RATINGS * - AVOID ** NOT BAD *** GOOD **** EXCELLENT ***** THE BEST OF THE BEST.
It may be apparent that I spend a lot of time in pubs, clubs, night-clubs and café bars in Manchester. My liver hasn't shown signs of desire to surrender yet, so here is a summary of what I think are the best and some of the worst places to go to the pub in our fair city.
ALTER EGO * 105, Princess Street, Manchester – Formerly known as Muttz Nuttz, the cellar nightclub is dark, badly laid out and serves draught beer in cans with accompanying plastic bendy glasses. Ghastly venue that sometimes hosts good shows.
BAR FRINGE ***** – Swan Street. Manchester. An excellent range of real ales and world beers that constantly changes, in a small compact pub with one of the best juke-boxes available. The décor is fantastic, and you always notice something new to look at. Most spectacular is the motorbike over the doorway, as you enter.
THE BEN BRIERELY - Moston Lane / Kenyon Lane, Moston, Manchester. *** A pub named after a local dialect poet, (even Shakespeare doesn't get buses heading to a terminus named after his pubs). Sadly, apart from the picture of Ben on the sign outside, the bar has nothing left of the once extensive archive of material about him, which was largely thrown out and sent to local libraries. This inspired my own best known poem, Ben Brierley The pub is now rather nondescript and just like any other. The pub has now closed down.
BIG HANDS ***** Oxford Road student favourite with a
great range of beers, and terrific live music performances.
THE BLACK LION **** Blackfriar’s Road, Salford – reopened after a long closure, this spacious pub has a large central bar and lots of side rooms. A good upstairs performance space too. Goood service and choices of food / ale
BOOKBINDERS ***** Minshall St, Long standing nightclub, with a very good live cabaret staging area, and terrific friendly service. Serves Thwaites's on draught and food available on some nights.
THE BRASS CAT *** Deansgate, Bolton. Unusually named bar with a disappointing lack of real ales but a very relaxed friendly atmosphere and very good quality pub grub to compensate for it.
THE BRITON'S PROTECTION ***** A terrific pub with a very dark interior, and lots of small cubby rooms around a bar with little room to move in its immediate vicinity. The Briton's has a fantastic collection of hundreds of whiskeys and bourbons, and even gives you a checklist to see which ones you wish to try next. There is also a fine upstairs room for poetry readings and other literary and acoustic music events.
CAFE SAKI *** Unusual bar mainly accessed by fire
escape, on Wilmslow Road, Rusholme, near Whitworth Park above the Saki Bar
Indian restaurant - a place for low key gigs and poetry performance. The bar
lacks any draught beers, let alone real ales, but as performance space it is
THE CASTLE ***** Oldham Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester. Large real ale bar, with the strong (8%) Old Tom served in half pint measures only, though you could buy two halves which rather defeats the object of the exercise. A great venue for meeting friends and for live music, with one of the best juke boxes in Manchester.
THE CIRCUS TAVERN **** One of the smallest pubs in Britain, therefore limited in its drinks range, but still manages to present a fine pint of Tetleys. http://www.dooyoo.co.uk/pubs-bars-national/the-circus-tavern/1020942/
THE CITY ARMS **** A pleasant City Centre back street bar with a pleasant traditional old fashioned feel. The floor is carpet free and there are witty quotations on many walls. A wide selection of ales also awaits. As traditional a city centre boozer as it’s possible to find, with fine ales, eccentric patrons, aften quiet atmosphere, and great décor. Check out the carved frontage over the main entrance (outside) – it’s pure art.
THE COMMERCIAL ***** – Liverpool Street, Manchester A traditional pub close to the science museum, and what was the World’s first railway station. Note the soft furnishing comfort within and the two different images of its pub sign outside.
CORBIERES ***** An easily overlooked bar in a downstairs cellar off St. Anne's Square, with a Batcave look, and a fantastic juke box and a very extensive pub grub menu.
THE CORNERHOUSE ***** Cinema, with a restaurant and an excellent bar with very posh leather sofas that you can sink into, and a wide range of international beers to choose from. It's easy to forget about seeing a film once you've tried the bar out.
