Archives for : March2013

Southampton pub reviews get underway

I have teamed up with the South Hampshire branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), which has a very detailed database of pubs in its patch (Southampton itself, Eastleigh, Winchester, Bishops Waltham, Romsey and the New Forest) and my data will help them. In fact I will probably discontinue my own database, as CAMRA are importing my data where they don’t have it so having a separate database is a duplication of effort.

However, I will keep a blog here detailing my opinions and experiences rather than the more specific data (opening times, features and facilities, beer served and so on) , which will go in the CAMRA database.

My data capture specification has changed since my original survey. Much of that mission’s objective was to rate the pubs on a scale of one-to-five in five categories: beer, price, attractiveness, entertainment and atmosphere. CAMRA’s ‘Beer Scoring’ system replaces the first two, as like my survey, it includes both the range and quality of ales. Rather than rating the price on a sale of one-to-five, beer scoring records the actual price against that particular beer. No doubt this data can be used by CAMRA for many different purposes.

In terms of entertainment, individual features are recorded now – a much more detailed record than a simple score out of five. Atmosphere and attractiveness are somewhat subjective so will be omitted but any notes will be put in the description. Adding an ‘architectural style’ column may help with judging how attractive a pub is.

So, with a form made up containing numerous tick boxes reflecting the facilities a pub has (most of them fitting into the categories CAMRA uses plus a few extra [mainly entertainment-related] ones of my own) ,  and space for recording other data and a description, the ‘arduous’ task of surveying Southampton’s pubs began.

On Good Friday afternoon (29 March 2013) , I visited the first pub on the list – picked by convenience of locality more than anything else – which was Que Pasa.

Que Pasa  is a typical High-Street pub, noted for its food, which is actually very good value and consists of similar general pub food to that of Wetherspoons. Of particular note were the deals, such as £5.95 for a Sunday roast. While I have not sampled that, I had fish and chips in there a few weeks previous to that and it was good. Anyway, I am not on a gastronomic mission so otherwise, it seemed like a good place. At first glance, there appeared to be a lack of any ales. I then realised they had Marston’s Pedigree but it was on the same fount as the keg lagers etc – rather than a traditional hand-pump. Unusual!

Que Pasa

Que Pasa

Slug and Lettuce (not a very appetising name it has to be said!) was next on the list, being just across the street from Que Pasa. It was a little bit tatty in places but only a minor issue. It is, again, a food-led pub, being slightly more expensive than Que Pasa but I was pleasantly surprised to see three hand-pumps – which offered Doom Bar, Old Speckled Hen and Watercress Line, a guest beer I presume but it was good. There is an upstairs bar in addition to the main ground floor one but it was fairly empty.

Slug and Lettuce

Slug and Lettuce

Yates’s was next on the list and was yet another pleasant enough but bland High-Street pub. It has entertainment on some nights, including an open mic night and pub quiz, and Friday and Saturday night DJs – although I have not witnessed any of these events.

Yates's

Yates’s

After that, I visited Turtle Bay but was not particularly impressed. No ale and only one beer on draught (Red Stripe). It is definitely a food led pub and I was disgruntled to be asked to move to one of the barstools as I was only drinking  If there was a shortage of tables then I would have understood it (or probably not have sat there in the first place) but it was half empty. I would have deducted points if I was still scoring points!

Turtle Bay (crap photo!)

Turtle Bay (crap photo!)

Finally on that day’s mission was the Frog and Parrot – a stupid name replacing a previous stupid name (The Old Fat Cat). However, this Greene King pub is always consistently quite good and was subject to a very recent refurbishment. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about the toilets, which appear to date back to when the building was converted to a pub (mid-late 1990s I would guess). It was pretty quiet during my mid-afternoon visit. There were three hand-pumps, which served the standard Greene King ales – IPA, Old Speckled Hen and Abbott Ale. There used to be regular karaoke nights but these appear to have been dropped with a change of focus on the gastropub element of the venue.

Frog and Parrot under its previous guise as the Old Fat Cat

Frog and Parrot under its previous guise as the Old Fat Cat

Southampton’s endangered pubs – an assessment of the damage

The Anchor pub, East Street

The Anchor pub, East Street

In 2007-08, I took it on myself to undertake the epic task of visiting every pub in Southampton. (Click here to see the reviews and here for the winners.) While undertaking such a venture again would be a timely and expensive process, I have been interested in finding out what the damage is to Southampton’s pubs in light of the worst economic crisis for decades. I have, therefore, conducted a ‘desk-based assessment’ but will need to conduct some fieldwork before a more accurate answer can be obtained.

Total pubs visited in 2007–08:  186

There were 11 pubs that were closed at the time of the survey:

Around The World, Blacksmith’s Arms,  Bridge Tavern (Coxford), Prince of Wales, Old Thatched House, The Dolphin (St Denys), Royal Standard,  The Merry Oak, The New Inn (Bevois Valley), Coopers Arms, Ship Inn (Woolston) and the Victory.

