The Central Manchester Slow Pub Crawl - Day 3
Pub 18 - Corbiéres (Half Moon Street, off St. Anne's Street)
After a more than a two week break, the slow pub crawl of Manchester recommences in a place spaceman has never visited before, nor had even heard of until the pub crawl started. It's hidden down an alleyway linking St. Anne's Street and Old Bank Street (the one with Bar 5 and the Rat & Parrot on). And it's quite hard to find even if you walk past, consisting as it does of a door and some stairs leading into the ground. These things probably explain why spaceman had not seen it before. Anyway, this hasn't deterred some people as the place is quite busy, the only seats available being two stools at the bar, upon which spaceman and barney eagerly perch. Two pints of Carlsberg are swiftly ordered, costing £4.40. We were a bit nervous coming into here, downstairs into the unknown - barney insisted spacemen went first. But it's alright.
There's a cheap and varied selection of food listed on a blackboard menu behind the bar, which is staring right at us as we sit. Barney points out the lizards crawling the wall and spaceman considers a swift exit - but they're not real. A blackboard on the alleyway outside the entrance proclaimed the pub as having the "best juke box in the world" (as uttered by M Jagger, apparently). From our seat we can name several of the albums on show at a distance of ten paces - The Verve, Starsailor, The Beta Band, Primal Scream, Moby, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Gorillaz, and the Smiths. Not a bad selection. Overall, our impression is that it's a trendy place and worth coming again. We just have one question - how did everyone else hear about it? Pints finished, we head back up the stairs, out the door and turn left, and we are directly facing the next venue...
Pub 19 - Frankie & Benny's (St. Anne's Street)
A thirties-style Italian American New York diner type place this one. The chirpy barman pours us a couple of pints of Heineken (£4.80) into heavyweight pint glasses, which seem to somehow hold more than a pint. A big cardboard advert on the bar is trying to sell some Frankie & Benny's music compilations on CD (Frankie & Benny's The Classic Years, volumes 1-3, priced at £12.99 each). A bit of a soulless place, really, muses spaceman. Barney suggests cheekily it might be the second best jukebox in the world (it's all ancient crooners), but spaceman's head shakes vociferously. A free cappuccino is available with a cheesecake, but we're not interested. We finish our beers and head for the door with the other barman surprised we're leaving. It seems like he might be about to try to persuade us to stay, but thinks better of it. Good decision. Left out the door, across Deansgate, and it's...
Pub 20 - Jim Thompson's (Parsonage Gardens)
This use to be a Henry's, but obviously Henry has been having a bit of trouble trying to run two pubs in Manchester, so he has sold one off to a bloke called, supposedly, Jim Thompson. The place has certainly changed a lot since the Henry's days. There are flaming things round the door and on the walls. Once again, barney is a little bit apprehensive on entrance ("bloody hell" is uttered). It's well decked up for Hallowe'en, with themed cocktails and everything. We notice that some chairs are in the shape of hands, bizarrely. We are, once again, asked if we want to eat as we enter - once again we decline. If only they knew... The flames mentioned earlier cause some debate and after a while we decide that most of them are fake - just bits of orange-yellow paper flapping in the artificial breezes, but barney reckons the ones outside are real. There's lots of cheesy décor stuff around. They appear to have their own brand cocktails - Jim Thompson's Colada (what IS a colada?), Jim Thompson's Orgasm (doesn't bear thinking about). We stick to two pints of lager. We cannot recall what drinks we buy, nor their price, unfortunately, but spaceman intends to find out. (Later research confirms that it was most likely two pints of Fosters that were bought, for £5.00.)
It's another of those places that lacks something, perhaps trying a little too hard. It seems a bit like Persia but without the authenticity. It's a bizarre bazaar, but maybe it isn't trying to be authentic. Just fun. Hmmm. Looking around, a sign suggests that Jim Thompson has a book out. We see what look like 3000-year old CD racks, but devoid of CDs. Barney reckons, in another moment of characteristic madness, that the Egyptians invented CDs. On the window, it says that it is a bar, an oriental restaurant, and a bazaar, seemingly trying to cover all possibilities. What is a bazaar anyway? Barney thinks it is "like marketplace, with all kinds of weird and wonderful things for sale", and then wanders off to try sitting in one of the hands on the way to the exit. Left and past Parsonage Gardens to the out-of-the-way...