THE CROWN AND ANCHOR **** – Hilton Street, Manchester City Centre. A traditional and friendly boozer, with a variety of ales and lagers, and pub grub, Location for the meetings of the FONT Science Fiction Group every other Thursday
THE DEAN BROOK INN, * Dean Lane, Moston, Manchester. A few years ago, this bar would have gained its full five stars, but Marstons Brewery have slowly priced the beers too highly, killing its once lively atmosphere stone dead. and the regular local clientele have drifted away leaving the place largely deserted. It's sad to see a once mighty pub reduced to such a sorry state. You can now watch the tumbleweeds rolling round the floor.
THE ENGLISH ROSE **** Spacious and with lots of quiet areas for drinking in private intimacy, this is a pub with style and lots of lovely beers, with a separate dining area. The bar is unrecognizable from when it was the Hogshead and vastly improved from when it first opened under its new name.
FAB CAFÉ ***** 111. Portland Street, Manchester web site www.fabcafe.co.uk Head up from Piccadilly towards Oxford Road, FAB is on the same side of Portland Street as Yates's but further up, just past the Ashoka Indian restaurant. If you reach Oxford Road where Macdonald's is you've gone too far. Watch the road here, its lethal. For me, FAB is the supreme night-spot in Manchester, the Cult Movies and TV Show theme bar, adorned with film and TV memorabilia from many a happy childhood, Daleks (one full sized) a an Ice Warrior, all the Thunderbird craft hanging from the ceiling, and scores of often signed photographs of many a film and TV star. But it’s the unique camaraderie between customers and staff that really makes FAB work for me - regular attendees seem to virtually live there, which is not surprising with god real guest ales at reasonable bar prices in a club that charges no admission fees most nights and stays open club hours. Great DJ's Melanie Angel, Max (James) Oblivion, and Clint Boon, (singer and former keyboard player/lyricist for The Inspiral Carpets) have DJ'd here. Film nights are cool too on Sundays, with many banned movies and unreleased films premiering there for free. Good films elicit a stunned hush throughout followed by riotous applause from the SF and Cult TV fans present, while the occasional so-bad its good film, attracts healthy heckling and proves entertaining in ways it could never achieve on the big Odeon screens. FAB throw many fantastic parties too, often with invited guests, and extremely alcoholic home-made punch. Guests at FAB have included Gerry Anderson of Thunderbirds fame), Robert Vaughn, Gareth Thomas (who did the four official opening ceremonies and who's taste for cider has to be seen to be believed) Real life Cosmonauts from the MIR Space station, Richard O Brian of Crystal Maze and Rocky Horror show legend, Sophie Aldred, (Ace in Doctor Who), and the now late great Michael Sheard, who played Mr. Bronson in Grange Hill, and got killed by Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back. FAB folk often dress up for the night, especially at Halloween, so don't be surprised if the Klingons invade. It's just amazing, honest. FAB CAFE My Space page - http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=65811717
THE GOTHIC BAR GRILL ** (Gatley, Cheshire). This sounds a lot more exciting than it is, a former church converted into a Gothic hedonistic bar? Half right, - it is a former church, but it is completely lacking in Gothic ambience. It looks like any other bar - just one with a few remaining traces of its former existence. It's far too well lit for a Gothic bar, and there was little evidence of food on sale at lunchtimes - hardly recommended for a bar that promotes itself on its grill.
JILLY'S (ROCKWORLD) *** A rock music night-club with three distinct clubs inside all playing different kinds of music, Friday night is best for the Goth bar, in the dance section known to regulars as The Goldfish Bowl. They open until 7 AM most Fridays. Formerly Fagins night-club, and though officially Jilly's it will always be Rockworld for most visitors.
THE LASS O' GOWRIE **** 34, Charles Street, Manchester - off oxford Road, close to the BBC GMR Studios, a great pub with beer you can't buy anywhere else as they brew it right there on the premises - you can see future beers fermenting in the glass-viewed cellar's below. Good strong beer too, ordered by number, so the higher the number, the more legless you'll get. Good pub grub at lunchtimes too.
THE LIGHTBOWNE HOTEL * Lightbowne Road/ Sulby Street Moston, Manchester. Huge pub, and once one of the best in North Manchester, but more recently it has become notorious. A barmaid called Wanda Skala who worked here was brutally murdered on her way home from here in the late 1970's. The pub ran into terminal decline after a brief closure due to bad kitchen management led to a cockroach infestation and closure by Health department officialdom. Though now open again, it tends to have only a fraction of its former charm.
KRO BAR *** Oxford Road, Manchester – Large, popular student bar, with lots of drink choices and fine service. Its proximity to bank ATM
machines is very useful for when the cash supplies deplete. A bar in which it is easy to get too comfortable.
