Skip to main content

Back to the Old School....

Out and about in Manchester and West Yorkshire....

I returned to my old stomping ground of Manchester last week, and, more specifically, to the area around Oxford Road, where I spent several years as a student at the University in the dim and distant days of the mid-70's. I was attending Simon Felice's gig at the Deaf Institute, on Grosvenor Street, but having checked in at the Premier Inn on Portland Street, had a quick wash and change, it was time to head out for some food and a quick pint before the gig.

I made my way to the Lass O'Gowrie, just off Oxford Road on Charles Street, which is a spectacular ex-Threlfalls pub with a wonderful brick and tile exterior.

Spectacular: The Lass O'Gowrie
When I was a student, it tended to be off-limits because it had no real ale, but it thrived because it was right opposite the BBC headquarters, who long since decamped across the city to Salford, with the former site being home to yet another of Manchester's building project. The Lass did shut for a while, but when she re-opened it was with real ale at the heart of the offer. It is a friendly pub, and always worth popping in when in town. I ordered a pint of Hopster from the Tweed Brewery in Newton, near Hyde, which was a pleasant pale and refreshing session ale. I haven't come across Tweed's beers very often, even though they have been brewing since 2014, as compared to some of the other local breweries they seem to be a bit under the radar.

Friendly pub: The Lass O'Gowrie
I checked my ticket and noticed that there was a special offer of a pint and a burger for a tenner at the Deaf Institute if you were going to the gig. So, plans for tea sorted, I decided to go for a pint at the Sandbar on Grosvenor Street, in the heart of the student belt, which is just across from the venue. I walked past the former Pub/Zoo, which I had been in a few times with our Tom, and which is now called the Flour and Flagon, and a few yards further on past a heavily-graffiti-adorned laptop repair centre is the brick facade of Sandbar.

Enter Sandbar....
A pretty bohemian place, it seemed to have been opened out since my last visit, and now rambles over several rooms, including a kind of indoor courtyard. On the bar there are around 7 hand pumps and a number of taps. I ordered a pint of King Cotton from Manchester Brewery, got my money ready, only to be told by the lad behind the bar that they don't take cash any more. At the point my eyes rested on a notice at the bottom of the beer listing saying 'Card and Bitcoin payments only. Bitcoin?!!! 'How many people have paid by bitcoin? I asked. 'One or two, just for the novelty', I was told. Still think they're missing a trick by not accepting cash....

Beer paid for, I sat down to order my train ticket for the morning on my phone. Might as well join in on this techie stuff. Don't let the lack of cash acceptance put you off the Sandbar, it has a pleasant ambience and the beer was fine. Just don't forget, bring a card. Or some bitcoins....

Here beginneth today's lesson...don't forget your bitcoins....
I went across the road to the Deaf Institute. It was the first time I had visited this venue, which made me think of how many other venues I've been to in Manchester over the years, the late teens, I would guess. It was tea time, so I headed to the friendly bar and ordered burger and chips, with a free pint of lager(it was part of the deal and it only applied to the house lager or cider!). The Deaf Institute is part of the Trof Group, which also has the Albert Hall and Albert's Schloss on Peter Street, and Trof in Northern Quarter. Food, which was absolutely fine, consumed, I went upstairs to await the gig.

Great venue...a shout out for the Deaf Institute....
It wasn't full, but there was a decent enough crowd, with the general demographic being male, over 35, certainly the ones I could see. I had seen Simone(pronounced 'Simon') Felice(like 'police' with an 'f' and an 'e') just over a couple of years ago at the Brudenell in Leeds, and which I reviewed in a blog called Scarecrows and Water Spiders. The man himself emerged from the shadows in a coat, hat, and with a lot more hair and beard than last time, although when he took his hat off, he had less hair on top than last time. I had managed to get right to the front, in pole position, and with it being a high stage, Mr Felice was towering right above me.

He opened with the title track of his new album, 'The Projector', from which he played several of the tracks, and on listening to the copy I bought after the gig over the past couple of days, it is a strong collection. Just him on guitar, he also included a number of old favourites like 'Radio Song', 'Bye Bye, Palenville', and 'New York Times'. He kept everyone spellbound, enthralled, an almost messianic presence, particularly when he performed his poem, 'They Hang upon my Every Word', from the new album. Mind you, he did have everyone laughing when, spotting the guy stood next to me singing along with every word on one song, he stopped and exclaimed 'This dude knows his shit!' He was excellent, and if you like Americana, and you've never heard him, check him out. The songs just creep up on you, and before you know it, you are hooked.

