Friday, 19 October 2012

The Good, The Bad And The Commended – 1

So the pub reviews are done. Which are the best and worst pubs in Crewe? Well, first, in no particular order, are those that I call Commended, because, although they haven’t made the top five, they’re all worth a visit.

Queen's Park, Crewe

So here goes!

9 Duke Of Gloucester Lees’ beers, food on all the time, good service, happy staff, and plenty of room. Worth the walk out from town and very convenient for those fortunate students at the MMU campus. A follow-up visit was made and the standard was just as high.

12 Waldron Yes, the Waldron, Party Central itself. You could do a lot worse in the town centre than this place, which has food offers all day, inexpensive cask beers, and is clean and tidy throughout. Haven’t figured out how they manage to serve a pint of Morland Original for £1.79 yet, mind.

15 Ye Olde Manor Yes, it’s a chain food pub but the beer is good – although, yes, it could well be FastCask – and of course there is food on all day. Very popular, which may be because the nearest competition doesn’t offer cask. I did warn you.

28 Horse Shoe Excellent locals’ pub, and another tied house, this time Robinson’s. Three cask ales on the bar, some interesting features, decent service and a cracking pint. Again, lots of room and it’s popular even during the week.

35 Gaffers Row The Crewe Wetherspoons didn’t quite have what I was looking for in a top five pub – that may change with the recent arrival of a new manager – but you know what you’re going to get, the prices are keen and there’s a wide selection of cask beers.

Next up will be the bottom five, the town’s worst pubs. The ones that I visited, folks, so you don’t have to. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

44 Brunswick

Visited On 10 July 2012
Here's the photo ...

... and here's the map

And so to the very last pub: unless I missed something, this review brings the survey of Crewe’s pubs to a close. The Brunswick is on the north side of Nantwich Road, near the Mill Street traffic lights. Its Art Deco tiled facade has been spoilt by a modern and pretty tacky ground floor addition, which is a pity. The pub also comes with a reputation: all I’ve heard has been unfavourable.

Well, I take each of these places as I find them, so we start with a clean sheet. The name of Greene King has recently appeared outside, so let’s see what’s on the bar. And here there is a pleasant surprise: although the IPA is off (as with the Express), there is Morland Old Speckled Hen, which, although there is a faction grumbling that it’s a shade of its former self, I rather like.

So it’s one of those, then. There is also a guest beer, this evening’s being Wharfe Bank Medal Pursuit, so at least one microbrewery is getting some exposure, despite this being a tied house. The beer is in good form, although once more this is a brew that has been trunked over a hundred miles: it’s brewed nowadays at Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk.

There is plenty of custom this evening, and the pub does food more or less throughout opening hours. The hot food choice may be restricted to pizza, but that’s little different to what is on offer out on Nantwich Road. As with many other Crewe pubs, there is music of a weekend, but midweek there is just the obligatory screen showing whatever sport is on.

And there is plenty of seating too. I confess to quite liking this pub, so much so that I visited again a few weeks later. You could do a lot worse in this area, and with the British Lion having closed again, well, the Brunswick is just across the road.

And that’s that: 44 pubs, two empty chairs for not opening during the week, but 42 that were otherwise fit for review. Sadly, two have closed since, and that’s a worry.

Stand by next for the worst, and then best, pubs in Crewe.

Monday, 8 October 2012

43 Last Orders Inn

Visited On 12 July 2012
Here's the photo ...

... and here's the (not totally accurate) map

Onwards to the last two pubs – and on the traffic light crossing of Nantwich Road, Mill Street and South Street is the Last Orders, a basic pub with a small corner bar. There are a middling number of punters in this evening, but one thing they aren’t enjoying is cask beer. Yes, despite the usual array of national brand nitro-keg, there is not even one handpump, so here it comes for the last time.


So what’ll it be? I know, I’ve not had a pint of Tetley’s Smoothflow (tm) yet, and it’s, well, smooth, innit? So I order one of those. It is cheap. It is a brownish colour, although not quite the right shade for the Tetley bitter I recall – like from just across the road at the British Lion. It is a little too cold. It is undoubtedly stone dead. And it has the distinction of tasting of virtually nothing at all.

