Saturday, October 29, 2011

No. 112 Artichoke

Visited on 27/10/11. This place used to be ‘the Globe’ and is situated just along the canal side from ‘the Old Harkers Arms’ (No. 36). Like Harkers, it’s housed in an old warehouse. Therefore it has that attractive Victorian industrial interior. Maybe it would be a little unfair to describe it as a ‘Harkers-lite’, but, erm that’s exactly what it is. I guess it was easier to keep the big globe from its previous incarnation mounted on the outside of the building than to take it down. Hence the name. Globe – Artichoke ? You see the globe is still relevant. Sort of. I’d have kept the globe as well if it was my boozer – it looks great. I’d have gone for a different name though. ‘Planet Ale’ maybe. Er, maybe not. On the subject of ale, I think it’s fair to say we were all under-whelmed. Some ‘good uns’ were available, including offerings from Tatton and Weetwood, but it was all served too warm. Reminded me of the Mill Hotel in that respect (No. 48). I was also curious as to why all the bar staff were wearing t-shirts with a Russian Vodka brand emblazoned on them – ‘Kutyakokoff’ or summat, so I asked the manager about them. “You know how much these shirts cost us, my man ?” he replied with a smug grin. “Er, let me guess. You’re promoting a brand, so was it nought pounds, nought pence ?” I proffered. He winked and walked away. Yep, smart work big guy. They must be worth less than a tenner each. Personally, I’d have paid a tenner not to have to wear one. T-shirts with slogans - what a naff idea ! The place was busy anyhow and a minor local sleb plus entourage was in da house. I don’t really want to say who it was. However, the nickname ‘Lipson’ might be a clue. See if you can work it out. Answers on a postcard to Granada Reports.

Friday, October 28, 2011

No. 111 The Rectory

Visited on 27/10/11. This place is situated half way along Bell End Walk, right next to the cathedral and is one of Chester’s newer bar/restaurants. I’d love to see the business plan, as I’d have thought ‘customers’ were a sort of prerequisite. However, they seem to be operating quite happily without any. The place was completely empty and when we walked in the barmaid was visibly shocked. Ok, that might have been just because it was us. A hand pump was on the bar with a Flowers IPA pump-clip attached, so we ordered up a round of said beverage. “Oh, that’s not connected,” came the barmaid’s reply. We ordered a round of Bombardier instead (fizzy version), but as she opened the tap to pour the first pint, an empty keg blurted out a little CO2 wet fart. “Oh, (giggle giggle) that’s not working either,” she helpfully explained. “We’ve got cocktails though !” “Great, why didn’t you say ? Why are we messing about with ale ? Three pints of cocktails then please.” She looked a bit uncomfortable. “Only joking. We’ll have three bottles of your finest most Mexican beer.” Ten quid. Ten bleedin’ quid to drink supermarket ale in an empty building ! Setting fire to a tenner, filming it, staring at the camera, saying “I’m mad, me”, then putting it on You-tube would have been more fun. We repaired to the verandah in order to escape from the stifling lack of atmosphere. Surprisingly, it’s quite a nice spot. A gang of male ‘yoot’ then turned up (innit). They asked if there was a DJ on. We laughed and sent them back up the road to Missoulla (No. 110). “There’s deffo a DJ on there”, we assured them. “P-Diddy his name is. P-Diddy David Hamilton.” They looked perplexed as they walked away. Probably hadn’t heard of the great man. Probably wondered why those ‘old guys’ were more hip than they were. Probably.

No. 110 Missoula

Visited on 27/10/11. Bring on the nubiles ! Jesus wept, this was our most difficult mission yet. Two choices; face the room and look like a leering pervert or face the wall and look like a weirdo. I reckon the average age of the CBP is more than double the average age of the clientele in this place, 90% of which appeared to be female. Begs the question, where were all the lads ? Cracking one off at home whilst surfing internet porn sites probably. Possibly. I dunno. What to drink anyhow ? Don’t look along the bar – risk of eye contact. “AAAAGH, that man’s staring at me. PERVERT ! CALL THE POLICE !” Straight ahead – Mexican beer in the fridge – we’ll have that. Quick look around. Phew, got away with it. Shorts seem to be popular in here. That’s the garment, not the beverage grouping. “PERVERT !” Oh shit. Glug, glug. Time to go.