I walked back up Oxford Road, buzzing from the gig, and stopped off for a final pint back at the Lass O'Gowrie, and enjoyed a decent pint of Stockport Bitter. It had been an excellent evening....

Simon Felice...a towering presence....
***************
Following on from last time when I mentioned that Alan and Alyson had sold Calan's in Hebden Bridge, Alan got in touch to advise that Nadine, who has been working there for several months, and her partner, Damian, are taking over as from today(14th May). Nadine used to run Nido's Cafe Bar, which was on the main road through the town, which was always very pleasant on the few occasions I went in. Damian provided the chalked images that advertised the beers on sale in Calan's. So in effect, it is 'keeping it in the family', and I wish Nadine and Damian well in their new venture.

**************
Huddersfield Narrow Canal

I had a most enjoyable walk with a group of friends on Saturday, when we picked up the Huddersfield Narrow Canal just down the road from the Rat and Ratchet and headed up the Colne Valley for the 7-plus mile journey to Marsden. Despite a plague of greenflies, the better than expected weather was most welcome, and the canal was a wonderful green oasis, in many places only a few hundred yards from the busy A62. We had a lunch stop at Slaithwaite, and followed that with a quick drink at the Commercial in the heart of the village, where I enjoyed an excellent 4.2% APA from South Wales brewers, Mad Dog, which we enjoyed in the sun trap of the beer garden. We passed the Empire Brewery as we left Slaithwaite, and it was around 2 and a half miles to Marsden from there. We made our way to the middle of the village and called in at The Riverhead Brewery Tap, which despite periodic waves of visitors doing the Real Ale Trail, was coping well. And the pint of the Happy Valley brewed on the premises was spot on.

We caught the bus back to Huddersfield, where we called in at the Kings Head before heading back home. Like the Riverhead, the pub was geared up for plenty of visitors, with plenty of attentive staff behind the bar. I had a pint of Ringmaster, but then switched to a Salopian beer I had not seen before called Symphony. As my walking companions gradually disappeared, other friends called in. Then one of the lads from work and his wife. Then my sister and brother-in-law. The some more friends. And then our Tom. I have a theory that if you sat in the right pub long enough, then everyone you knew would wander in at some point. However, I don't think I'll put it to the test just yet!


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Best Buffet Bar None....

One place I am definitely looking forward to visiting again when they re-open is the Buffet Bar in Stalybridge. And whilst it will be great to pay a visit as soon as it is possible, that first visit back to the famous bar on the Manchester Piccadilly to Huddersfield trans-Pennine route will no doubt stir up in me a huge dose of mixed emotions.... Stalybridge Buffet Bar is one of the few remaining Victorian railway station buffet bars left in the country, and is probably the best-known. I started visiting the bar regularly in 2006, when my job meant I was working about a mile and a half away in Hyde. Back in those days, the bar was owned by John Hesketh, who had spotted the potential of the rambling old Victorian station buffet as a real ale mecca. It had originally opened in 1885, and had meandered on over the years quietly serving customers on the trans-Pennine route, but back then it was not known for its beer. John's idea of a good selection of real ales in an atmospheric bar cr

The Town That Thinks It's A Village....

My time has been a bit limited recently for venturing too far afield, so last weekend I made the short journey to Elland to check out a few of the town's pubs and bars. Here's what I found.... Elland is a small market town in West Yorkshire, located between Halifax and Huddersfield beside the River Calder. It goes back a bit, being recorded as Elant in the Domesday Book of 1086, and over the centuries the town grew as a result of the woollen industry, with the town becoming home to several large mills. The coming of the Aire and Calder Navigation and the railways further helped the growth of the town. The subsequent decline of the woollen industry in the town meant that there were a number of empty mills left standing, and those that didn't burn down were put to other use, such as the home of Gannex, the now-defunct textile company whose raincoats were worn by the rich and famous, including former Prime Minister Harold Wilson. More recently, several mills have been converte

A Calder Valley Ale Trail - UPDATE August 2020

T he definitive guide to the pubs and bars that line the railways in the towns and villages of the beautiful Calder Valley in West Yorkshire, now with an update in light of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.... August 9th, 2020. The idea for a guide to the pubs along the railway line along the Calder Valley came about as I got fed up with people going on about the Ale Trail from Huddersfield to Stalybridge. I reckoned that the scenery along the Calder Valley was generally more attractive than its southerly rival, and whilst there were some excellent pubs along that route, there were equally some mighty fine pubs in Calderdale. And there was clearly a demand for such a guide: the number of page views I have had for this blog, which has been updated a few times over the years, is several times higher than my next most popular. I had been thinking for some time though that it needed a fresh look and a re-write; the inserted sentences and deleted entries means that it doesn't quite flow