THE MARBLE ARCH ***** Fantastic real ale bar in North Manchester, with some of the best selections of ales available in the city short of a beer festival.
THE MARBLE BEER HOUSE, **** Manchester Road, Chorlton – Lovely real ale bar, rather narrow indoor seating area, with a nice drinking area just outside for in the Summer months.
THE MARK ADDY ***** Salford Irwell side pub with some great beers and a long saloon bar as well as outside seating by the river. Named after a life-saving hero of the waterways – his portrait is on the wall inside.
THE MITRE HOTEL *** - Near the Cathedral again, it is a residential hotel with a decent, but sometimes expensive bar wit Karaoke on some weekends.
THE MOON UNDER WATER *** A Wetherspoons pub and very like the one mentioned below in most ways, though with outdoor seating in Summer months.
THE MUSEUM * Moston Lane, Moston, Manchester. A pub with a troubled history for late night violence. There was a brief name change to Zoots, but now it has reverted to its original identity, but its reputation of old tends to linger. Now closed
NIGHT AND DAY ***** Oldham Street, city centre. Major
Northern Quarter performance venue.
THE OLD COCK **** Middleton, North Manchester. A converted farm house, with scythes and seed boxes and other tools of yesteryear on the walls, but a very spacious spread out bar with a modern line in comfort. Despite selling John Willie Lees (the Devil's own urine of bitters), due too proximity to the brewery, this is a lovely pub, with very high standards in food catering.
THE OLD MONKEY **** Opposite side of Portland Street to FAB Café, and a bit closer to Chinatown, A very traditional Irish bar, with very cheap Holts's beer and lots of lively characters. Good to call in on if a little too early too early for FAB to open.
THE OLD WELLINGTON INN * Located as above, and even older than its neighbour, Sinclair's Oyster Bar- easy to get mixed up when meeting people by going in the wrong bar, but both well worth visiting. The Old Wellington is one of the oldest pubs in Manchester, and a survivor of the IRA bombing of the city, despite close proximity to the epicentre of the blast. The bouncers tend to be intolerant of people with political flyers and banners. An Anti War in Iraq protester was beaten up here in front of his wife and child by an over-zealous bouncer. The incident was reported on TV at the time. Hence the low rating given to an otherwise fine bar.
ODD BAR ***** Thomas Street, Northern Quarter. A communal bar, with excellent art displays, and a popular live entertainment venue. Loud acoustics ideal for live music make ordinary conversations around you become something of a babel. Quiet juke box and a very small downstairs drinking area.
THE PITCHER AND PIANO *** Near the Bridgewater Hall. Set back down the steps towards the canal, with a lovely waterfront outside seating area over a steep banked stretch of the water. The pub serves basic Boddingtons Bitter, but some of the best pub grub around. They do however have a frustrating tendency to close without warning on days when you feel like heading there.
THE RAILWAY INN *** Dean Lane, Moston, Manchester. Sited in some isolation close to Dean lane Railways station and the Railway stock repair and maintenance yards of Newton Heath. The bar is an old fashioned boozer with good live entertainment at weekends, and a carpet free floor. The Holts's ales are among the cheapest and strongest in Manchester.
THE RED LION **** Atherton An oasis in a dreadfully dull town, serving non-real ales but also selling some terrific low cost pub grub. The staff are very friendly and helpful too.
THE ROYAL OAK HOTEL * Manchester Road, Chorlton – Large, rather anonymous bar. I walked in, moved entirely round the large central bar, and though not particularly busy, they failed to notice me or serve me. I felt like a ghost. Though a Green King brewery bar, all I saw on sale were lagers. I walked out without getting any attention at all.
SAINT LUKE'S SOCIAL CLUB **** Sulby Street, Moston, Manchester. Open generally to non-members of the club and the church, with lots of live entertainment at weekends, and a heavily used pool room. Not a great range of bitters, but they keep them well, and it's not a bad place for a night out at all.
THE SALISBURY **** Off Oxford road, near the Oxford Road Train station, past the Cornerhouse Cinema, a well loved student bar, also attracting many bikers and people straying from FAB for a brief change of scenery.
SATAN’S HOLLOW ***** – Nightclub owned by the FAB Café team, a very gothic dark atmosphere, with trendy, sometimes live music and excellent beer promotions. Definitely the best place to go at Halloween.