Pub 21 - Courtney's (North Parade, off Parsonage Gardens)
Spaceman has never seen this place before, but doesn't complain about the prices - £4.24 for two pints of Carling. Spaceman can't wait to find a seat and sets off in search of the toilets, finding them eventually. They are reasonable. On the (convoluted) way to the toilets, spaceman spotted a pool table in the corner. We perch round a small table with a decent view of one of many TVs dotted around the place, currently showing Liverpool vs Valencia. The bar is large and in the middle of the pub. While purchasing the drinks, barney, obviously with an increasing case of the munchies, could not resist some curry-flavoured Hula Hoops. The place isn't overly-populated - obviously other people haven't heard of it either (although this didn't stop Corbiéres). Happy hour here is Friday and Saturday 7-10pm - pints of Carling and bitter are £1.79, as are bottled beers, pints of Stella, Guinness and Strongbow are £1.99, as are alcopops, selected spirits are £1.29, and house wine is £1.79 for a glass, £4.99 for a bottle. Research, and the first half, completed, it's time to head round back to Deansgate to...
Pub 22 - Café Rouge (Deansgate)
We did try to get in Bar 10 intermediately - in fact we succeeded - but the place was "closed" for a private party (barney still managed to go downstairs to use the toilet facilities, oblivious to the fact that we were not going to get served there. Toilets are blue, with two condom machines, one only selling ticklers (thanks barney)). Definitely more of a café than a bar this place (as the title gives away slightly). We are told to take a seat on entrance - the waitress will bring two pints of Stella to us. Nice. We nab a sofa over by the left hand wall but the lack of table makes the positioning of the drink awkward. Spaceman opts for the well-practised wedged between left thigh and sofa arm. Our beers are brought back and it sets spaceman back £5.90 - ouch. It's quite busy in here tonight. Les WCs pour les messieurs est OK, but the Stellas are starting to cloud the mind (i.e. it's doing its job). We reluctantly peel ourselves off the sofa, head out back to Deansgate and try the next place along...
Pub 23 - Bar Med (Deansgate)
Which isn't Bar Med. In an unprecedented moment, we are refused access AGAIN - this time the Living Room get all shirty. It's reservation only tonight, apparently. Buggers. Barney, however, doesn't mind, again taking advantage of cheap beers - it's £3 for two pints of Fosters as happy hour runs from 9pm 'til 1am. We manage to watch the rest of the Liverpool match here. The place has changed a bit since spaceman was last here. Lots of TVs, different menu, etc. Food is debated - spaceman has an eye on a curry at Shimla Pinks after the pub crawl has finished for the night, but can't stop hiccupping. After a short while playing with the 3D-style menu, we decide to move on, to...
Pub 24 - La Tasca (Deansgate)
We're allowed in here, but they charge us the most yet for alcohol beverages (guess whose round). We are asked for a mere £6 for two pints of San Miguel. The toilets are alright - down the stairs where spaceman recently discovered another bar area at the weekend. There's also a dance floor - presumably used mainly for Friday and Saturday nights. Oh and, er, salsa lessons. The upstairs bit consists of people stuffing their faces with average-quality tapas. The pints don't seem to last long (time is passing more quickly at this point of the night) and the curry house is calling (our stomachs). We teeter out of the place and head down onto Bridge Street for a curry at Shimla Pinks, a very trendy place, slightly pricy, but worth it. We rashly skip starters (except a poppadom each, plus obligatory chutneys and sauces) and even beer (feeling that we've had enough for a "school night"). Spaceman's North Indian Garlic Chilli Chicken is fine as May wine. Satiated, we head our separate ways, with smiles on our faces...