Archive for the ‘bars and pubs’ Category

Lounge Bar & Grill, Leeds, Britten….

Saturday, May 3rd, 2008

I’ve just returned from the opening night of the Opera North production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s play reconfigured as an opera by melody dodger, Benjamin Britten, whose proud boast seems to be never to have written an opera in a major key.

I normally love Opera North (full disclosure, I know one of the chorus quite well), but I am not a Britten fan.  A Midsummer Night’s Dream reminded me of all the negative aspects of the earlier, and otherwise superior, Peter Grimes.  Incessant horns and strings in deliberate discord, keeping the audience on its edge in the same way Hammer House of Horror films used organ fugues to build tension.  Britten never seems to let go, though.  It was like sitting on a train, delayed because of a fatality on the line.  One feels sorry for the victim (or cast in this case) but I just wanted to get home as quickly as possible.  Listening to a gauntlet scratching up and down a blackboard would have been more entertaining, and arguably, more musical.

The humour (what little existed) was 50 years old and could probably only have been written by a tortured homosexual of the repressed mid 20th century.  There were clearly a few from that era in the audience, occasionally chortling and even applauding.  I watched with the same cringingly embarrassed feeling of watching a Carry On film from the Beatles epoch.  Fortunately, to avoid total boredom, I was simply able to stare up at the awesome ceiling of Leeds Grand Theatre, the home of Opera North, and surely one of the best theatres in the world for architectural detail.

Lounge Lizard but 25% less....for some reason

Just round the corner from the Grand Theatre is Lounge Bar and Grill, and that is where we chose to eat before the performance.  With 25% off, the bill for two with a bottle of wine came to only £40 plus service.  Even for Leeds that is cheap.


King’s Ransom, Sale, Cheshire

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

The map looked interesting.  Leaving central Manchester on the towpath of the Bridgewater Canal, we would simply walk to Sale, a brief stroll of about 5 or 6 miles.  Surely there would be friendly pubs at every bridge?  No.  Surely it would be an interesting walk through historic architecture and Manchester’s trading history?  No.  Well, perhaps a decent stroll along a pretty canal path?  Thrice no.

Fortunately the walk ended at a quality pub in Sale.  The tramstop is right opposite the pub.  Can you guess how we got back to town?

The food is cheap despite the name…for some reason


Mr Thomas’s Chop House, Manchester

Monday, April 14th, 2008

After my review of Sam’s Chop House raised a bit of a storm about people’s privacy, I was reticent about reviewing the sibling, Mr Thomas’s.  After waiting for about 243 minutes behind a twitcher’s tent, I finally found a moment when the coast was clear and grabbed a quick snap (below).  If only the atmosphere inside was as interesting….

Mr Thomas’s splendid Victorian building


Pendle Inn – witches, yetis, snow and pies

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

It used to snow more often in the north of England.  One childhood memory of Cheadle Hulme in the 1970s, had us creating a roadblock from several snowballs as big as a medium sized Yeti monster, only to get caught by one of the parents.  It took so much more effort to deconstruct the abominable frozen white barrier without the adrenalin filled laughter that drove and inspired us through the construction phase.

On Easter Sunday 2008, we looked out of the window at 7am – whiteout – awesome….let’s off to the hills for a walk!  I have one life rule on walking – I’ll do anything as long as there is a pub at the end.  And so we found ourselves at Barley, Lancashire, and the Pendle Inn.

Pendle Inn - don’t see no witches yet…


Simple Bar, Manchester

Sunday, April 6th, 2008

As dark and dingy restaurants go, Simple is amongst the darkest, although to be fair not dingiest I have visited.  I admit my eyesight is deteriorating with age, and I struggle to read small text at a distance closer than you would view a computer screen, but we were sat beneath the aircon unit, unlit, and whilst other tables had an odd spotlight to illuminate, even the red candle on our table couldn’t reveal to me any of the menu contents. 

Dark and dingy - I couldn’t read the menu without a torch!


