Jane Stuart – Writer

Writing about real life Up North: football, ale, food and mental health – with a good dash of humour.

Blackpool Fylde & Wyre CAMRA: Lytham Pubs

Having enjoyed last week’s exploratory mission to Poulton, I resolved to go again in Lytham, either side of the Blackpool Fylde & Wyre CAMRA social at Taps. Again, I chose to follow my virtual crawl, which I researched earlier this year.

Now I knew Lytham to be posh, so dressed accordingly today. The weather forecast was scorchio, so I wore a light smart dress. I struggle with heels at the best of times, but it seems that lockdown (spent wearing slippers and Skechers) has created an aversion to any form of shoe, which leave my bunion red and angry. I stuck with the Skechers, figuring they would have to do.

When I opened the front door, I was hit with a WHOOMPH of hot air not unlike when you step off a plane in a hot country. The car was unbearably hot as Lee drove towards Lytham with the windows all the way down.

The Craft House

Lee dropped me here just after 1700 – and already the pavement terrace was full. I paused outside as I waited for a couple exiting the micropub to take their seats. I stepped inside and headed towards the bar at the rear of the room. I contemplated the beer selection for a long time.

The lad behind the bar was very patient. I wasn’t sure I was that thirsty (I was so tired today) and I was conscious that I’d had nothing to eat all day apart from the crisps below, so I was conscious not to have anything too strong.

You may recall I bought these crisps in Carlisle, as a recommended local delicacy. I had stored them in my Naughty Cupboard ever since, saving them to savour on a special occasion.

Dear reader, they just tasted like really salty Ready Salted crisps. I didn’t get any cheese flavour at all, although my fingers did smell of cheese after eating them. I asked Lee for a second opinion and he insisted he could taste a little cheese, but not much.

What’s all the fuss about, Carlisle?

‘We’ve got these, which might go down a bit better in this hot weather?’

Now I do love a Clwb Tropica, but I was conscious of its strength and my empty stomach.

‘Do you serve food?’

‘Yes – have a look on the board to see what we’ve got.’

‘Have you got any biscuits?’ piped up the woman behind me.

I thought this an odd question – what pub has biscuits? – then I realised she was enquiring after dog biscuits for her canine companions.

Reggie and Ralph

At length I opted for a Swan Blonde and took a seat inside the pub, purely so I could get a snap of the dogs for the blog.

I joined in a (now) pub-wide conversation about the incompetence of all broadband providers (we were thinking of switching to BT but I’m not sure now). I’m beginning to suspect broadband hasn’t actually reached the Fylde Coast yet. Is dial up still a thing? I’m only half joking.

Nice decor too

God I loved this pub so much. I was only in here about half an hour and was making friends already and really really didn’t want to leave. The things I do for you, dear reader. You might at least consider buying me a pint for my troubles…

Ship & Royal

My virtual blog had uncovered food at all of the pubs I would be visiting tonight, so I knew I wouldn’t go hungry for long. I really wanted a hot meal (despite the temperature), hence I had skipped the cold platters at the Craft House.

At the Ship & Royal, I approached the bar just in time to catch the end of a conversation about a wet t-shirt.

Again I spent a long time pondering the beer selection. My decision became easier when I realised most of the beers were ‘coming soon’.

When cask was hard to come by as we came out of lockdown, I discovered that Greene King IPA was better than nothing but I don’t really need to tolerate it these days unless forced. My eyes were drawn to the cold taps.

I ordered an Ice Breaker and enquired after food, as I couldn’t see any menus on the tables. I was pointed in the direction of the table by the door, where all the menus were. I grabbed one and took a seat.

Beer notwithstanding, there was a lot I liked about this pub; not least the dog friendliness and the Christmas promotions. Normally Christmas starts for me after my birthday next week but I’ve seen the Christmas snackage in the shops already and I’m not going to complain (although my scales might).

As soon as I saw this on the menu, I knew I had to have it:

Note no peas or spring onion, not to mention TWO types of rice AND chips

I skipped to the bar.

‘Oh sorry – we’ve got none of those.’

‘Oh.’

I retrieved the menu from my table and speed-read it.

‘I don’t know what tacos are, although feel like I should. What are they please?’

‘Oh the starter? They’re like little folded up pitta breads.’

‘Oh that sounds nice. Can I have the Mango & Lime Chicken Tacos please?’

‘Sorry – we’ve got none of those.’

‘Oh…er…Chicken Tikka Banquet!’

Well, I was hungry, after all.

I returned to my seat to the sound of a screaming child and fanned myself with the menu.