Some venues were deemed to be exempt as they were not really pubs according to the criteria published at the time. While no definite list of these was made at the time, it is clear from the published results that these were exempt. The categories were restaurants, hotels, night clubs and music venues. With hindsight, some of the exempted venues should have been included, and there are other venues that have gone the opposite way and became venues that were not really a pub.

Exempt venues (this is not an exhaustive list):  Dolphin Hotel (High Street), the Joiners, The Edge, The Dungeon, the Rhino Club, Junk, Lennon’s, Soul Cellar, Kaos, Unit, The Brook.

Total pubs from previous survey still OPEN March 2013:  143
Of those, 23 have changed their name (some of them more than once!). While some of the changes are in name only, others have seen complete refits and the associated rebranding exercises:

  • Hamptons > Guava Bar > Mango
  • New Inn > Usual Suspects > Inferno Bar
  • Flares > Revival
  • Lizard Lounge & Apartment 26 > Revolution
  • Kolebka > Legends > Shooting Star
  • Hogshead > Slug and Lettuce
  • Joe Daflo’s > The Vestry
  • White House > Cafe Parfait
  • Wine Bar > Yuzu Lounge
  • Court Jester > Antico
  • Old Fat Cat > Frog and Parrot
  • Dockgate 4 > Grand Cafe
  • Bosun’s Locker > Juniper Berry (reversion to its original name)
  • Honest Lawyer > Lime Bar
  • Jones Wine Bar > Mavericks > The Strand (another reversion to a previous name)
  • Bar Ice > Oasis Bar
  • Poletrix > Aqua Lounge > ISIS
  • Early of Locksley > Robin Hood (another reversion)
  • Bevois Castle > The Rockstone
  • The Manor > Shirley Hotel (yet another reversion!)
  • The Terminal > Varsity (Portswood)
  • Cork & Bottle > The Admiral Sir Lucius Curtis
  • The Endeavour > The Titanic
  • Walkabout > Wahoo > Elements
  • Coopers Arms > Joshua Tree
  • Reflex > Popworld

The danger of extinction list

These pubs are currently closed; in some cases the shutters have been up for years while others are hopefully just temporarily closed. There are currently 21 pubs on this list.

  • The Bridge Tavern (Coxford) – was closed in 2007 and is still there, despite threats of redevelopment (below).
The Bridge Tavern in its better days!

The Bridge Tavern in its better days!

 

  • Ferryman and Firkin – closed shortly after last survey.
  • Around the World – a long-derelict gastropub at the end of Town Quay.
  • Royal Standard – what appears to be a prime site within the city walls and near to the waterfront has shown no sign of any progress.
  • The Anchor (East Street) – this narrow Mock-Tudor pub is adjacent to the condemned East Street Shopping Centre and it has been boarded up for some time.
  • Bar Risa – the Bargate Centre (which this is adjacent to) appears to be equally doomed. The large Bar-Risa venue has been shut for some years.
  • The Bevois Town – despite enjoying a brief spell under the management of Southampton’s legendary drag queen Lucinda Lashes, this backstreet boozer has closed, no doubt partly due to its obscure location.
  • The Bush Inn – AKA The Maybush – it has been rumoured that this pub is being eyed up as a convenience store but the loss of the enormous Ordnance Survey buildings next door make this pub as unviable as ever.
The Bush Inn

The Bush Inn

  • The Crown Inn, Shirley High Street – this one came as a bit of a surprise, as the new landlord had turned it around from the bad reputation it has as Tramways and introduced some popular live music events. No sooner had the pub closed then the metal shutters went up – an unusually quick battening down of the hatches. This is a listed building so in theory cannot be demolished.
  • The Fitzhugh – once a popular post-football match pub, the move to St Mary’s Stadium left this pub out on a bit of a limb.
  • Frog and Frigate – this has been shut for years as far as I can tell.
  • King Alfred – a very recent closure and hopefully a temporary one.
  • Lord Palmerston – closed shortly after the previous survey and has been boarded up ever since. It has been threatened with demolition.
  • Park Hotel (Freemantle) – another pub that has been boarded up for years. Hopefully the building will be kept,  as there is some historic tiling on the outside but several estate agents’ signs have came and gone.
  • Percy Arms – been closed for some years apparently.
  • Plume of Feathers – closed but the nearby Kingsland Tavern remains.  Sadly, it’s unlikely that there is a future for two pubs in that location.
The Plume of Feathers pub

The Plume of Feathers pub

  • Provenance – formerly the Square, this new venue has very minimalist black on white signage but I have yet to actually see it open.
  • St Denys Hotel – sadly, I think this is almost definitely already on the ‘converted’ list.
  • Willows (Oxford Street) – the area where this was is virtually unrecognisable and I have not been able to ascertain its exact location.
  • The Ship Inn, Victoria Road, Woolston. Thisd small pub was closed last time I visited and it may have been converted or demolished as part of the major regeneration of that area.
  • The Castle, Midanbury. Allegedly this landmark pub has been boarded up for some time.

