Archives for : April2013

Southampton pub survey – week four

Week four started on Friday 19 April 2013 with another visit to the Bedford Place area. First up was Bedford’s, which was a lot better than I thought. It has always been one of my more favourable establishments in that area (as a lot of the others are very pretentious) but it seemed to have something for everyone. Great value food, including four different pies for just £5…wow! Must check that out on some idle Sunday. It was pretty busy but not quite heaving and a DJ was going through the throes of getting ready to party. In some ways, I regretted having to move on but I did so.

The Bedford Arms, Bedford Place

The Bedford Arms, Bedford Place

Next up was The Pensioners. This used to be a nice traditional pub but now it has reinvented itself in the same way as 50-year-olds who wear skimpy clothing. At first it was completely dead then a couple sat down at the table behind and were firing allegations at each other. As these were getting increasingly hostile then I moved elsewhere and saw a disco ball but it was evident that the last time they had a disco then the pensioners in question must have been but young whippersnappers.

The Pensioners Arms, Carlton Place.

The Pensioners Arms, Carlton Place.

My final stop on another brief evening out (must pace myself!) was Varsity (London Road), which features a somewhat industrial interior, with exposed functional brickwork, metal beams and supersize ventilation trunking. My first visit to here was in late 2001 (or not far off) and it has changed little. My last visit, funnily enough, was on a Friday night. Now that is going against one of my original principles, that I would visit each venue at a different day of the week/time; however, my intention this time was to achieve a mix of pretentious and non-pretentious venues each visit to try and make the ordeal more bearable.

Varsity, London Road

Varsity, London Road

Varsity was absolutely heaving but curiously, there were a few welcome empty tables. Drinks were ridiculously cheap (£1.89 for a pint of Courage Best?!) and the food was very good value too, although sadly not sampled. There was loud music but no sign of a DJ or anything. It has two floors; the mezzanine floor upstairs was not party to an inspection this time but I assume nothing has changed up there either.

Sat 20 Apr 2013

I had long promised that I would visit Eastleigh when we had a nice weekend so on a beautiful and rare sunny Saturday, I started off the proceedings in the Good Companions. I really like this pub. It’s not as perfect with regard to contemporary décor and such things but that gives it a personality. The landlord was talking to his customers about ale, so in terms of educating publicans about CAMRA, it was clearly preaching to the converted.

It has two bars on the ground floor, although I have only sampled the lounge bar. There’s also a function room upstairs, which has been used for CAMRA meetings. Directors and Hobgoblin are a permanent presence and the pub does food at sensible prices, as well as live music, pool and darts. There’s also a grey parrot in one corner and I regret not introducing myself to him/her.

En route to the next pub, down Leigh Road, I passed the Holiday Inn, formerly known as the Crest Hotel. When I was a kid there was a model of Jeremy Fisher on the corner of Leigh Road and Passfield Avenue. It’s one of the venues I am the rep for but that has to wait for another day. I did take a photo though.

The Holiday Inn, Eastleigh

The Holiday Inn, Eastleigh

On the opposite side of the Leigh Road/Woodside Avenue junction is a former pub that I only went in once – The Leigh. This imposing Mock-Tudor building is definitely a landmark and it is a shame that it closed as a pub. However, it has been refurbished to a high standard, retaining some of its original features but is now an Indian restaurant.

The Leigh Hotel, Eastleigh

The Leigh Hotel, Eastleigh

The Gateway was my next stop; this has to be the worst location for a pub ever – in the middle of a sliproad that spirals up to the M3 motorway from the main road into Eastleigh. It’s a large wooden shed, deliberately done in a rustic sty-le mostly used as a budget hotel (not one I’d like to sleep in) but with a cave-like pub/restaurant on the ground floor, with no little or windows in an attempt to disguise its location. I’ve heard of subdued lighting but this was like a cave. If I was going for a romantic meal then maybe it would have atmosphere but if I took a date to a romantic meal in the middle of a motorway junction then I don’t think I’d hear from my intended ever again.

The Gateway, Eastleigh

The Gateway, Eastleigh

My grumbles were also around the pub itself. It has a rostrum saying ‘please wait to be seated’ but due to the total lack of any staff, I inspected the bar and it didn’t appear to be for staff use only. So I waited at the bar to be served, still with no sign of any staff for about three minutes. I was about to leave and mark it as ‘Attempt for service failed’ but then I was served and sat down. The lack of free wi-fi added to my frustration and the complete lack of any life, any soul, any atmosphere was soul-destroying.

After a brief stop at Eastleigh Library, to see the local history collection, I went outside to the Chamberlayne Arms, a pub I’ve never been in despite spending over 20 years visiting my hometown on an almost-daily basis. It was surprisingly quiet inside and surprisingly large too. There are nice historic photos on the walls and the décor is traditional but with a contemporary edge. Its food has been recommended but sadly not tried, while Hobgoblin and Ringwood Best were available on handpumps. It also serves good value food (more pies!) and has a pool table and outside patio.