‘I’m really sorry but I’ve just sold the last Chicken Tikka Banquet. Is there anything else you’d like?’

I went for this, which actually sounded much nicer than anything else I’d ordered:

I have no idea what pico de gallo is

As I waited on tenterhooks to see if my food would actually come, I surveyed my surroundings and spotted a great chair that I wished I’d sat in.

Maybe I’d change my seats when my food order was next changed? But that didn’t happen and my food came without undue delay.

Dear reader, it was delicious. Sure, they were fries, not chips, but I didn’t care. I shovelled some into my mouth with my fork before abandoning all cutlery, smashing down the burger as flat as I could make it (quite how people can fit Big Macs into their mouths I’ll never understand) and gromphing it down. I had burger falling out of my mouth and down my face – and I was aware that I was in Lytham and the two couples at the next table were immaculately turned out like footballers and WAGs – but I didn’t care. I was ravenous and this was good food.

Within minutes I was wiping my face with a napkin, draining my glass, sporting my shades and striding off to the next pub on my list.

The Deacon

This is a restaurant really with a bar area. There was a bustling outdoor seating area, where I was invited to sit and peruse the drinks menu before approaching the bar for service. I had barely sat down before I sprang up again and headed inside. Immediately I was hit by a cool wave of aircon. Aah this was bliss! There was no way I was going back outside. It was too hot for me today at 26C. I’m from the North, don’t you know, conditioned with wind and rain. None of this sweaty weather for me, thank you very much.

I contemplated the lager – given the weather – but opted for the ale for blog purposes. This was from a cold pump so it did the trick very nicely, thank you. The bar staff were really friendly, too – something I am learning to value greatly.

I took a (very comfy) cushioned bench seat against the left hand wall and enjoyed the stunning interior of this converted bank. The ceiling was very green; the artwork adoring all the walls was really cool; and all of the customers looked like footballers or football club chairmen (why aren’t Lytham Town in the EFL?!). I realised my foot was tapping – what was this catchy tune? Soundhound was no use as the signal was poor in here. By the time I had logged into the Deacon WiFi, the tune had finished. I remembered the words, though, so googled it:

Dear reader, you ought to know me well enough by now to expect toilet photos in lieu of the stunning decor, so I wouldn’t want to disappoint you; besides, I wouldn’t want to spoil the pub for you so much that you wouldn’t want to visit yourself…

I haven’t seen one of these flushing mechanisms before
Another non-Dyson hand dryer that works! Who knew?

I did manage to capture one of the works of art on the way out to give you a flavour.

Taps

Just before I got to Taps, I was taken aback by a modern, inviting doorway.

I knew Taps had had some work done since I had last visited (several years ago), but this seemed a little more dramatic than I was expecting. I felt compelled to step inside and find out. I approached the man-who-looked-like-a-footballer behind the welcome counter.

‘Hello. What are you, please?’

‘What, me? Or this place?’

‘Well, please go ahead on either count, but I meant this place.’

I learned that it was a new restaurant and private dining lounge – not related to Taps – and you can find out more about it here. I was offered a menu to take away and made my exit as the entrance became busy with diners.

I peered into the new beer garden at Taps before entering the pub. And what an array of beers was there to welcome me.

‘Aw! I’ve been hunting down mild ever since I moved up here 18 months ago – and I only go and find it on the hottest day of the year.’

I recalled a disturbing experience Hotpotting in Bury a few years ago when a pint of mild was warm and felt like treacle going down.

‘Well, I’ve got to have it, haven’t I?’

As the price came up on the card reader, I realised I hadn’t specified I only wanted a half, but hey, what the heck? How often do I get mild these days?

I quickly scanned the room for anyone I recognised but realised I had arrived half an hour before the designated start time for tonight’s Blackpool Fylde & Wyre CAMRA social, which was a Meet The Brewer and tap takeover from Ardgour Ales in Scotland. Now I am getting rather a taste for Scottish ales, so I was looking forward to this. My feet carried me across the pub to the left towards an inviting cosy corner.

Chair of the Night. Super comfy and appears to have some sort of magnet in the back that stops you from getting up…or was that the beer?

As I battled in vain trying to get a phone signal so I could check my beer into Untappd and catch up with the latest Twitter action, I was soon joined by my new friends from CAMRA. I felt quite at home here and like I had known these people all my life. Beer, like football, does that. I immediately have beers and pubs and friends in common with people I have never met before.

