Mar 17 2015
Blame Coneygree. Yes, blame a horse. It was the horse’s fault that I was out last Saturday. For those NOT in the know, Coneygree won the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup. And I backed it, along with 4 other winners. So I fancied a pint. And a trip down memory lane.
It’s all too easy to go in the same pubs all the time. I’m as guilty as anybody else. But on this night, I wanted something different to the usual comfortable “same old”. So in a week of new beery launches (think Cloudwater and Piccadilly Tap), it felt right to check, take a step back in time and…you know…appreciate what we’ve already got.
So, when I met the Arch Nemesis, within striking distance of Port Street Beer House, we turned right – onto Dale Street – and kept walking. To somewhere far less vaunted. But a Manchester jewel.
The Jolly Angler – Ducie Street
It seems to me that my visits to this pub are separated by decades, which saddens me. This is one of the smallest pubs in Manchester and – given it’s location adjacent to the rapidly redeveloping Piccadilly Basin – is precisely the kind of pub that we could lose.
Walking in, the first thing that I noticed was the absence of the old pool table. A shame, but it really opens up the place, allowing a few more tables. The next thing was, just how bloody friendly the place was, both mine host and the punters around the bar were just so warm and welcoming! Which was quite a surprise, given that this is a “Blue” pub and we walked in just one minute from the end of the Burnley v City match and City were 1-0 down! The sound of a title challenge flowing down the drain…… Banter was exchanged whilst beers were ordered.
Located at the junction of Ducie Street and Pigeon Street, properly tucked away in the shadows of Piccadilly Basin’s flats and warehouses, there has been a pub on this site for over 125 years and (according to the excellent resource ManchesterHistory.Net) it is positioned on the site of a former school. I’ve seen it described as an “Irish pub”. It isn’t. It has had (and may still have) Irish folk running it – it certainly has the kind of friendly welcome I associate with true Irish pubs from over the water.
A single room is almost split in two by the entry door and – as a result – curves around the entrance with table either side. The bar is small and the sole cask beer is Hydes Original. The Arch-Nemesis ordered two pints and we sat down to admire its charms and it IS charming. Did I say it was tiny? This is just a bright uncluttered pub with the accent on conversation. And a decent pint. The Hydes Original just did the trick. Nice bitterness with a bit of spicy orange fruit in there. And at £2.70 a pint, is this the cheapest standard pint in Manchester (outside of a Wetherspoons)?.
This is a classic old school pub, the likes of which seem to be disappearing. More people need to experience pubs like this. It’s a thing of beauty and overlooked by those who prefer the hipster chic of nearby Northern Quarter bars. This is real Manchester. My City. And I adore it all the more.
The Bulls Head – Jct of London Road / Fairfield Street
A 5 or 6 minute walk back along Ducie Street, turning left along London Road and past the – still stunning – historic London Road Fire Station, lies a grander proposition.
Located on an unusual triangular plot, extremely handy for Piccadilly Station being just 60 seconds walk from the Fairfield St entrance, this is another open plan, single roomed effort. Lots of wood, really decorative and ornate, Victorian style lighting. Just to the left of the entrance is a strange, attractive small raised seating area. Quirky.
According to the pubs’ own website, there has been a pub on this site since 1787, whilst according to the goldmine that is “Pubs Of Manchester“, 1786 is quoted both of which would make it one of Manchester’s oldest boozers. It is safe to say that it has seen the city reshaped around it, Fairfield Street itself didn’t exist and appears to have crashed through adjoining buildings, leaving the Bulls Head in splendid isolation.
The beer….is (tonight) entirely comprised of beers from the Marstons stable of breweries. I plumped for a beer that I’ve sampled on my frequent trips to Hampton Loade, Sumbeam by Banks’. And it was lovely. Refreshing, Marmaladey and just the right amount of bitterness.
Not as intimate as The Jolly Angler perhaps, but an impressive pub nonetheless. Some accommodation coming soon apparently, will make a pleasant change to all the faceless hotels that Manchester seems to have.
Crossing back over Fairfield Street and returning along London Road to Gore Street….
The Waldorf – Gore Street
Turning left onto Gore Street feels almost like stepping back in time. That said, I’d forgotten how close this pub was to London Road.
Big and open – again, single roomed – pub. Lots of wood. 3 sided bar with the usual macro suspects. 4 handpumps, 3 in use. Landlord, Doom Bleurgh….and…..Phoenix White Monk! Oh the joy!
