The Central Manchester Slow Pub Crawl - Day 7
Day 7 - Thursday 20th February 2003 (Map)
Pub 45 - Night & Day Café (Oldham Street)
Never been here before. There's a band setting up at the back but looks like you have to pay to get in later in the evening to see them. No beers on draught, so we pay £5.60 for two 500ml bottles of Budvar. It's got a very student feel to it, but pleasantly so. Spaceman knows Oldham Street reasonably well (having worked at the Royal Mail sorting office up th'road, before you ask - plus the bus from Boundary Park comes this way) but it's the surrounding area that's going to cause problems. There are bands on every night here - spaceman has wanted to try some out, but has never got round to it.
A flyer on the table advertises "American size portions at down to earth prices", featuring home-made "mexi-cali" cooking (whatever that is), Spanish tapas, American-style sanwiches, salads and much, much more. Mmmmm. We can't see a menu, though, so can't offer any further insights than that. We feel like we get a bit of value for money out of the place as we manage to catch the band warming up a bit. It fails to grab our attention next to our empty bottles, so we pop next door (ish) to...
Pub 46 - Dry Bar (Oldham Street)
Dry Bar has clearly been done up since spaceman last went (admittedly a long time ago - England beating Columbia 2-0 in the World Cup, so 1998). It looks trendy - all funky music and sofas, one of which barney later sinks into with one of two pints of Heineken, with spaceman's wallet £4 lighter. Behind the bar, a sign advertises freshly pressed oranges (barney noticed oranges in the Night & Day too) for £1.50 a glass. There is lots of space behind the bar, spaceman observes, while nearly disappearing into a yielding armchair, as barney takes the best part of a whole sofa to himself. The bleeder had an omelette before we came out, surely breaking "the rules". Barney protests that it was a small omelette with only a couple of pieces of bread - but spaceman knows barney hasn't had a small meal ever.
It smacks of unfair stomach lining, especially since we have enthusiastically decided to go for a fair few bars tonight. Barney mentions of an impending visit the following Tuesday to Turin to watch Manchester United play at Juventus (barney predicts two goals from Giggs and maybe a goal from Van Nistelrooy). Spaceman doesn't feel jealous but feels like mentioning a recent weekend in Rome anyway. Music is definitely good and, as we leave, we notice a dance floor with disco style lights at the far end (not enough beers for that, sadly). Across the deserted Oldham Street and further out of town takes us to...
Pub 47 - The King (Oldham Street)
Which to be fair is better than we thought. We feared this place a little beforehand. It looks the kind of place where they force you to down your first pint and lick the floor or something. But it isn't actually that bad when we get in - certainly no worse than, say, the Unicorn or the Hare and Hound, and definitely better than the Crown & Anchor A jukebox plays old hits (a la Vine Inn). We notice a pool table in the corner and initially arrive at what seems like an empty bar, but the barmaid tells us to come round the other side where there are more people waiting to be served (doh!). We get two pints of something or other (Carlsberg?) and notice (and mentally decline) goldfish bowls for £10, which gets you 10 shots of vodka and 2 red bulls. Not as much value as your typical Rhodes resort. Turbo shandies (and their "junior" companions) are also advertised.
We find a standing place back near where we came in and gaze idly at an underused, and not particularly large, dancefloor in the opposite corner. People stand round the pool table but, annoyingly, refuse to play (we don't ask them). So we don't bother playing or finding out how much it costs. But then, suddenly, they leave! And so we play pool, having to leave a £2 deposit and pay 50p a game. As we set up, yet another drinks advert catches our eyes - "cheeky vimto" jugs (something to do with port?) for £4. There are cool seats mounted on the wall, which you can sort of lean against at a 45 degree (ish) angle. The toilets are ok-ish, with a long urinal, washer and no sign on the gents (not helpful). The pool finishes one-all, perhaps a fair result. The brace of pool games lasts longer than our beers so we venture back out into the still night to...
Pub 48 - Millstone Hotel (Thomas Street)
Auxerre vs Liverpool in the UEFA Cup has just started, and is being shown on a myriad of TVs above the bar. On the way here from the King, we scoffed some (very hot) chips. Our mouths are well and truly burnt - well spaceman's is. Two pints of Carlsberg are obtained for the tidy sum of £3.80 and seats are available that are good vantage points for said array of goggle boxes. Bizarrely, a small pram rests on the corner of the bar, its purpose distinctly unknown. Barney sarcastically puts forward that is is nice to drink Fosters out of a Fosters glass. Confused, spaceman gazes down at the Budweiser glass in possession.
It's a cosy wee joint, belying the surrounding area (it's not the best part of Manchester we are currently imbibing alcohol in). "Amusing" quotes on the wall include "water is a good drink - if taken in the right spirit", ho ho, and "who took the cork out of my lunch", chortle, etc. The obligatory gents review and barney describes it thus: "red-tiled floor, green-coloured walls - your average bogs". And with that glowing description, and barney's now-empty bladder, we brave the night once more...
Pub 49 - Matt & Phred's Jazz Club (Oldham Street & Tib Street)
This one catches us a little by surprise. We find out later that it appears to be shut on the Oldham Street side, we find it possible to enter from Tib Street. This is a bit like the King, which also has entrances on Oldham Street and at the rear. It takes us a while to figure out what the place is called, and we are in the dark until barney spots the name on the menu. Barney keeps pointing out £3.95 for pizzas between 5pm and 7pm. It's another place open late - Mondays to Saturdays 'til 2am and Sundays 'til 1am. Two pints of Red Stripe set us back £5.40.