I was surprised to discover that the Ardgour Ales were free of charge and was now feeling more aggrieved that I had this pint of mild to wade through. Not that I ought to complain, having coveted mild for months on end. It didn’t really taste of much. Had I built it up too much? Eventually I drained my glass and headed to the bar for a half of this lovely lovely stuff.

Oh my! To sample a beer of this flavour locally was an absolute delight and I savoured every drop. Check them out and get a mini cask ordered right now.

I had a chat with the brewer, Fergus, who used to live locally, hence his appearance here. I said I had enjoyed his beer very much.

It is wonderful to be out socialising with fellow beer drinkers again – not least because I learned so much tonight, including:

We even got free food, which was a bonus. How lovely to be looked after so well! I was a huge fan of this pub.

really, really didn’t want to get out of the comfiest chair I have ever sat in in my life and continue with my crawl. Why was I doing this? Especially when I had been advised that the next two pubs on my list had ‘gone downhill’ and really weren’t worth visiting. I had to make up my own mind, though – and this was, after all, a research mission. Even more reluctantly than when I’d left the Craft House, I stepped out into the dark and close Lytham night.

I stood outside for ages trying to get a signal so I could access my blog and find out where I was going next. I really ought to make a list next time for ease. It really was dark round here and I wasn’t familiar with these streets. Was this really the right way?

County Hotel

I eventually emerged at the County. I had been here before and think I’d liked it.

I headed straight for the Ladies and was immediately hit by an unpleasant aroma. Had I stepped into the Gents by mistake? I stepped into each cubicle in turn and couldn’t find one without a jauntily-angled seat, so I selected the cleanest.

After washing my hands thoroughly, I approached the bar and surveyed the pump clips.

When the barman finally noticed me, I ordered a half of Bombardier and took a seat by an indoor fire thing. There really was some nice decor in here.

I called Lee to request collection now I was approaching the end of my crawl.

Before I headed out, I stopped to compliment a woman on her trainers, which I had been admiring from afar.

‘I love your shoes! Are those Skechers?’

‘Ooh no – they’re Clarks. They’re from just down the road. I think they’ve got a sale on at the moment.’

Note to self to pop there on my next visit. I love my Skechers (yes I’m in the comfy shoes camp, what of it?) but they have no grip on wet smooth surfaces and, as it rains a lot Up North, I need an alternative.

I headed back out into the dark and headed in what I thought was the direction of the final pub of the night. My anxiety was heightened tonight. I wasn’t used to being out in the dark at all, let alone walking unfamiliar streets on my own. But I used to do this all the time. I had been walking myself home from pubs and from the football in the dark for 25 years. What was the matter with me? Had I simply got out of the habit and would this get better? Is this part of the post-COVID hangover that I hadn’t anticipated? I was pleased to see the pub on the horizon and couldn’t wait to step inside to safety.

Station Pub & Grill

I scurried past the group of lads seated outside and, as I approached the bar, I noted that there was no-one else in sight – staff or punters. I was pleased to spy a pump clip, though – and a beer that I didn’t recognise.

‘We’re closed.’

‘Oh. What time do you close?’

‘Well…whenever we decide to.’

I was reluctant to step back out into the dark and the group of lads gathered outside but did I have a choice? It was only when I got home I thought about asking if I could at least wait inside while I waited for Lee to turn up.

I’m not sure what the issue was, as there was a group seated outside, me wanting to provide custom and at least one other couple I spotted who were turned away. So lack of customers didn’t appear to be the issue. Had the lads been causing trouble? Were they just loitering? Was there a minimum customer quotient? Were there staff shortages?

I waited in the seating area outside, as far away from the group of lads as I could. I called Lee to talk to me while I waited so I felt safer. This was the second time within a week I had been turned away from a pub because it was closing before its publicised closing time. Whilst slighted, I had easily found another venue in Poulton because there are plenty to go at in a small area; but here was different: it was dark and I was scared. And I don’t want this to become a theme.

Closed at 10pm

Once again it was a useful research mission and I look forward to spending much more time (and money) in Craft House and Taps on my next visit to Lytham – as well as dining in at The Deacon.

Cost summary of the night:

  • Craft House – £1.50 (half cask)
  • Ship & Royal – £2.50 (half draft) + £10.29 (food)
  • The Deacon – £2.50 (half draft)
  • Taps – £3.55 (pint cask) + FREE (half cask + food)
  • County Hotel – £1.70 (half cask)
  • Station – £0.00
  • TOTAL – £22.04

Next up: a safe and accompanied daytime crawl around my favourite Blackpool town centre pubs.

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