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The Pub Review - Stage Three

Thursday 14th December 2006

Pub One - The Great Northern

I was a little nervous when I approached the Great Northern around 7:30pm.
During the previous few days our group all said that they didn't want to be the first to arrive at this pub in case they were stuck on their own.
Normally this wouldn't bother any of us but this pub has a bit of a reputation (at least with us).
I opened the door and desperately tried to find other members of our group but unfortunately I was the first.
The pub was nowhere near as bad as I feared so I ordered myself a Courage Best and sat down at a table beside the front window.
Looking around the place it was clear that this was an old fashioned traditional pub with middle-aged 'working class' men drinking.
I felt a little out of place as I was younger and smarter (dressed) than the others and it's not often than I can say this!
This is a popular pub as there was ten to fifteen drinkers even at 7:30pm on a midweek evening.
The Great Northern is an okay pub for a couple of blokes to have a beer and a chat but young women may feel a little uncomfortable.
Still no sign of the others - I think they were all scared of being in here alone so I guess they're making a late entrance.
The Great Northern gets its name from the railway line that passes close by and there are many pictures on the walls of trains, although some relate to southern railway lines.
I found the carpets and curtains to be rather old and tatty, (I'm tempted to say "just like the regulars" but I suppose I shouldn't!), but in a way this helps to give the pub a character of its own.
The background music consisted of a radio station coming through the speakers.
Although I couldn't work out which station it was my guess would be Virgin radio by the type of music that was playing.
There are two small tv's showing football on Channel 5 (not sure if they show Premiership football) and a pool table in a side room.
It was coming up to 8pm and still none of the others had turned up so I decided to drink up and make for the next pub.
Unfortunately due to circumstances beyond my control there is no group photo outside of this pub!

Pub Two - The Farmers Boy

As I started to climb London Road towards the Farmers Boy I noticed some familier figures walking down the hill.
For some reason Dave, Stuart and Rachel decided to disobey orders and go to the Farmers Boy first.
They were heading for the Great Northern just as I had left it to go to the Farmers Boy.
After meeting halfway we decided to continue to the pubs that we were heading towards and meet up later in the Farmers Boy.
This meant a second pub drinking on my own until someone else in our group turned up.
The Farmers Boy was packed - i've never seen it so busy. I had to plan my route to the front bar, the easiest route took me via the fireplace on the right.
Once I made it to the right-hand side of the bar I then realised that I couldn't see the handpump signs that were towards the left.
As usual they had a good selection of unusual ales. I opted for a pint of Rev James.
It soon became apparent that half of the pub consisted of a large group of drinkers who all knew each other and were on a pub crawl.
I thought it was rather strange as I happened to notice a table of 5 to 6 young ladies and this is a little unusual in here.
The only standing place available was next to the open fire and I soon became very hot and standing next to a couple of nice young girls didn't help.
Makis walked in, soon followed by Neil. Dave, Stuart and Rachel joined us after their very brief visit to the Great Nothern.
One of the large group towards the front of the bar shouted "time to go" and about half the people in the pub left.
It was a well organised pub crawl as I saw people with computer printouts showing which pubs to go to along with the times. I guess there could have been fifteen to twenty people in their group.
We found a table on the right to sit down at and generally agreed that this was a nice traditional pub.
It had a great open fire, good selection of beers, and we found it a great place to drink and chat.
Time to move on to the next pub, although we would have been quite happy to stay here all evening.
Disaster struck! I had the dreaded "corrupt data" displayed on my camera so for the second pub in a row there was to be no group photo.
We couldn't afford to waste valuable drinking time trying to fix a camera.

Pub three - Barneys

Barney's Barney's is about 500 yards up London Road from the Farmers Boy and we were soon there, although it was tough walking close to the Beehive and not going in.
As we entered Barney's one of the first things that struck us was the amount of background "noise".
The place was very busy, almost crowded, and it took a while to inch towards the bar and then shout the drinks orders to the bar staff.
As this is an Irish bar it didn't have any real ale so I opted for a Guinness. We found an area to stand near the front.
No comfortable seats here as as far as we could see this was a standing room only pub with a couple of bar stools if you get lucky.
I decided that the only way to fix a "corrupt data" message on my camera was to re-format the memory card and hope for the best.
I'll treat myself to a new camera in the January sales.
Barney's is full of 'trendy' thirtySomethings; why do they come here?
The drinks are expensive, there's no real ale, there's very little seating and the background noise is so loud that you need to shout a people to make yourself heard.
We all drunk up quickly so that we could get out of Barney's and into a more relaxing place.
I'm not often pleased at the thought of walking out of a pub but it was wonderful to step outside into the relative quiet of London Road and breath some fairly fresh air.
With my newly formatted memory card we had a chance to take some group photos outside of the pubs. Rachel also kindly used her camera to take some photos.

Pub Four - Peahen

Peahen Not far to walk from Barney's to the Peahen, it's about 200 yards The Peahen has changed alot over the last year.
It has moved from being a popular haunt of the teenagers to being THE pub for smartly dressed trendy people in their twenties, thirties and early forties.
Quite how our group managed to get in remains a mystery!
The pub was busy but we managed to get served fairly quickly by the smartly dressed friendly bar staff.
McMullans brewery own the Peahen so this meant a limited choice of real ales; AK or Country
As I'm not a great fan of either I decided to try one of the premiem lagers in the fancy taps - most of us went for a pint of Nastro.
This was pretty expensive but it looked really good in its tall fancy glass and tasted great.
No seating left so we found a small area to stand.
The Peahen is quite a large smartly decorated pub with seating at the front and back.
Despite the McMullans beer this is one of my favourite pubs with great 'scenery'.
It was around 10:30pm and time for one more pub visit after a quick photo.

Pub Five - CrossKeys

The Crosskeys (a Wetherspoon pub) is quite a change from the Peahen.
For a start I purchased five beers for less that a tenner, although they weren't in the same league as the premium Nastro from the Peahen. The other noticable difference was the clientel. The cheaper drinks must attract the more down to earth type people. The drinkers in the Crosskeys were a mixture of ages but mostly young, between 18 and 23, and didn't seem to care as much about their appearence as the drinkers in the Peahen.
Why are Wetherspoons pubs always so dark? Maybe they're leading the fight against global warming?
Beer selection was quite good but not very exciting. They had their normal selection of Spitfire, Abbots and Courage ales.
There are plenty of seats in the Crosskeys, both at the front and back areas with the central area near the bar being designated a standing area.
Service this time was good as we missed the peak 'rush hour' betweeen 8 to 9pm.
Many times I have waited ages to be served in the Crosskeys as youngsters in front of me have ordered a round of vodka and Red Bull pitchers!
The Crosskeys is generally used by youngsters early in the evening to obtain cheap drinks and then around 10pm they leave to go somewhere more trendy with music and a late licence.
Stuart knocked back his pint quickly as he and Rachel had a bus to catch.
Dave, Neil and myself decided that we needed an extra beer so we popped into the Boot as they have slightly extended opening hours.