The Central Manchester Slow Pub Crawl - Day 8
Day 8 - Thursday 6th March 2003 (Map)
Pub 54 - Brook's (High Street)
We have a wander around to find where to go at the start of the 8th leg of the pub crawl. Barney mentions the Blob Shop on High Street, but is not sure if it is closed. Well it is open, but it's not called the Blob Shop any more (bit of a relief that). It's now called Brook's. And it's quite large - a big smoky hall. The bar bill sets us back a mere £1.98 for two pints of Fosters. Yep, that's right, 99p a pint of Fosters (or John Smiths for that matter), which is confirmed by the poster opposite our little "booth", and comfortably makes it the cheapest round so far on our tour. And these prices are "all day, every day" apparently. "There's no happy hours... just happy days." The place is full of down to earth Mancunians. And did we say smoky? Our thirst gets the better of us and we finish the beers quite quickly and head off once more on our journey to...
Pub 55 - Simple (Tib Street)
Which is situated on the way to the Northern Quarter. We have the choice of Stella and Hoegaarden on draft, and so we are forced to go for two pints of Stella, costing £5.30. It's definitely a classier place than Brook's (admittedly not difficult). It's quite small - we speculate if there any other floors - and it's quite full, as was Brook's. Looking back, barney comments that there were a surprisingly large number of people hammered in Brook's considering the time (6pm). Two lads are playing chess on an adjacent table, and spaceman can't help but keep a discrete eye on the game, although with a hampered view of proceedings due to a pint of coke. They don't seem that great, though. The menu is standard, nothing special. Barney says that this bar is upmarket for where it is (not the best part of town). And with that, we depart...
Pub 56 - Castle Hotel (Oldham Street)
At first it seems really small, but we discover lots of little rooms, one of which we settle in (called "the Parlour"). Two pints of Carling were £4.20 ("proper Carling glasses at no extra cost" says barney). A bike, TV, video and piano make up the furniture. There's a pool room further along, but it sounds like it's taken. It's another one of those places that makes us feel slightly uncomfortable, like we're not invited. The toilets are 19th century. It's quiet in the Parlour Room (in fact it's only us) but it's reasonably busy otherwise. The bike turns out not to be furniture as the owner comes to collect it. We spot a little window through to the bar which gives the barman the opportunity to keep an eye on the drama. We march on once more...
Pub 57 - The City (Oldham Street)
Straight to the bar as usual, as some guy mutters drunkenly at us as we pass him, and it's two pints of Castlemaine XXXX for £3.20. It's another of those Oldham Street places we'll be glad to see the back of, as some old guy bumps into us as we stand at the bar. We think he was drunk too. Tch. There's a pool table with plenty of cueing room at the far end of the pub as we find a table nearby with a cribbage scoring board screwed on. Classy. Is it games night tonight? A raft of portraits sits on the wall facing us and "some of them aren't bad" opines barney, who wonders aloud who did them.
Barney braves the gents - they're old and forgotten, with no door ("always disconcerting" says barney). Barney starts moaning of being scared, but backs down but says of not returning. There looks like potential dance floor possibilities as the pool table has wheels, there are disco lights and what looks like a covered up DJ area. Slightly confusingly given recent comments, barney (perhaps a little tongue in cheek) wants to do a Salford pub crawl, but spaceman says that a Manchester pub crawl is enough. Disgruntled, barney threatens to set up a breakaway rival website (the rotter) and the best name we come up with is www.spicewomanlemonframer.co.uk (it seemed funnier at the time).
Then the highlight of the night - well for spaceman perhaps, maybe not barney. An old woman, a pissed, toothless old woman, decides to come and chat to us. We can't tell a word she is saying and she grabs hold of barney's hand with a vice-like grip. Barney looks a little uncomfortable. Spaceman doesn't mind as long as it's not spaceman's hand being squeezed by this, quite frankly, mad old lady. Barney asks her if she comes here often (the loon). Spaceman, smirking and with barney looking alarmed, skips off to the toilet. However, barney is still there when spaceman returns, and so is the old woman. Unsurprisingly, barney has finished the beer and is waiting patiently for (a) the woman to let go, and (b) for spaceman to drink up.