Formerly the Woseley Hotel (source Pubs of Manchester & others), ManchesterHistory.Net doesn’t give it an age, but this MUST be over 100 years old and it was (in 1929 – source Pubs of Manchester) called The Woseley Hotel having been so named in 1883 changing to its current name in 1929.
Lots of wood in evidence. Looks like the Waldorf has escaped being knocked about unlike some nearby pubs, it retains a certain Mancunian charm.
Sparsely populated this particular evening, there was a particularly refreshed individual hovering close to the jukebox who seemed to have a love of 90s indie music. Am I the only person who thinks that great music by-passed the 90s?
The beer was in good nick though. Nice to see Phoenix on the pumps, a brewery I see all too rarely in Manchester these days.
Cutting across toward Chorlton Street – since WHEN did Stagecoach enclose the entrance to the bus station with barriers ??? – we headed toward two of the smallest pubs in town, almost side by side on Portland Street….
The Circus Tavern – Portland Street
Back in the 80s & 90s, the only way that you could get in The Circus after 7pm at the weekend was (so legend has it) via a little known entrance via the rear. It is, indeed, tiny. The size of the bar is legendary and for many years, all you could get was Tetley Bitter – no lager or cider to be had.
It was THAT busy, that I couldn’t take pictures. This pub is….narrow…..and tight!
The corridor is incredibly narrow. It is always full though as both of the rooms that are on the right hand side rarely seem to have a spare seat. This is a pub that, when people get a seat, they keep it. Again, lots of wood and plenty of original features. The pub is rated as having an interior of National importance by CAMRA and is indeed Grade II listed.
I see no reason to doubt the excellent “Pubs of Manchester” blog, which dates the pub at 1790. The pub has attained legendary status with its diminutive nature perversely attracting more customers and is rated by many as one of Manchester’s “must visit” attractions.
The pub is dominated by pictures of Celebrities (real Manchester “A” listers) that have visited over the years, although – being a blue – there was something quite disturbing about a semi-naked George Best seemingly watching me while I drank my pint! I had the Robinsons “Dizzy Blonde” which was, according to Jaz was the lesser of the two, with Tetley’s winning out.
Just a door away….
The Grey Horse – Portland Street
Almost as narrow as The Circus, The Grey Horse has a single roomed layout, and – as such – feels considerably more spacious.
The Horse has the feel of a local in the big city. Single roomed, as stated, this has what I think may be a unique feature in Manchester, toilets that are semi – outdoor. Quirky, but the entrance area is covered unlike in the 80s.
Two Hydes pubs tonight. Both feel really welcoming and friendly. The Grey Horse being considerably the more busy, no doubt being on Portland Street helps in that regard.
Again, mainly Hydes’ beers with a rare sighting of Butcombe Bitter as a guest in Manchester, I had Hydes’ Beer Studio offering “Styrian Aurora”. Vast improvement on the Robbies from next door, if not exactly the highest of praise, it was a good fruity beer with a bitter edge. Justly busy and with all the noise down just to conversation. A joy.
This was an early finish, so we scooted across town for a couple in The Crown & Kettle, my favourite Manchester pub. I won’t wax lyrical about the pub, but the Squawk IPA (Cluster Galena Chinook) at £2.95 and 6.3% was absolutely stunning. I had to have 2!
Whilst Manchester has several justly lauded hostelries, it’s always the unheralded pubs like The Jolly Angler that appeal most to me. In the words of “Two Cousins” by Slow Club “Hold on to where you’re from, it’s where your heart goes when you’re done”. Thanks, as before, to two great repositories of pub information, Pubs Of Manchester (go follow on Twitter!) & Manchester History. Net – without whom…..
“They took all the trees, put ’em in a tree museum.
And they charged all the people a dollar and a half just to see ’em”
(“Big Yellow Taxi” – Joni Mitchell)
(Clip courtesy “musicben2” on You Tube)
Why the tune?
a) Recently included it on a mix tape, and
b) Sums up my feelings about the need to appreciate things while you still have them. Like the pubs above.
I’m not anti-progress, just think that forwards is the not the only direction! We have some truly great pubs in this great city, like the Jolly Angler.
In the week that Piccadilly Tap opens a few hundred yards away, I know where MY heart lies.
See you soon.