No. 109 The Living Room

Visited on 27/10/11. The logical next step after finding your way up the back passage to ‘Duttons’ is to pop into ‘the Living Room’ via the rear entrance. (Apologies - even I’m getting bored with this now !) I remember this place as a late night bar cum ‘discotheque’ – but that was about twenty years ago. Jesuz, I can even remember it as ‘Joe’s Wine Bar’. Them were the days*. Anyhow, it looks as if it’s been refurbished recently - and guess what ? Lo and friggin’ behold, it’s been gastrofied. Upstairs where all the dancing, groping and fighting took place, there’s now a neat array of tables. Rocket munchers everywhere. “Can I help you sir ?”, an overpolite waitress enquired. “I doubt it”, I replied as I descended the stairs. Apparently there’s a 3rd floor to this place which is set to be a nightclub – the grand opening will be attended by, and get this, a Stoke City first team footballer AND all his mates. That’s THE Stoke City. Yep. This ‘exclusive’ came from the world’s most annoying barman - a twenty-something oik who we tried to engage in conversation. He responded by slagging off the ale in ‘Duttons’ (which was actually ok) before declaring that they didn’t serve cask ale themselves. Furthermore he insisted that keg ale was better in any case. This was an education. We drank the keg. It was shite. He then started doing all that cretinous cocktail bar bottle juggling stuff, despite the fact that nobody was actually buying any cocktails. The tit. A Stoke City player though ? Impressive.

* The superb but now sadly defunct Chester City fanzine, 'the Onion Bag' once described Joe's Wine Bar as follows: '...features 'wall to wall' seafood smells' & '...is a haven for the purple-headed womb warrior'. Indeed. 

No. 108 Duttons

Visited on 27/10/11. Finbarr Saunders’ ‘up the back passage’ line has already been over-used on this blog, so I’ll make no comment about ‘Duttons’ location*. Famous for being a favourite venue of the ‘mature carouser’**, unfortunately it seems to have followed the current trend towards gastro-isation. Whereas previously it was a bar with a menu available, now it’s a restaurant with a drinking area. Tea-light laden tables fill most of the available space and the thinly scattered clientele consisted mainly of bored couples staring at each other over plates of rocket and things served with a jus. There’s more to life than this, people ! Two real ales are available here and we went for the Lees bitter (can’t remember what the other one was). It was ok. We had another in fact. Party on.

*   It’s up the back passage
** Male: Ageing sleazeball. Female: Mutton dressed as lamb

Friday, October 21, 2011

Interlude 2: CBP T-shirts

This is something we'll probably never get round to doing. However, if we ever do, we'll need an appropriate slogan. I might post some possibilities later (if I can think of any). Meanwhile, if anyone's got any suggestions, please feel free to post in the comments.

Updated - I've been having a think. What d' yer reckon ?

'METROSEXUALISTA'

'URBAN SOPHISTICADO'

'KEEP THE RIFF-RAFF IN !'

'FRIG OFF !'

'SHITEHOLES AHOY !'

'BLUSTERINGLY QUAFFULESCENT'

'YOU WANT SOME ACTION HOMBRE ?'

'ALE: IT'S NOT FOR PONCES'

'FLAVOURSOME WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE'

'MINE’S A GUATEMALAN CAIPIRINHA'

'TRAMPS, ALKIES, PISS-ARTISTS, LOAFERS, SLUGGARDS, JACKANAPES, PUTTERERS, MISCREANTS, SUNDRY NE’ER-DO-WELLS'

'RHEUM ONE-O-ONE: MEMBERS ONLY'

[No blog this week by the way - we're having a week off because some of us are going to the Chester CAMRA beer festival tonight. Taste buds to the fore casketeers !]

Sunday, October 16, 2011

No. 107 The Amber Lounge

Visited on 13/10/11. Formerly the Deva hotel, this place underwent ponsification about ten years ago to emerge in it’s current form. Initially it was called ‘the Room’ before becoming ‘the Amber Lounge’, when presumably it was bought by a chain (there’s another one in Knutsford). The transformation mainly involved lashing white paint over every internal surface including the original Elizabethan beams and fireplace – it’s tantamount to vandalism to be honest. Lord knows how they were allowed to do that to a listed building. And to what end ? The place is utterly devoid of soul. It was practically empty, an appalling pub singer was crucifying songs in the corner and there was no real ale. We drank keg tiger and left. Tick.