In this, it matches the nitro-keg Thwaites I endured in the Prince of Wales the other week. But hold on, there is something at the back of the tongue ... now, what am I getting here? Is it hops? Is it malt? Is it some kind of fruitiness, bitterness, dryness or something otherness? Wrong on all of those – it’s a faint metallic taste. Yes, the “inside of keg” aftertaste, the last word in modern cask conditioning. Not.

And that’s the hostelry’s finest ale for you. I take a seat and watch the traffic for a few moments, then glance around the pub to see that the rest of the punters don’t seem to have any great enthusiasm for their pints. It’s just another example of folks going through the motions, supping nitro-keg because it’s there, it’s predictable, and it’s cheap. So another pub chasing that declining market, then.

You can do better than this place just round at the Corner Bar. Or of you want something different, Square One. This is lazy and unimaginative presentation at its worst, and there’s only one ultimate result. Come on lads, you can do better than this. Just the one more to go. Chin up, eh?

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

42 Albion

Visited On 12 July 2012
Here's the photo ...

... and here's the (not quite accurate) map

This pub, on the corner of Mill Street and Pedley Street, had morphed into The Office when I first remember it, and later became Bar Twenty Two. Then it changed name yet again, becoming Woody’s Bar. And then it closed, before being reopened under its original name, except, as the sign above the entrance explains, it is now Cruise Bar At The Albion.

So it’s only fitting that I hand over to guest writer Julian Ansandy (geddit?!?) to explain the midweek experience as it unfolded. Take it away Julian!

[Ooh, will you just have a vada at that bungery! Clap yer orbs on that! A cruise bar ... well, I couldn’t wait, could I? Pulled on me bona drag and got over there as fast as me lallies would carry me, I did. Picked up a handful of measures to be on the safe side as well, so I could have a good cackle with all the omies and palones over a buvare or several. I mean, just fantabulosa!

And then, after I’ve had a bona ogle at the bungery, I find it’s closed! Well, that’s none too zhooshy, is it? No chance of a schlumph to wash down the mangarie there dear, and no mistake. Proper naff. Should have got on the palare pipe and found out. Well, that’s me on the old todd. What will I tell Mister ‘Orne? That’s one circle I won’t be penetrating any time soon. Charmed, I’m sure.]

Yes, another pub that closes midweek. Empty chair for the Albion. Next!

Monday, 1 October 2012

41 Square One

Visited On 12 July 2012
Here's the photo ...

... and here's the map

Just up the road from the Express towards the traffic lights is Square One, a self-styled “cafe bar” with an interior boasting lots of exposed brickwork, sofas, and a potentially laid back vibe. So what’s on offer? There were, so I’m reliably informed, two handpumps on the bar at one time, but this evening there is just one. But at least, unlike the Express, it is dispensing cask beer.

And this evening’s offering is Taylor’s Landlord, another beer trunked a long way from the brewery: Timothy Taylor’s brewery is in the West Yorkshire town of Keighley, although Landlord, a premium bitter, is available across the country. It has that renowned bouquet of cold tea, as has the less strong Best Bitter. It’s a cracking pint of beer, and that on offer this evening is no different.

So is this the regular cask offering, or do other beers feature? The answer is the latter: the next barrel to come on will dispense Sharp’s Doombar, a beer which was also offered when I visited the White Lion at Warmingham, and the Rookery Wood down at the Weston Road end of the Crewe Green link road. This is the first (and only) instance of Landlord being offered.

Well, at least a cask choice is offered. What else? There are bottled and keg Belgian beers on offer, but then you can get a far wider range of these just up the road at Hops Belgian Bar (and lots more cask offerings). Square One is a sort of halfway house in this respect, but a useful one: groups whose tastes range from cask to continental to nitro-keg can all feel at home here.

And the place majors in DJs and music at the weekend, with the upstairs grandly called “the VIP area”. Yeah, right. Square One also does food of a lunchtime, and the “courtyard” outside provides a convenient smoking area. You might notice that I’m not one easily persuaded by “concept” pubs and bars.

In any case, lots of pubs have a wide choice of product. It’ll be interesting to see how this place fares over the longer term: there are several pubs in the area that haven’t made it, or, as I’m about to find out further along Mill Street, have had to constantly reinvent themselves. Not a bad pint, though.