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I can’t believe we’re into the fifth week already! I have visited over 30 pubs in the last month and that is good progress. To those who ask how soon I intend to complete the job; well I don’t have a specific target in place. Just as and when really. Over the course of the summer, this will help me get out and about rather than staying at home and being miserable.
Week five started on Friday night (26 April) in Revolution. As it’s a specialist vodka bar then there was not much hope of any ale, and that assumption turned out to be true. They had the usual selection of mass-produced lagers and Strongbow but beer drinkers were definitely in the minority. It has a promising menu but it is somewhat expensive. The furniture is straight out of an Ikea catalogue and I like that, along with the exposed ventilation ducts that are ubiquitous! The only other thing of interest was the floor, which reminded me of supermarkets. Sorry, I have a thing about flooring.
My next stop was Avondale House. This looks more like an office building than a pub, and the name certainly evokes images of offices. Last time I visited here there was no beer on draught (due to technical issues of some kind). There were also several bars on different levels but I could only see two levels this time. There was nothing to dislike but nothing to like either. I think a return visit is necessary to try and understand this complex venue a bit better.
My final stop was Kelly’s. This is stretching the definition of a ‘pub’ a bit. It’s really a nightclub that doesn’t open until 9.00 pm. However, as it has free entry before 10.00 pm, and was included in my previous pub survey then I had no grounds for excluding it.
It got off on a bit of a bad note, as I was asked to remove my hat! Luckily I could fold it up and put it in my pocket. The venue is in the basement and has a large dance floor with a few small areas with tables and chairs at the side. There were virtually no men in there though. The barmaids were all female and scantily-clad (I’ve never seen a male barmaid!) and most of the customers were too. What a shame I’m not straight. But as I’m not completely gay either then my blood pressure started rising like that sketch in one of the Carry On films.
Saturday 27 April 2013
The weather threatened to be a bit unpredictable and so I decided not to stray too far from a bus route. The north section of Southampton (well, anywhere north of the city centre falls into that category) needed doing nearly as much as the West section so Portswood was my first destination. Apologies for the lack of photos of these pubs, I forgot to take the camera! There was a weirdo on the bus but at least it stopped straight outside the Trago Lounge, which was my first target of the day. There was a Saints match about to begin when I visited so I made a conscious decision to avoid anywhere with Sky sports. The hustle and bustle outside where I live on match days can make me quite weary so the Trago Lounge, which has no TVs was a very welcome haven. It has a kind of café atmosphere and that’s a nice change. It was fairly quiet and chilled out when I visited and has a nice but expensive menu. I was very pleased to be served the Loungers’ house ale, Toga Man, in a proper dimpled pint mug! Very rare in pubs now.
Varsity was my next destination and I was surprised at how much the venue has changed. It was called ‘The Terminal’ when I previously visited and was a dark hovel but now a rooflight and opened up back windows have made it far more attractive. I was surprised to find a barmaid who hadn’t heard of a bitter top. It was very cheap for both food and drink though and has a pool table and dartboard for those who are that way inclined.
The Richmond Inn is a proper old-fashioned pub. It smells like someone’s front room and I don’t mean that in a negative way; it seems very homely compared to the anonymous nature of a lot of pubs these days.
It has a jukebox, which was playing ‘The Bear Necessities’ when I visited. Random. There are speakers set up, a mixing desk and bingo machine and I imagine they have a great pub quiz here! There are no TVs so it is another haven from the hustle and bustle of football match days. Four handpumps, selling Greene King/Morland ales. I will definitely be adding this to my shortlist of decent pubs!
Tartan carpet and woodblock parquet floor are an interesting combo in the flooring department.
Literally just across the road is the Gordon Arms, another pub I enjoyed visiting. It serves food, two real ales and has a smoking area/garden at the rear. Finding the toilets is a huge mystery, as they’re hidden behind a door that is disguised as part of a bookcase! It has a jukebox and quiz night, which I imagine is good. The pub has also won awards for being one of the best pubs in Southampton, as voted for by the public. It’s also right next to a bus stop so it’s well worth a trip to visit both the Gordon and the Richmond.
That evening’s pub-spotting was less enjoyable. The first venue was Chambers, which wasn’t too bad really, although it is difficult to write too much about these city centre bars that all seem much of a muchness. It’s a modern building (well 60s actually) and has an outside (but on-street) smoking area and DJs on a Saturday night (and probably other nights too). It has what appears to be a fairly good value food menu, although not on weekend evenings. It also has sport on the TV on a regular basis.
After that was The Edge. Another nightclub. I’d like to make it clear that I’m not victimising The Edge or any other nightclub for that matter; it’s just the case that I prefer more traditional pubs. I’m not one for late nights and these places are never much fun on your own…plus the chart/dance music doesn’t do anything for me. So yes, while there were three bars, I was looking forward to ‘The Box’ which featured ‘Camp classics’ instead but by the time they opened that, I’d gone home with frustration!