Friday, October 14, 2011

No. 106 Watergates

Visited on 13/10/11. Bouncers – dontcha just love ‘em ? “Sorry gents, you can’t come in.” “You what ?” “You can’t come in, it’s ‘students’ night.” “That’s ageist.” “It’s students night, you won’t like it” “Listen Cletus, we are the friggin’ Chester Beer Project. We ARE coming in and if you don’t stand aside friggin’  PRONTO, we’ll blog this place into oblivion. Capiche ?” Ok that wasn’t quite how the conversation unfolded, but we managed to get in by pretending to walk off then sneaking behind the be-suited knuckle-dragger’s back while he was looking the other way. Devious eh ? I’m reliably informed by my compadres that we drank pints of Kronenberg in here – that’s grade A ‘fighting grade’ chemical lagerbeer. Lovely. The music was so loud that my ears started to bleed. We had a quick look at ‘Chester’s only roof-top terrace’, accessed via a stairway at the back of the downstairs bar – big friggin' deal, then left, pausing momentarily on the way out to marvel at the amazing gothic ceiling. What a waste of 13th century architecture. Horrible place – full of students.

No. 105 D' Meltin' Pot

Visited on 13/10/11. The reason we couldn’t specify the precise number of pubs in Chester when we embarked upon this odyssey back in February is that we don’t know how many there are. We keep finding new places - and ‘D’ Meltin’ Pot’ is a good example. We didn’t know it existed until we walked past it en route from ‘the Havana’ to ‘Watergates’. What’s with the name anyhow – is it some sort of street patwa jive-speak thang ? With a name like that, you might be led to believe that this place would be really hard edged, hip and happenin’ (innit) - where pounding dub-step, fylth and grime would cause your eyeballs to resonate in their sockets. On the contrary though – it appears to be quite straight laced. On the upper level a laydees fashion show was taking place and as we stood there supping keg Tetley’s, they all began to leave en masse, filing sedately past, carrying their new purchases. It was like a tsunami of crimplene and tweed. Hmm, fragrant.

No. 104 The Havana Cocktail Bar

Visited on 13/10/11. This place used to be a gay nightclub called ‘Connections’ and is situated below street level in an ancient cellar with a fantastic barrel vaulted brick ceiling. Maybe it’s a sign of age when you find the architecture of a bar more interesting than the other ‘attractions’ on offer, although there was certainly plenty of ahem, ‘talent’ present as well ! These days ‘the Havana’ is a formula cocktail bar serving, well, cocktails. Fortunately though, they also sell beer – but only in bottles. We’d done the cocktail thing at the last place, so ordered up a round of ‘Pacifico’, which to be honest, I’d never heard of. The barman informed us that it was the best beer they sold though – and it was also the cheapest (three English pounds per single bottle and it was the friggin’ cheapest !) It’s Mexican. It was alright. Fruit can be stuffed into the bottle neck to hide the lack of taste if required. To be honest, the atmosphere in here is alright as well. Unlike many similar places, you don’t get your brain mashed by pounding dance music and can actually have a conversation. Probably changes at the weekend like.

No. 103 The Waikiki Bar

Visited on 13/10/11. This place is tiny – probably used to be an antique shop or summat. Now it’s been transformed into a Hawaii style beach bar with an additional pirate theme. Hang on a minute though - weren’t pirates primarily in operation around the Caribbean, rather than the mid Pacific ?? No matter. To add to the amalgam the place seems to be owned and staffed by Asians. It’s a bit of a mish-mash then, to say the least. The d├ęcor is brash and garish by and large but we all agreed the dried puffer fish lampshades were actually quite cool. Only bottled beer is available, so we went for a round of ‘Red Stripe’, the famous Hawaiian beer from Jamaica, now brewed in Southampton. Then we thought bollocks to it - ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’ and ordered up a round of cocktails – ‘Pirate’s Grog’ to be precise – a beverage principally consisting of rum and erm, water, served over ice in a dimple pint pot – with a straw obviously. No umbrella though. Or cherry. Another group in there at the time were drinking some hideous concoction with straws from a shared brass chalice. Horrible – what if someone inadvertently (or deliberately) yocks down the straw ? Or worse !? Loved the pirate theme anyhow, although maybe they could give it a bit more impact and a modern twist by employing Somalis as barmen. Just a thought.

