Sunday, 15 April 2012

Ancient Oak Merry Trees Lane, Preston

‘No it’ll be one of those soulless new pubs, unremarkable on the outside and dripping with generic laminate fittings inside. A flat pack pub - not for me’. 
This was the well rounded, considered and thoroughly balanced view I had formed of the Ancient Oak, after driving past it along Tom Benson Way every day to work. 
‘I’ve seen such a place before, they won’t catch me out’, I would ramble out loud to myself as I rolled by every day.
But with the sun battling to give us a smile one afternoon, I spontaneously decided to give it a try.
I was pleased there were plenty of benches outside, including some sheltered by trellising, closest to the pub. 
Inside, it is a pretty vast place, which seemed to be split between a dining area and the main bar where people could also order food. 
There was one real ale available (Speckled Hen) when I went in, which I took and scurried back out to a bench, to try to make the most of the fading sun. 
Eventually the weather gave up on its spring bloom and I retreated back into the pub to find a seat. 
The decoration was similar to how I imagined but it looked and felt clean, tidy and well ordered. 
By the time I had settled down and worked my way through my beer, I had been joined with a steady stream of people, who were stopping in for a quick drink and a chat on their way home. 
As these locals took their seats, greeting one another warmly, I began to see the place in another light.
This pub I am told, is the only shop of any kind on the enormous, sprawling housing estate that is Cottam. 
Residents have to get in their car if they want a paper or a pint of milk but at least they have somewhere they can go for a bit of company, to release the stresses of the day or have a cheap meal. 
Just imagine if they had built yet more blocks of flats there instead of a pub; people who live just a few yards apart could go weeks of months without ever crossing paths.
If I had to choose one amenity to be built on an estate where everyone is pocketed away in houses and flats, it would be a place where everyone can be sure to find a friendly face.
‘Flat pack pub you proclaimed’, said Miss Chardonnay Sidekick after I got home.
‘Well I quite like flat packs now’, I replied.
‘Lovely, I just bought a wardrobe for my flat today, I’ll be back in an hour’.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Chorley Night Out

'You should get yourself down Chorley one Friday night', bellowed my colleague Matt Squires, who I suspect is part of an underground cell which will one day launch a coup to overthrow the Government and reform society, with Chorley at its epicentre.
'Okay mate no need to shout', I replied. 'I'm only sitting opposite you'.
So with his words ringing in my ears, I boarded a train for my first big Chorley night out.
After a cracking curry and a few pints in Vujon we made our way into the heart of the People's Republic of Chorley'.
Our first stop was The Market Tavern, in Cleveland Street.
I walked through the door which was surrounded by an appealing traditional frontage and very suddenly came to a halt.
Two steps inside the pub were as far as I was going to get, at least initially, because it was completely packed out.
Eventually I wriggled my way to the bar and bought a pint of Theakston Mild, a weak keg beer which reminded me of many evenings spent in snooker halls.
Edging round I tried to work out what all the fuss was about?
Why were so many people crammed into this little pub?
Then it struck me. A note. The wrong note.
I spun to my left to see a lady on a small raised stage piling her heart into a tub thumping karaoke hit, though it was difficult to decipher which one.
But the crowd loved it and a steady stream of singers got up on stage, buoyed by the encouragement of an appreciative audience.
Deciding against having a crack at Bon Jovi, we slipped out and moved on to The Sir Henry Tate, in New Market Street, a new-build Wetherspoon pub which looked like many others.
There was however one feature which set it apart from its branches in Preston and elsewhere; music and lots of it.
The big beats bounced off the walls as happy drinkers got geared up for their final destination; Applejax.
With good real ale at very good prices, a Wetherspoon pub always manages to strike a chord with me, even if many of them have been built in places more suited to carpet shops.
Our final destination was The Imperial, a large and airy pub which was busy with a good blend of drinkers old and young, having a quick one before the club, or enjoying a last pint of the night.
With a pint of Thwaites Wainwright in hand, I fell into the latter category as I reflected on a night spent in bustling pubs whose owners have worked hard to make sure their customers keep coming back.
'What did you reckon then mate', Matt bellowed (though this time it was fair enough because it was noisy).
'Sign me up. Vive La Revolution'.

*If anyone would like to suggest their ideal Chorley pub route, please feel free to leave a comment on this blog  or find me on Twitter - @RobinsonBee

Sunday, 1 April 2012

The Adelphi, Fylde Street, Preston

For a few fleeting weeks after I moved to Preston, evenings spent in The Adelphi were a comforting reminder of my lazy, hazy student days.
But, in spite of myself, I came to the forced realisation I was no longer a student and regardless of how many pound coins I shoved in the pool table, those day were gone.
After reluctantly removing my student-beer goggles for the final time, I looked at the place objectively and realised there was not too much there for me. 
Aside from the students merrily sinking pints without worrying about getting up the following morning (which suddenly became irritating) there was no real ale and the place seemed to be decorated to resemble some sort of garish play pen.
So grumpily I drained my pint of cheap keg bitter and stomped off to reassess my place in the world - I had not been back since.
But earlier in the month the pub reopened after a major revamp, so I was keen to find out how the place had changed.
Things began to look up as soon as I walked through the door and spotted four cask ale pumps, each stocked and ready to serve the good stuff.
I was also pleased they toned down the decor a lot and while a partial colour blindness on my part means I am not going to have a punt at the exact colour they chose, it created an atmosphere which said ‘Sit down and relax’, rather than jumping out and shouting ‘Boo - got you haha’.
With excellent beer, better decor and cheap meals, I reckon there’s now plenty there to entice me to stop in for a pint or two without dusting off my outdated student spectacles.