The final pub I visited that afternoon was The Wagon Works. Formerly the Home tavern, this is one of Eastleigh oldest pubs. A friend had her 18th birthday party in the function room upstairs but that isn’t used any more as far as I know.

The Home Tavern, Eastleigh

The Home Tavern, Eastleigh

Being a Wetherspoon’s pub, this was obviously of a pretty good standard, with a great choice of real ales on draught. I can’t really think of much  more to write than that, as it’s a typical Wetherspoon’s experience.

The Wagon Works, Eastleigh - formerly the Home Tavern.

The Wagon Works, Eastleigh – formerly the Home Tavern.

In the evening, I went somewhere a bit more local – The Firehouse. This is a heavy metal pub and the jukebox had some good punk tunes on. There are lots of men with long hair and beards and leather jackets. They had a live band on but they were too heavy for my linking. All roaring and head banging! I think this is somewhere I’ll be visiting more often!

This 1950s building has similar architecture to the adjacent post-war Above Bar shops It has had many different names and brands in recent years, including Park Tavern and Strikers.

The Firehouse

The Firehouse

Tuesday 23 April 2013

It was a fine evening so I took the opportunity to check out another city centre pub. As it was St George’s Day, I chose a very English pub – The Giddy Bridge. This Wetherspoons pub is always consistently good, as can be expected at the national managed pub chain’s venues.

It was busy but I could get a table for my brief visit. They had ran out of a few ales, including the St George’s day beer so I settled for a pint of Old Rosie cider – a potent brew and it was so nice to have some good cider instead of Strongbow (which I am bored of).

The Giddy Bridge

The Giddy Bridge

Thursday 25 April 2013

On another fine evening, I visited another pub – The Dorchester Arms. This was closer to home than I thought, being just under 10 minutes’ walk away. It was very quiet, considering the football that was on TV but seemed fairly good. It’s an entertainment-led pub, with no food available it appears (not that I am overly bothered about that). It has two bars; a larger one on the left, which has a stage in and at least three dartboards, and a smaller one to the right, which contains a pool table and leads to a smoking area at the rear.

The Dorchester Arms

The Dorchester Arms

It had three hand-pumps, with Courage Best available and it was a very nice pint; some places have ale that’s hard work to drink. There are live bands on a regular basis, including Double Barrel and the Life of Riley – two of the Southampton pub circuit’s most well-known bands.

To see this map cookies and javascript must be enabled. If you are still having trouble after having checked both of these please contact us using the link at the top of the page

Southampton pub survey – week three

Friday night’s  mission was a short one and took in what used to be the Red Lion in Bedford Place (no 11). It is no longer red and just ‘The Lion’; this name truncating malarkey has been fairly common in recent years. A fairly small pub, it was pleasant enough but nothing of particular note and was surprisingly quiet for a Friday night. It had Doom Bar on tap and another hand pump that was being used as a backup for the other one. Modern décor except for the large old-fashioned CRT TVs hanging up on the walls – these are becoming about as common as ashtrays in pubs! Pool table, a jukebox and table football were the only other signs of any entertainment. With heavy rain all day Saturday, my enthusiasm for going out was limited. As it was, a short evening jaunt was all that took place, starting off in Goblets (no 12) where I was pleasantly surprised to see a live band. It’s always been a pub I quite like but thought it had lost its way a bit of late. It even does food now (or maybe it always has done but I hadn’t noticed it). Sadly, my evaluation form has gone missing so I will reserve further comment until a return visit. After that I went in Revival (no 13), my first visit to the nightclub formerly known as Flares but not much has changed. If you had asked if I like 70s and 80s music I would have wholeheartedly agreed but just one visit here made me realise that there’s a lot of 70s and 80s stuff that is soul-destroying. Draught beer of any kind was unavailable due to some kind of mechanical failure but even when fully up and running then real ale is definitely out of the question. There’s not much to do except dancing to dirgy music. I despair! I thought it may be fun to give nightclubs another try but…no. Not my thing at all, mainly due to music differences. Does it count? Well, technically it does, as it’s open at least one time per week without having to pay an entry fee (like the first hour each night). It is stretching the definition of pub somewhat though. Each to their own! Sunday saw a confused start due to a lack of buses. I was intending to head to the East side again (as I had to go to that area later anyway). Instead I got a bus towards Swaythling and the Stoneham Arms. However, that pub was out on a bit of a limb (that is, not near any others) and Sunday buses were infrequent so I got off at Portswood and started proceedings in The Mitre (no 14). This large Greene King pub was nothing particularly special but certainly pleasant enough.  
The Mitre

The Mitre

Next, I headed north to the St Denys Hotel, sadly now converted to flats but still sporting some fine decoration on its facade.
The St Denys Hotel, now flats.

