Saturday, November 05, 2011

Manchester - the good and not so good

Manchester is somewhere I have always found to be a good drinking city, and for some reason, somewhere that I have not been round for a while, so yesterday, myself and 'The Train' decided that a revisit was in order. 

Our trip started at the Microbar, in the Arndale Centre. It opens at 11am and is a good place to while away a few minutes a work out a plan of campaign for the rest of the day. Ridgeside 'Stargazer' was the choice of beer here, from the three available, and set the day off well. It is easy to go down to the Northern quarter from here but we decided to leave that till later, and set off towards Salford. A swift half of Stonehenge ' Eyeopener' in the Bank, at the back of Piccadilly Gardens, (part of the Nicholsons chain) and then a short bus ride on the no3  Freebus took us to Salford Central.

A short walk up the road and we were in the New Oxford. This has always been one of my favourite pubs, both for ticks and atmosphere. The atmosphere was still there, and the craic, and the eclectic juke box,but the ticks were missing. Out of 12 beers only 2 were new to us, and neither of these would be classed as exciting, the rest of the beer range was ordinary, but maybe we had just chosen a bad day to visit. However, this gave us more time to explore elsewhere.

Next on the list was the 'Mark Addy', a pub I had visited before just after it had opened earlier in the year, and one we had heard good things about. It is a few minutes walk from the Oxford up the road from Salford Central station towards Manchester on Bridge St, on the right down some stairs, overlooking the river. It was busy when we arrived, with plenty of people eating and sampling the 6 beers on the bar, (well actually 3 as they were running off rapidly). Here, an IPA from Allgates was the choice, hoping something interesting may appear from the taunting pole to fill the gaps. Unluckily for us, they didn't, so it was back out into Bridge St and our next pub.

It is easy to miss the 'Gas Lamp' (50a Bridge St), which is another downstairs pub on the right, with just the small entrance visible from the street. The pub itself is small, but comfortable, with the white tiled walls giving it the feel of a public toilet to some extent, but it was not the worse for that. Here there are 2 beers but we could not complain about the choice with a beer from Geeves and Brodies 'Californian IPA' on the bar. It was one of the beers of the day, a proper Ipa but a bit expensive at £3.80 a pint.

Back into the daylight, and a short ride took us to the northern quarter. First stop was the 'Angel'. This is a pub I cannot make my mind up about. The beer range is ok, but was not exciting yesterday, but it often gets beer from unusual breweries so is worth a call. Here I tried 'Saddleworth Mild', in good nick, but hardly mind blowing. Next was the 'Smithfield' in Swan St. Again a pub that used to be a must visit. Not any more. Even though the place has been decorated, and lost its smell of chip fat, (the kitchen has been made into a seating area), the beer range was average, and the clientele left a lot to be desired. Never mind, we may fare better across the road in the Bar Fringe. But no, another iconic pub for tickers that seems to have gone down to the average beer range. Another swift half and onwards. I did find a cask from the long defunct 'Kitchen' brewery hiding in the beer garden though !

The 'City Arms' on Oldham St did not detain us, their 3 beers not required, and on to the 'Castle' across the street. This is the only Robinsons outlet in the city centre, and has been recently and tastefully, refurbished. Plenty of rooms at the back of the front bar gives the feel of a tardis, and with the full range of Robbys beers on offer we settled with a couple of their specials.

One pub I had not visited but was keen to do so was the 'Port Street Beer House' a mere stones throw from Piccadilly Gardens. I had heard great things about the place, it only drawback is is 4pm opening during the week. The doors duly opened and we were greeted with a range of beer to gladden the heart of any beer drinker. It was just a problem of what to choose from the 8 on offer. I went for Hardknott 'Atomic Narcissus' and East London 'Foundation' - both beers rare around our part of the world, and both in excellent form, although not cheap. The only drawback in the place are the toilets, 3 storeys up ! not so good if you had a few. It is only a 5 minute walk back to Piccadilly station from the pub, so is a good place to finish a wander about before catching a train.

It was quite an eye opener. Some of the pubs I had previously considered 'must visit' places had fallen down the pecking order, to be replaced by other, newer pubs. But, nevertheless, Manchester is still worth a visit, I will be back before too long to sample them again. 



Jibber said...

Having reached the Angel, I think I'd have gone another 100 yards to the Marble Arch!

I notice there's a new Manchester Beer Guide coming out this month - might be worth investing in one.

Tyson said...

I'm afraid Manchester is not really a tickers hotspot anymore. The New Oxford is a shadow of its early days and you may get the odd one at the Angel. But most ticks are to be found spread between the various bars that now offer real ale.

Only the PSBH would count as a definite tickers venue. Hence why a lot of tickers now travel to Chorlton for their fix.

Timbo said...

Jibber...I can see your reasoning about the Marble Arch, good pub but why pay their prices when I can get the same beer in the Grove and pay much less for the privilege. Had we not lived in Huddersfield and had that opportunity the Marble Arch would be one of those must visit places.

dave u said...

funnily enough was in Manc yesterday evening... New Oxford as you say wasn't up to normal standard - though I was there a month or so back and it was on fine form so maybe just luck of the draw...

being Sunday the Beer House/Angel was shut, so carried on to Fringe, not a great range when I arrived - they had a Cottage beer on, which is never a good sign! - but Red Willow Faithless VIII came on just as we were about to leave

didn't even look in Smithfield - used to be my top pub in Manc at one stage, but last couple of visits have been met with a dull beer range, and I share your views on the clientele.

overall, I think Manchester has seriously fallen from grace over the last couple of years - thank goodness I live on the good side of the pennines!

steveg said...

On your recommendation Tim myself, the missis with Tar & Elaine (Mallinsons) tried one or two of the pubs you menioned and we were particularly impressed with "Gaslights" (not "Gas Lamp"...close though!). What a wonderful conversion and steeped in history too. Tara exclaimed that a pub of that nature would be an ideal choice for their first pub! That pricked my ears up I can tell you!!
Beers were pricey though, especially when your used to the Huddersfield pricing regime!