Amusingly, there is a salsa class going on at the "front" of the bar, the far side from where we are positioned. Barney wonders if every pub in the Northern Quarter has the obligatory red and brown colour scheme. The salsa is painful to see and hear at first as there is no music. The air is instead filled with the lead lady's disturbingly loud clap-clap-clap (or rather clap-turn-clap-stick your leg out-clap-shrug and get the beers in). But then the stereo system kicks in with the right kind of groove and it all falls into place. The toilets are a flight and a bit downstairs and consequently 5 to 10 degrees cooler than the main bar area. They are spacious, reasonably colourful, and with a long urinal - all in all, not bad.
It feels somewhat like we've gatecrashed a little party, but no-one says anything to us (it's clearly not a party, unless it's a party where everyone sticks together in little groups minding their own business). Barney remarks that it is a nice place but the red curtains make it look like a brothel. Spaceman looks at barney quizzically, with an eyebrow raised, expecting qualification of that comment. Barney's been to Amsterdam, but does that explain it? No sexy girl in the window, barney carries on. Hmmmm. As we get ready to leave, we spot the availability home-made Havana cigars behind the bar, and make a promise to come back here (if only to take advantage of the cheap pizzas, perhaps as a precursor to a gig night in the Night & Day)...
Pub 50 - Cord (Dorsey Street, off Tib Street)
It's all new, new, new tonight. Another unfamiliar place, although barney's heard of it. Everything is made, it seems, out of corduroy. An immediate visit to the toilets (hey, we drink a lot, alright?) shows them to have a red-tiled floor and green-tiled wall (surprise). They're Victorian-style, with wood panelling over the urinals (touch of class, says barney) and an exposed brick wall. Back to the main part of the pub and we can confirm that the place - the walls, the sofas, the carpet - are almost all made out of corduroy. Blimey.
The bar staff we get chatting to are extremely friendly as spaceman notices a couple of toasties on the path to the bar, one belonging to a barman. The chips not quite being enough to counter the copious amounts of alcohol, spaceman inquires about the toasties and their availability. They are £2 each, with two fillings from a long list of choices. Spaceman pushes a bit of luck and cheekily asks the barmaid for three - ham, cheese and onion (the charmer) - as we also order two pints of Heineken (£4.40). "This place is cool" blurts out barney, and spaceman can't help but agree. We notice one litre bottles of Cruzcampo beer in the fridge - wow.
It's "Green Goddess" night downstairs (we don't check it out), which prompts an inquiry into the name. No real thinking behind it, explains the barman a little sheepishly; it was just inspired by the fire strikes. The music being played is "chilled out", they say. The toasties are ready and spaceman gets a (free) choice of crisps to accompany the tasty heated snack and opts for spring onion flavour crinkle cut (yum). A flyer on our table advertises the "Tour de Cord", a scalextric championship, believe it or not. Once spaceman has (finally) finished the second meal of the night, the beers are drained and it's time, sadly, to go. We'll be back...
Pub 51 - Café Centro (Tib Street)
Not far to go to this trendy little establishment. Two pints of Budvar are a reasonably priced £4.50 and the barmaid tries to tempt us to have chips and cheese after we mention the toasties in Cord. Spaceman is sold but barney, of all people, claims of being too full. That'll be the omelette then. Spaceman backtracks a little and says of only wanting to try it as it suddenly felt that we were trying every bar snack around. Barney points and claims to want "one of those" (a TV ball thing?) in barney's flat , saying "welcome to my flat - help yourself to a beer. That'd be cool". A sign behind the bar advertises Mad Cows (absinthe and red bull) for £4.95, but we steer well clear and find a pair of seats.
It's another student-y type place. A net of lots of small, bright white lights hangs off the wall near where we sit. "Welcome to Café Bar Centro" it says somewhere, "atmosphere without attitude". A neat little comment, but barney declares the atmosphere tonight to be "not particularly outstanding". However, it is a Thursday and there are about a dozen people in (we don't inspect the bar downstairs, which is near the toilets, too closely). There are dark blue tiles in the gents and a piece of chipboard above the urinal - the reasons why are not obvious. We stagger onwards...
Pub 52 - The Wheatsheaf (Oak Street)
Cute little venue - a pool table is available and two pints of Carlsberg cost us £4. The toilets are nothing special, but not too bad. Barney didn't think this place was open any more, but clearly it is, unless this is all a lager-fuelled hallucination. We find out that Liverpool won 1-0. It's quite spacious, but there's hardly anyone here. Mostly old blokes playing pool. Er, the barmaid is quite friendly. And that's it. We find little else to say about the place and leave to go for a joint record ninth beer (matching the very first night of the pub crawl)...
Pub 53 - Gulliver's (Whittle Street, between Oldham Street and Tib Street)
An interesting (limited) choice of lagers on draught prompt us to opt for two pints of Golden Original (£3.60). Karaoke is played in the background as we find a pool table in a deserted area of this (quite large) pub. We could hear it from down the road, in fact. And it starts to get to us, especially after nine pints, as we lose track of the pool score for the night. Spaceman wearily, blearily reckons it might have been shaded by barney. Spaceman prefers the larger American pool tables than the smaller UK-style ones typically encountered tonight. We run out of time (although it is unlikely that we could/would have gone for the big "one-oh") and head off to our respective homes, spaceman lazily flagging down a taxi...