If you walk out of Lime Street station and do an ‘eyes right’, you’re met with a stunning vista of neo-classical buildings, something Liverpool has in abundance, their semiotic presence denoting the city’s capital history. Thing is, there’s not much of a buzz, in fact mid day Thursday feels like a Sunday afternoon. Something’s wrong?
It was the same on Dale Street, the thriving commercial/financial centre. Or at least it was in the 80’s, it’s just chocka with ‘office to let’ signs? Thankfully Thomas Rigby’s is a) still there and b) extremely lively. We couldn’t get anywhere near the main bar, let alone a seat, so we walked round the back into the little bar/dining area where they still have waiter service.
If you didn’t know where you were, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in some eighteenth century coaching inn in somewhere like Stamford, Lincs. It really has an olde world charm. Anyway, it definitely still pulls in the punters and was doing a roaring trade with the early evening, after work drinkers.
It’s owned by O’Kells (Heron and Brearley) and I had a cracking pint of their IPA, a proper English style IPA, rather than a modern US style. The mature waiter, a rarity in many pubs these days, was a real character and we had a good laugh with him and a bit of reminiscing about past times – cheers mate. All pubs should be like this one.
O’Kells also have the Fly in the Loaf on Hardman Street. A big glitzy place trying to be a bit upmarket but with lots of TV’s. They had O’Kells Bitter, IPA, etc. plus some guests and a selection of keg craft styles and lagers. Quite busy with a mixture of after work, students watching TV and a few beer tickers that were probably there for the beer fest.
Overall, a genuine friendly atmosphere and some nice bar staff. I’d definitely go again. The only problem with it being it isn’t Kirklands. Okay, it’s in the same place. It looks the same, more or less, from outside. It’s just not the trendy, almost avant garde, wine bar and music venue that I remember from my younger days. Mind you, the best things never last, do they?
I think the bar maid in the Caledonia was related to the one in The Baltic Fleet. Come on love, please and thank you, and a bit of conversation with the customers, eh. We were the only people in for most of the 45 minutes we spent there and you didn’t have much else to do! Hopefully at sometime it gets a bit busier than it was at 2.30pm on a Friday.
Effectively it’s a traditional boozer that’s been un-sympathetically opened out into a single room with a stage, the only traditional bit that’s left is the shell of the building. I think it’s raison d’être is as a music venue, although there was a decent selection of ales. It’s just that the lass behind the bar didn’t know much about them, or she wasn’t willing to engage with us. Whatever, £3.20 for a half of LWC Frozen Assets and Milton Brewery Minerva, both very pale but of more than acceptable quality. The Frozen got the vote. They had a reasonable selection of modern keg styles and cans/bottles and a nice line in art work down the passage to the bogs, which were clean enough, apart from the whiff of stale urine and the fact the hand dryer didn’t work.
Underneath a very pleasant restaurant, which had real ale on is Club 23, a proper craft beer bar. You have to go through Clove Hitch to get into it and disappear down the cellar steps into the basement which was very much like the basement of the Casablanca club I remember from my student days. Probably because it’s in the same sort of house on the same street, Hope Street, number 23. If I’m honest it was a bit studenty for me, brick walls and a bit too damp for my asthma’s liking.
The beer was good, very good. A bit dear, effectively £6.50 for a pint that was actually a third plus a two thirds schooner, if you get my drift. I had a tasty Yeasty boys/Wylam creation and Mrs C a Cloudwater Orange sour. I do like Cloudwater.
There’s an impressive bottle store with some very esoteric brews. I jokingly said I thought they had priced them up wrong, but the young barman very seriously explained that they had mostly come from America, you see. Hmmm, at £20 a bottle it might be cheaper to go over there and buy my own?
Verdict – not a pub, give it a miss if you don’t like modern key-keg styles, a hit if you do, if not a tad claustrophobic.
I had a really enjoyable three days, on my thirty years on re-visit, in Liverpool and met some really lovely people. Sadly I have to end up on a disparaging noteI because I got a bit annoyed with the old girl, with little things, things that just didn’t feel right, or bode well for the city’s future. Like why was the Trip advisor top rated Chinese restaurant closing just after 21.20hrs on a Thursday evening? FFS half day closing, in a city centre? Why have they created a new (soulless) city centre shopping area closer to the river and left a big scruffy, run down, vacuum in what was once the heart of town? Why is the Caledonia’s web site down? Why are the splendid towers atop the old Grand Central, a wonderful building, a better example of a ‘Raiders of the lost ark ’ set than a Disney imagineer could create. The Buddlea growing out of the top, as naturally as hair grows from an old man’s ears, are bigger than the ones in my garden.
Sadly, with regards to most of my disappointments, I came to the conclusion that it’s all down to the answer to the following question – Why is the same low cost breakfast 50p cheaper at Wetherspoon’s The Welkin in Liverpool city centre than it is in Leeds?