Shibden Mill Inn, Halifax

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Amongst the dark satanic mills of Halifax, West Yorkshire, there are indeed some green and pleasant pastures, and nestling in the hills we found Shibden Mill Inn.  We once stopped for a quick Sunday lunch on a walking expedition and vowed to go back.  On 1 March, Fred had just picked up a brand new Mini Cooper, so a drive out to somewhere remote seemed appropriate.

Omaka…somewhere in middle America (or New Zealand to be precise)


Binary Bar, Manchester

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

Yes or No?  True or False?  Right or Wrong?  One or Zero?  There are 10 types of people in the world.  Those that understand binary and those who don’t.

A new concept has been launched in Manchester close to my flat.  It’s a Stealth Bar.  Stealth in the sense that nobody knew it was coming and nobody noticed when it arrived.  Do the owners know more about base 2 numbers than marketing?

Can you see Binary?  YES or NO???


Fortnum & Mason wins “least rip off” prize

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

My last (and first) visit to Fortnum & Mason 1707 Wine Bar was such a success, the very next time I was in London I revisited.

This time my flight comprised three Pinot Noirs and I also added a plate of charcuterie to nibble on.  At £13 an American would starve on this dish, but the quality soared.  The meat was, interestingly, not Italian, the most notable of a good bunch being Gloucester Old Spot Prosciutto which stood up to any Italian prosciutto I have ever tasted.

The Pinot Noirs were all worthy of drinking, for the record:

Fortnum & Mason Bourgogne Rouge Drouhin 2004 – soft and supple, the most subtle of the three with redcurrants and a creamy finish.

Merricks Creek Pinot Noir Victoria 2004 – a powerful strawberry flavour wine, jammy and louder than Ian Paisley in full rhetorical flow.

Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir Waipara 2004 – the most interesting of the bunch.  Cherries and some mineral.  A bit like the French one but with a bit of kiwi intensity and sharpness.

I couldn’t resist trying one more wine and was pleased to see the Fortnum & Mason Pomerol Clos Rene 2003 served in a Riedel Bordeaux glass from the Vinum range. Black fruits prevailed in contrast to the red fruited Pinots.  A bit of cooked cabbage, quite tannic with a long finish.  Quite a serious wine as you might expect

I tolerated some rude treatment from the staff because of the excellent pricing policy, £10 corkage being added to the shop price no matter the value of the wine.  Clearly the place to go if you fancy a 1961 Latour.

So I award F & M my top prize for least rip-off wine drinking prices in London wine bars or restaurants.

I also enjoy trying the flights of three wines linked by grape and comparing the different treatments.  But next time I think up an award, I really must construct a snappier name.

Finally, you don’t have to drink wine, coffee and tea is available.  It is also very quiet, so I use it for meetings when I am in Piccadilly/Mayfair.  I used to frequent The Wolseley for this purpose but it is nowadays too busy.  Oh well, my secret is out.  I’ll have to find somewhere new, now.  Ciao.

Rouge et le Blanc, Geneva

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

A mate of mine, Grayo, who is also a Man City fan, abhors the colour red because it’s the colour that the team from the dark side of Manchester play in.  So what colour is his car then?  “Erm. well it’s a sort of cherry colour.”  “It’s bloody red!” I laughed.  “But the mileage is really low and it was a real bargain” he proffered in weak defence.

I agree that wherever practicable, one should buy an item based on any colour but red, and I once had a red car re-sprayed to avoid embarrassment.  But then there is wine.  Ah wine.  This life long axiom falls apart at the seams, since I have only ever seen one blue wine and it was grim.

Red and white, only if its wine

So spotting a bar in Geneva which could have been named after a Man United kit, I approached with trepidation.  I am sick of seeing United players out on the town in Manchester whilst the City players sleep soundly preparing for the next game (or maybe just don’t get recognised).  Would Le Rouge et le Blanc be crammed with Swiss footballers, winos, or just ordinary folk?


Blue Bell Inn, Kettlewell

Monday, November 26th, 2007

A welcome in the hillsides - La Cloche Bleu, Kettlewell

The trouble with some pubs in the Yorkshire Dales is that they can’t quite work out who their customers are.  I am not surprised since the Dales attracts everyone from Hell’s Angels, to coaches filled with old dears who can only eat liquidised food through a straw.