There are three bars – the downstairs one, which is famous for its wall of rainbow c oloured flashing lights (and it is a pretty sight!) and has a dance floor and (unusually for a nightclub) has a pool table, the upstairs one, which is quieter and has a much bigger bar, and ‘The Box’ which is sort of on a level between the other two but it’s only been open once when I have visited in the past. At first, only the ground floor bar is open. Then it takes a long time before the first floor bar is open. Finally, about two hours later, The Box is opened. The only other point of interest really is that there’s a nice garden/smoking area.
Sunday 28 April 2013
First up was the Two Brothers, one of the furthest outlying pubs on my survey of Southampton. Fortunately, a bus to there goes straight past where I live so that part was easy.
The Two Brothers is predominantly a food-led pub and part of the Sizzling Pubs chain. I actually tried the food and it was apart from the fact that the steak I ordered was smaller than I was expecting a bit too incinerated. It has a garden, parking and WiFi. It’s definitely family friendly for those who have that to consider #brats
There is also sport on the TVs, a twice-weekly quiz night and occasional live music.
Mis-timing the half-hourly bus back, I thought I’d walk along the route until the bus was due but I got to the Big Cheese roundabout before I saw a bus. My intention was to do the last two North Bitterne pubs (Fox and Hounds; Humble Plumb) but a bus heading southwards was exciting and instead I started on the main pubs of Woolston. I got off the bus in Radstock Road, near the Manor House pub. However, I had no intelligence as to whether it was still open. The building is certainly still there but it’s been converted into housing. While it’s always sad to lose another pub, my suspicion of its closure was correct and it wasn’t a particularly nice pub anyway.
I then walked South along Victoria Road, Woolston’s main drag and was amazed to see how down-at-heel it looks. The other odd thing is the place was like a ghost town. Completely dead. Even the large Co-Op furhter down had the shutters down, mid-afternoon on a Sunday. I then became very disorientated, as the road layout has completely changed (Victoria Road has been partly pedestrianised and the main through route diverted onto a new road on the old Vosper Thorncycroft (VT) site. One thing that hasn’t changed was the very derelict cafe opposite the Victoria pub; an iconic symbol of Woolston!
I had a look at the Ship Inn down Victoria Road. I’ve never managed to have a drink in here as it always seems closed (since 2007!). However, apart from the pile of post inside the front door, it appears to be in good order. Yet another visit will be necessary. Perhaps all-day trading on Sundays hasn’t made it that far South.
The next pub was The Victoria, formerly on the main gate to the VT site but now on its own. It was a bit intimidating in there, I have to say, not least because of all the dogs. There were at least five of them, and thus a sign was needed saying something along the lines of ‘Dogs – if you do a poo in our garden, please ask your mummies and daddies to put it in the dust bin’. There was also a man trying to get the football on TV to run off his laptop.
There were also numereous signs on the doors to the garden at the rear saying ‘Please DO NOT use this door’ then one underneath saying ‘Yes, THIS DOOR!’. The carpet was quite worn but there was a brand new pool table and some men playing cards (not something you see that much these days).
The decor was rather patriotic – as well as the front facade of the pub being painted with the flag of St George, there was bunting etc inside as well. There’s also a jukebox.
Next up was a pub something off the beaten track – The Yacht Tavern. Located in a mainly-industrial area adjacent to Woolston beach (if you were thinking of taking your bucket and spade then don’t bother), this fairly large 1950s-built pub has two bars, and, generally seems nice.
I first went into the lounge bar, which seemed fairly sumptuous but was completely empty of drinkers. I went outside and into the public bar, which was fairly quiet but had a few drinkers in. This is a large bar with a pool table, dartboard and jukebox. It also has sport on the TVs and regular live bands from the local pub circuit. Smokers can find solace in the covered shed outside the public bar.
The Yacht Tavern let itself down very badly though, as the pint of ale I ordered was disgusting. It was supposed to have Doom Bar but had ran out. Instead I opted for Bombardier but the pint was horrible and had a lot of sediment suspended in the liquid. I suspect this is down to poor procedure in caring for the beer, as Bombardier is normally fine.
Finally, to close an epic afternoon, was the Peartree Inn. Another 1950s-built pub, this has two bars – a lounge bar and a ‘games bar’. Once again, I first entered the lounge bar, which was very plush but; again, there was no-one in there. After hearing the dulcit tones of The Stranglers from the jukebox in the public bar (sorry, games bar!), I went in there and it was pleasant enough, with pool table, jukebox and the usual trimmings that go with them. I witnessed another meat draw, shame I didn’t enter it!