney's not happy but they're the rules (that spaceman has just made up). We carry on with our pub visits...
Pub 209 - Jumpin Jaks (Portland Street)
Jumpin Jaks counts by the virtue of the fact that we manage to get in for free (as it's 10 minutes before the 10pm cut-off point). Barney gets two pints of Fosters for a mere £2.90, taking advantage of the generous two-for-one offer, while spaceman again tries the old toilets and Beer Keller on the phone combo - no luck, they're still not answering. It's quite busy here and more of a club feel to it, especially compared to where we've been today so far. They've obviously all got here before the entry price kicks in. Barney won't stop going on about going to McDonald's (argh), but spaceman is still having none of it, much to the seemingly-ravenous barney's disappointment. Spaceman suggests getting crisps, but barney wants something more substantial (two packets, perhaps?). We notice, handily, a little café (well, hatch) in the corner, called, imaginatively, Eat At Jaks. It offers pizza, chips and hot dogs. We also notice a sign by the cloakroom saying "rooms available by the hour" - a joke, possibly. Barney cannot resist and succumbs to the hatch in the corner (that would be a better name - Hatch In The Corner).
Spaceman stays at the bar supping beer alone (thinking barney won't be too long), while barney orders a pizza. The place has a Northern feel, with a big picture of Hilda Ogden behind the dance floor (whatever floats your boat). Barney is still chatting up a girl at the food bar, as spaceman, still by the bar, notices that the TVs seems to play footage of the dance floor in slow motion. Eventually, the girl barney is chatting with leaves and so spaceman goes to wait with barney for the pizza. Tick, tick, it's taking a while. When we get the pepperoni pizza, it looks lovely (as the lady behind the food bar has promised - but then doesn't all food after 10 or 11 beers), but it's also ruddy bloody hot. We ask to take it away, but we are denied (they don't have the containers and we probably wouldn't get it past the bouncers - huh?). So we make do with wolfing it down as we stand (although our beers are being emptied swiftly, so we'll soon have nothing to wash this baby down with). This desire to eat it quickly has its drawbacks, i.e. while it is still carrying enough latent heat to fuel a small African village for a year, as the molten roofs of our mouths will testify. It is very nice, but agonisingly painful too. We eventually finish it and carry on, desperate for a cooling beverage (beer will do)...
Pub 210 - Green Room (Whitworth Street)
The roof of spaceman's mouth is still shredded following the pizza experience (never again!). We come here, a first for both of us (as was Jumpin Jaks), and spaceman gets two pints of Fosters for £4.80. Barney secures a table and then offers to adventure upstairs for research purposes - just another bar it seems (with more chairs and no people - we'll stay where we are). At least barney's hunger has now subsided and the air is consequently a little more peaceful. It's fairly busy in here tonight, so it was quite a good spot by barney to get the table (we had to wait a little while). We don't know when it is normally open, but seem to vaguely remember it being shut on another occasion. Or did we never come near here? Spaceman thinks it may be a bit of a post-theatre venue and says that it is reminiscent of the Cornerhouse in style and feel - "same sort of place, innit", barney mutters. We make no further progress on the crosswords (well, the parts we can focus on). It's time to move on, as we smash our all-time record of pubs in a night, although it's been rather longer than a night today...
Pub 211 - Jar Bar (Peter Street)
Third or possibly fourth time lucky, we finally make it in to Jar Bar. We'd tried Aqua on the way, but it was £2 to get in (it being after 11pm), which means we don't try it (although, we'll have to log it for a possible future pub crawl night). Ah well. So we come to Jar Bar, where it is free to get in (woo hoo!). Spaceman gets two pints of what might be Harp for some money. Loud music plays as we find a seat by the window. This is now our 13th place of the day/night! We've had 11 pints (including this one), one can and one bottle. Surely not good for you. It's not actually very busy in here, despite the non-existent entry fee, as barney visits the loos. With Aqua out of the equation for tonight, we just have Canteena and the Tiger Lounge to do on our planned list, but we're not sure if they are free to get in now or not.
Unfortunately, barney starts to complain of feeling a bit queasy and protests that any more than the quarter of a pint of beer left will make the poor lad bring forth much of the night's consumption. Oh dear - we have a lightweight. Spaceman was actually motoring through the beer quite well, in anticipation of trying to cram in the remainder of the pubs we feel we have to do. Spaceman, on the way home, is again tempted by the Topkapi Palace's Chicken Shish Kebab on a pitta bread (with the obligatory chips), while barney meets up with workmates in the Hard Rock casino (but doesn't stay long and sticks with coke - good job too). So we fall short and when you throw in Sasha's (possibly), Beer Keller (if free to get in) and Aqua to Canteena and the Tiger Lounge, we almost have another night on our hands. In fact, we later discover/remember other venues such as AXM (bloody Autobahn has changed again), Bar Below, Cellar Vie (which we didn't even bother trying tonight but was on our list), Berlin, Mint Lounge, Harvey Nichols, Nico Central, G-Scene, some or all of which we may have to visit. Looks like there'll have to be another night of alcoholic journalism...