THE SEDGE LYNN ***** Wetherspoons, Manchester Road, Chorlton.- One of the best bars in the Wetherspoons chain, conveniently located next door to Chorlton Library, in a very stylish building.
THE SHAKESPEARE *** 16 Fountain Street, off Market Street, down the side of Lewis's Department store - authentic Elizabethan bar with good range of beers to choose from. It can get very crowded in here though. The pub has a reputation for being haunted, and says so in a plaque posted on the exterior wall.
SINCLAIRS OYSTER BAR **** Another very old pub, but one that has been moved three times by being physically picked up and relocated in a new place. It moved when the atrocity exhibition called the Arndale Centre was erected, and again when the city centre was rebuilt after the IRA almost did us the favour of demolishing the aforementioned atrocity exhibition. It is now located close to the Cathedral, next door and attached to the Old Wellington Inn which is even older and got shipped around too. Nice multi-floored bar, with awesome food selection, and yes, they do sell oysters. It is also easily located behind the new Marks and Spencers store with the funny windmills and semi-underground fountains. Nice to sit outside on the walls or makeshift fenced beer garden in Summer.
SOUP KITCHEN ***** Stevenson Square, Manchester city centre Communal seating with great food. I had a curried lentil soup with all the bread I wanted. Great beers too.
THE SPREAD EAGLE, ***** Holts’s Chorlton Large pub, approached by steep steps, and an easy bar to lose your bearings in moving from bar or loos to where you were sitting. Great beer and a very friendly atmosphere though.
THE TALBOT –** Atherton Fine, large, spacious bar on the edge of a sprawling, ever growing unimaginative housing estate. Fine pub, but in a poor location.
THE TEMPLE OF CONVENIENCE **** 101, Great Bridgwater Street, again heading up Oxford Road towards the Salisbury. Truly Unique bar which was once the gents public lavatories for Oxford Road, and still carries much of that style in its décor, but it’s a small, yet lively pub - it can get cramped in there, but worth trying at least once. Bizarrely though the pub toilets here are very badly managed.
THE THIRSTY SCHOLAR ** Similar to its next door neighbour the Salisbury but lacking the character of the other, and has a large annoying widescreen TV for football matches.
WATERHOUSES *** Princess Street / Cooper Street, Manchester City Centre. A better than average Wetherspoons house, with a warren of little rooms around the main bar area. You need a trail of breadcrumbs to find your way back tot he room you left to go to the loo or the bar. Service is quite good here, and proximity to Albert Square makes it easy to reach.
WETHERSPOONS * The main branch of the Wetherspoons brewery chain of pubs is on Piccadilly, between Nobles games arcade, and Piccadilly railway station, and very easy to find straight from city centre buses. Be sure not to confuse it with the Moon Under Water or other Wetherspoons bars in the city centre though. Large groups of people can find Wetherspoons constrictive, especially if they all want to sit together, as the pub has recently moved towards more and yet smaller furnishings. The pub also has a habit of closing for early Saturday evenings to avoid the passing football crowds that go through the area when City or United play at home, or there has been a cup final somewhere. Wetherspoons food menus are great though. The name is unimaginative and confusing, as people looking for the bar to rendezvous with friends find themselves directed to other Wetherspoons bars. The bar also has a tendency to promote beers that it keeps in small stock, so that of five real ales on offer, only two are actually available at any given time. Service can be slow, as staff are often overwhelmed by the numbers of people in the bar. They also have an annoying dress code worthy of the most snobbish of nightclubs. At weekends jeans and trainers will ensure that you don't get in. This inspired my poem, Dress Code.
THE WHITWORTH * Dire pub off Wilmslow Road, next to Whitworth Park, giving new meaning to delapedated. It is also very noisy, with students being drowned out by the local old time boozers.
THE WITCHWOOD – ***** Ashton Town Centre. Legendary music venue and bar that was recently saved from closure by Manchester’s FAB Café. Half of the Witchwood is apub, selling an excellent eclectic range of real ales. The other half is a live music venue featuring popular and unknown bands. They also showcase many fine tribute bands. Wishbone Ash perform there as themselves from time to time.
YATES'S WINE LODGE ** Loads of them about, though not as many as there once were - but biggest one is Portland Street, between Britannia Hotel and Princess Street - good pubs for their selection of blobs and beers but they do tend to attract heavy boozers and can get pretty wild and aggressive too.
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