The St Denys Hotel, now flats.

The sight further down of the Bitterne Park Hotel, across Cobden Bridge; a huge mock-tudor pub dominating the views of Bitterne Triangle, drew me over the bridge but which bar to choose?
Bitterne Park Hotel

Bitterne Park Hotel

Bitterne Park Hotel

Bitterne Park Hotel

This pub has two bars (or perhaps even more) and a very confusing layout. The smaller public bar has a pool table, jukebox and such like. The larger bar at the back has a very high ceiling, large stage and spartan decor. After that, I went down to The Station, a large food-orientated pub where I had a very reasonable roast dinner, which was very nice. I played the ‘catch the random bus’ game again and ended up on a circuitous journey to Butts Road, where I sadly acknowledged the Bullseye as another Tesco shop. DSCF1377 A fairly short but very hilly walk from there brought me to the Spike Islander. This has two bars; as I went in the lounge bar last time I thought I’d give the public one a try this time. That was alright. They had a meat draw and Play Your Cards Right game, football on the telly and a pool table.
Spike Islander

Spike Islander

My final stop was the Robin Hood. On my previous two visits (some years ago) this was known as the Earl of Locksley but has reverted to an earlier name. This large pub hasn’t changed much. It had real ale and absolutely dirgy music playing on the jukebox so I decided to hijack it and played Anarchy in the UK and One Step Beyond. The punters seemed to enjoy that as much as I did. Once an entertainer, always an entertainer! A mid-week (Wed 17 Apr) visit to the Prince of Wales (Northam), upon first entering the front (public) bar was a bit intimidating. It’s a very small area with pool etc and all the customers stopped and looked round as I entered. However, I managed to locate the lounge bar (which is accessed by a separate door from the street). That was much more pleasant. This pub does good value food and is dominated by a red and white striped theme, feeding off the aura of the nearby stadium (barely 5 minutes’ walk away). They have a quiz and bingo session on Wednesday nights.
To see this map cookies and javascript must be enabled. If you are still having trouble after having checked both of these please contact us using the link at the top of the page

Southampton pub reviews – week two

Week two of my survey of every pub in Southampton didn’t see a huge amount of progress until the weekend. On Friday night, I went in The Angel, my local, which sadly appears to be on its last legs. It is now only open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and was fairly quiet when visited at around 8.00 pm. It has changed a lot in the last couple of years, with some major refurbishment of the area behind the bar but it was very disappointing.

The Angel

The Angel

Pub no. 7 was the Kingsland Tavern, which I have been avoiding and while I was hoping to find a welcoming pub, that appears to have been unfounded optimism. Its garish white and green paint colour scheme and very bright fluorescent lighting did little favour to the 1970s furniture.

Kingsland Tavern

Kingsland Tavern

On Saturday, I decided to visit some more of the pubs east of the Itchen, but my indecision just saw me getting whatever bus turned up next (being determined to get my money’s worth from my bus pass). This led to Townhill Park, past the Hop Inn and round the corner to Meggeson Avenue. It was time to get what was previously Southampton’s worst pub (as voted for by me) out of the way. The Ark, fortunately, appeared to be closed, giving the Kingsland a good chance of claiming that title.

The Ark

The Ark

Back on the bus after a few photos, and the next pub (no. 8) was the Big Cheese, one of several pubs in the city that have bus stops named after them. This was fairly decent, it being a food-led pub in one bar and a public bar with darts, TVs and lots of football supporters in the other.

The Big Cheese, Bitterne

The Big Cheese, Bitterne

After that led me south to Bitterne precinct and the Red Lion (no. 9) at its eastern end. This is another pub that focuses on the restaurant side of its business, with a separate area for dining. It had a surprisingly good range of ales though.

The Red Lion, Bitterne

The Red Lion, Bitterne

On Sunday I paid another journey to Townhill Park. I didn’t get off at The Ark but the bus went right past it and there was no sign of life and the remains of an outside bench. At the top of the hill I got off the bus and took a photo of the Castle, sadly surrounded by Tesco construction hoardings.

Tesco @ The Castle

Tesco @ The Castle

The journey was worthwhile though, as a short walk down the hill brought me to the Hop Inn (no. 10). This was always one of my favourite pubs in the area but it was excellent, and even better than I remember. This has two bars. To the left from the front entrance is the public bar (which wasn’t seen on this visit) and to the right is an amazing lounge bar. Very cosy and just like someone’s front room. There’s an open fire, nice carpets  and lots of jugs and tankards hanging from the ceiling. There was also an amazing selection of ales, including HSB, one of my favourites.

The Hop Inn, note the missing letters!

The Hop Inn, note the missing letters!

To see this map cookies and javascript must be enabled. If you are still having trouble after having checked both of these please contact us using the link at the top of the page