Converted

It’s too late for the pubs on this list; they’ve already been converted for other uses. While I will never condone closure of pubs, I’d rather they at least kept the building. Some conversions (such as The Eagle) have been very unsympathetic with their conversion while others, such as the Bald Faced Stag, have attempted to preserve some of their buildings’ heritage. The residential conversions appear to be more sympathetic than replacing entire facades with supermarket windows and signage.

  • Blacksmiths Arms – being converted as of March 2013. While a later extension is being demolished, the main pub building, which is Victorian, is being converted into housing. Terraced houses are being built on other parts of the site, which appear to be in keeping with the adjacent existing Victorian terraced houses.
  • The Merry Oak – this is now a veterinary surgery but many of its landmark features are still there.
  • The Victory (by Central Station) – now Costa Coffee. The pub was part of the unappealing 60s concrete HSBC tower development, and while the need for a pub by the station is a good point, nobody is going to shed any tears from an architectural perspective.
  • Anchor and Hope, Freemantle – this is now a Cooperative Food store. I have yet to see the building since its recent conversion so cannot comment on that.
  • Bald Faced Stag – it’s a miracle this pub lasted as long as it did, as it was on a dead-end back street! Now converted to flats but this has been done in a fairly sympathetic way, with many of the imposing Victorian building’s features being retained.
  • The Bullseye – perhaps out on a bit of a limb in terms of its location, this large 1950s-style pub is now a Tesco Express.
  • Duchess of Wellington – another Freemantle backstreet pub that has been converted to housing.
  • The Eagle – I miss this large Mock-Tudor pub but it now serves as my local off-licence! Apparantly, changes to the building were made without planning permission, and there were some unsightly things such as exposed breeze block walls where the pub’s original entrance was. Although the pub was not particularly old, this conversion has little sympathy to the original building.
The Eagle pub after having being converted into a convenience store

The Eagle pub after having being converted into a convenience store

  • The Gatehouse – part of the building was demolished while another part was kept for an unsympathetic conversion to housing.
  • H20 – this venue, on the corner of St Mary’s Road and Onslow Road, was closed for some years before its recent conversion to a Best-One convenience store. The bar had many different names over the years.
  • Old Thatched House – the loss of this pub was very disappointing, as it was one of Southampton’s oldest pubs. The building has been retained (as it is a listed building) and now serves as a chiropody clinic.
  • Queensland Tavern – another backstreet boozer that has been converted to residential use not long after my original survey. It took several visits back in 2007 to find a day this was open!
  • The Winning Post – this suburban pub is now a convenience store and was one of the first examples of pubs being converted to such a use in Southampton.
  • The Woodman – this large pub had two bars; it is now a Tesco supermarket. I enjoyed many good gigs in that pub.

No Flowers Please

Sadly, these pubs have been demolished since the original survey.

  • Bar Coda.
  • Bridge Inn (St Denys). I cannot confirm this one yet without a proper site visit.
  • Crown and Sceptre – and The Gate – the adjacent University’s car parks had apparently encroached on these pubs so the University demolished them both to make way for more surface car parking.
  • Zeb – AKA the Oddfellow’s Arms – this was one of the more disappointing losses, as the pub had some fine Courage tiling and mosacis but it has been demolished to make way for dull and faceless flats.
The former Oddfellows Arms in St Mary Street... destroyed in late 2011.

The former Oddfellows Arms in St Mary Street… destroyed in late 2011.

 

  • The Exford Arms – a modern pub that nobody is likely to shed any tears over.
  • Finally, the Crusader/The Smugglers has also been demolished. This was closed at the time of the original survey so is not included in it but is worthy of a note here.

The good news

There is, fortunately, some good news, with some new pubs and other venues have opened, and others that were closed at the time of the original survey but have since been renamed.

  • The Buddha Lounge, Bedford Place area
  • Toyko Bar, same area as above
  • Trago Lounge, Portswood – one of a new chain (Loungers) of lounge-style bars/restaurants. I found it difficult to pigeonhole this into one of my usual categories (local, town pub, restaurant, night club and so on). The Trago Lounge is in a building formerly occupied by Pizza Hut.
  • Santo Lounge, Shirley – another Lounge on a similar theme as then Trago Lounge. This one occupies the ground floor of an imposing Victorian building formerly used as a ‘Plumb Center’ [sic].
  • Turtle Bay – a popular Caribbean restaurant/bar that has occupied part of Southampton’s rebranded Guildhall Square. This provides an ‘active frontage’ to the surrounding area, as the floors above are just Capita offices.
  • Ninety Degrees at Carlton’s – this was in the early stages of construction during the original survey but is now a popular contemporary bar/restaurant.

Conclusion

So, 186 pubs in 2007-08…minus 143 pubs in 2013 = 43 pubs less. Therefore, Southampton has 23% less open pubs than it did in 2007! If I include the six or so new pubs then the figure is still over 20%…sobering reading!

Now I have this dataset then I’m sure I can  generate further stats from it.