We eventually manage to get rid of her (although we're not sure how). She gave up having normal conversation, if you can call it that, and started simply blowing raspberries (perhaps made easier by her lack of teeth, we don't know). We felt that the conversation had deteriorated too far by that time. Shackles off, barney near sprints for the door as the drunk guy from by the door comes past, clicking and dancing and shaking his hands. Run!
Pub 58 - The Burton Arms (Great Ancoats Street)
A small, cosy hotel where two pints of Carlsberg are £3.96 and spaceman is offered a game of pool by some random old guy (it's clearly one of those nights). Not put off by the experiences in the previous pub, spaceman accepts (it seems a nicer place here). In the game, spaceman appears to have the luck as the bloke, who isn't bad, snatches at shots. Barney's expert analysis of the girls behind the bar is: one minger, one nice bird. There's a dartboard which doesn't look to get much action (as there's a table blocking the route to the board).
There's nice, original brickwork, barney comments. Barney's scribbled commentary on the game runs thusly: "spaceman misses an easy black to the corner; so does opponent; spaceman nearly flukes the black into a middle pocket; opponent plays random hit and hope, then wins as spaceman [messes] up. It's then barney's turn up to the table as spaceman takes a seat. The bloke taps his cue on the ground in appreciation after every pot. Barney beats the old guy, then spaceman beats barney. We then move onto the dartboard (restored into action) and barney nicks it. (The game, that is, not the board.) Games over, we move on...
Pub 59 - Smithfield Hotel & Bar (Great Ancoats Street)
It smells of sweat here and two pints of Carling cost £4.20. There's (yet another) pool table and we decide to play again. There aren't many here - mostly old, sweaty people. It figures. There's a weird bit opposite the bar where there's a kitchen behind a counter bit. A chalk menu says, bizarrely, "beers on gravity" (?), but it is otherwise blank. The toilets are a bit of an obstacle course, with one step up, then down (quite confusing, especially if drunk).
Barney states a preference for the previous hotel-type place. Spaceman comments that is is refreshingly free of mad people. We head out and are sucked in by the fish and chip shop opposite. Spaceman opts for cheese and onion pie, chips and gravy and barney orders steak and kidney pie, chips and gravy. It's clearly not a popular place (it's a bit out of town, really) as they (an oriental couple) have to cook the chips from scratch (instead of having some going on the off chance that someone might pop in). Suitably satiated, we carry on down Great Ancoats Street...
Pub 60 - The New Land O' Cakes (Great Ancoats Street)
We get two pints of Carling for £4.40. There's a disco atmosphere, but then the awful sound of karaoke hits us. Thankfully it stops. The toilets aren't bad and there are two pool tables here, but spaceman can't be arsed now. Barney comments on the food menu, saying it is quite cheap and good old fashioned English grub. There are annoyingly flashy lights above the bar. Due to the name of the bar, barney has been waiting (patiently) for some cakes to appear. It also begs the question of where the Old Land O' Cakes was (although doubtless it wasn't called "Old" when it was first built). Not much else to say about the place, really (not in our states, anyway). It's ok...
Pub 61 - The Lord Nelson Hotel (Newton Street/Little Ancoats Street)
We go for one more pub, where two pints of Fosters are £4.40. At some point during the night, we tried the Frog and Bucket, which is a comedy club-type place. The doorman says it is always pay-to-get-in, which according to the official Rules of Engagement, excludes it from our pub crawl. Back to the Lord Nelson Hotel and, yes, there's a pool table! It's actually a cute little place with a good jukebox, but it's not well populated. We steadily finish our eighth beers and head off into the night...