No. 102 Bar Lounge

Visited on 13/10/11. Who the frig are ‘the men of trees’ ? Well, I’ll tell you who they are (because I’ve just googled them) – they are men who plant trees, that’s who. And back in 1969 they planted the two beautiful lime trees adjacent to this slick city centre pub in order to commemorate Prince Charles’ 21st birthday. Strange but true. Anyhow, the trees are the main reason the patio area is so attractive and why this is such a great place to meet up at the start of a night out. Right, that’s the good stuff out of the way. Now for the bad. Frankly, I find it unfathomable that an otherwise excellent pub doesn’t do real ale. If it did, it would be one of the best pubs in Chester – provided a couple of other details could be addressed as well. Firstly, pints require beermats, not friggin’ napkins. Also, the name’s rubbish – ‘Bar Lounge’ – what the frig is that ? I don’t think the target market of metrosexualists, sophisticados and northern dandys would be alienated or even perturbed if a more traditional pub name was adopted. Like for instance, I dunno, ‘the Axe tavern’ maybe. I’m sure ‘the men of trees’ would approve.

No. 101 Rheum

Visited on 13/10/11. Well I had to rub my eyes. We began our night of poncing along Watergate street with a visit to this ‘exclusive’ establishment. It’s an absolute nightmare to find – but believe me, an even bigger nightmare once you arrive ! Built in the mid 1980s and run by a dodgy sounding organisation called ‘the Ministry of Love’, it appears to be a theme pub dedicated to the very worst aspects of modern British drinking culture. Obviously there’s no real ale – just tasteless foreign bottled beer. Glasses aren’t provided and fruit stuffed into the bottle neck is compulsory. A karaoke was scheduled for later in the evening but oddly, this would have been a relief from the repeats of ‘Big Brother’ that were constantly being looped on the massive TV screens hanging from every wall. How could I best describe the experience ? ‘Double-plus ungood’ I suppose. (Not as bad as the amphitheatre bar (No. 76) though).

Friday, October 7, 2011

No. 100 The Ship Victory

Visited on 6/10/11. To commemorate our century we decided to spend the night in just one pub - we've been holding back a couple of ‘good uns’ for just such auspicious occasions (obviously our final pub will have to be a decent boozer as well – can you guess what it is yet ?*). However, on the way out, we noticed that ‘the Railway Arms’ (No. 72) was open ! Naturally, we had to call in, having failed on three previous occasions – see comments section under that pub’s entry. Anyhow, after battling through some wild weather we finally arrived at ‘the Ship’ just in time to take part in the quiz. The first priority though was to set up a round of Tetley bitter – a traditional ale that can be insipid in the wrong hands, but when handled correctly is magnificent. It was magnificent. It always is here, because this is an old school boozer run by an old school landlord who knows his stuff (take a bow Joe). As you might expect, we assumed we’d win the quiz, but eventually finished third out of ahem, five teams. I don’t think we’ll be worrying the ‘Eggheads’ any time soon ! Shortly after the quiz finished, about twenty members of the ‘funny handshake’ brigade arrived - straight from the lodge and all looking splendid in their black ties. They got the ale in and started playing darts. It was ‘the knights templar of the blue grotto’ versus ‘the fragrant order of imperial wizards’. I asked what the score was at one point. The ‘chief banana hoo-ha-ha’ said he couldn’t tell me – it was a secret (wey-hey !) – and added, “you don’t know who I am !” Fair dos (he was right – I didn’t). I can’t remember there being a last orders bell at any point. I just remember looking at my watch and it was half past midnight ! I had to go, so exited stage left leaving the other CBPers behind. Lord knows what time they got out – I’ve not spoken to them since. Perhaps they’re still there.

*famous people on the toilet #148: Rolf Harris © VIZ