Jane Stuart – Writer

Writer on beer, football culture and Blackpool FC.

Manchester GBG Mission #5

Dear reader, it’s time for me to take you round Manchester again, as I continue my mission to complete all the city’s Good Beer Guide pubs (plus others I can’t resist along the way…).

There was one outlier that I probably ought to have done on Mission #1 and it was this one I was targeting tonight. I had built a provisional crawl around it but my plans changed when fellow blogger Martin and his lovely wife Christine announced that they were free to join me.

But first things first: I needed food.

Society (not GBG)

I’d been alerted to this place by Chris of Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA fame. It’s one of those places like Barnsley Market Kitchen where there’s a variety of street food stalls and a bar and a big communal seating area.

It was a beautiful evening and the outdoor seating was already full. It’s a delightful setting, looking out into a water feature.

Society has a glass exterior which made it tricky for me to identify the doors (also glass). You see, it’s not only in toilets where I struggle to locate external doors. Eventually I found and entered through two sets of doors. Happily, Martin and Christine were seated at the first table through the doors so were easy to spot.

We relocated to comfier seats before heading to Vocation to check out the beers.

There was only one thing I was looking for here today and I did a little jig and hand clap when I spotted the Naughty & Nice Black Forest Gateau Stout. You may recall that I fell in love with this beer at Head of Steam in Cardiff.

Back at the table, I was conscious that I needed to sort my food as well (Martin & Christine were eating later with their son, Matt, whose birthday it was). I plumped for the less anti-social option of ordering my food via the QR code on the table. Alas I couldn’t get any phone signal so I ended up trotting across to Chaat Cart.

I’d been looking forward to my tea all day and already knew what I was having: South Indian Chicken Curry. I was excited that they did actual curry dishes as opposed to poncing about with ‘lite bites’ like samosas and bhajis. I ALWAYS want a curry. And I like the rich flavours of South Indian dishes. This was going to be AMAZING. I salivated for a good minute or two while I waited for someone to turn up behind the counter. I was in the right place, wasn’t it? I’m not supposed to order at the bar? No, there’s definitely a till/iPad thing there. Ooh I’ll just check the menu while I’m here. Yes they’ve got what I want. Ooh it’s a bit dear at £13.75 but it’s going to be lush so let’s not worry about that. Oh here’s someone to serve me.

I placed my order and tried to pay but the machine didn’t have any signal. There seemed to be a theme here.

‘Would you mind ordering and paying on the app from the QR code on the table?’

‘Well I would but I can’t get any signal…’

‘Oh…er…well I’ll reset the machine and try again when I bring your food over.’

Cash wasn’t even suggested as an option but I only had my emergency tenner (which I found on the floor last week – yay for slippy notes!) which wouldn’t have been enough anyway. That will likely go to use on a football car park somewhere as they seem to be the only places I use cash these days.

Now back at the table I was finally able to relax and enjoy the wonderful company, as we exchanged writing and travel stories and chatted about fellow bloggers (as we have a number of mutual friends via our little blogging network on Twitter). Martin mused:

‘Chris Dyson contacted me the other day to say he was in town and did I want to meet for a drink in ten minutes?’

We discussed how that was such a man thing to do and how disapproving Mumsnet would be about doing such things. I maligned the fact that no-one ever invites me out for on the spot drinks. But now I’ve thought about it, I realise Karen does this ALL THE TIME. Plus I’m just as guilty of not doing this, as I rarely invite anyone to the pub and just go on my own. This dates back to an experience with my first drinking partner, Julie, who once said she wasn’t coming out because she had a boyfriend and wanted to spend time with him instead, so I thought ‘fuck it’ and went to the pub on my own anyway. And so began a lifetime of solo pubgoing…

My food soon arrived…

…served in a cardboard box and with a wooden knife and fork.

Let’s pause to dissect this. Why a cardboard box and wooden knife and fork? Surely once food-soiled these cannot be recycled? So this is just creating waste (albeit possibly biodegradable) where this could be avoided with the provision of crockery and silver cutlery. Is this then simply to save on washing up/water usage/time?

I puzzled over all of this as I tucked into my curry which itself was less enjoyable for being eaten with a wooden fork from a cardboard box (why does food eaten from cardboard TASTE of cardboard?). It reminded me of the dining experience in East 4 West, where I was served a curry on a metal plate, which my fork scraped on like nails down a blackboard.


The curry was a bit mushy and not very spicy so the whole experience was a bit disappointing – especially as I’d built it up so much in my head.

It had also interrupted my time with my beer. I now realise that this beer must be enjoyed alone and given my full attention to be fully appreciated. I will therefore be back another time to savour this delicious drop.

Martin and Christine finished their drinks while I was still eating and it was my round so I hopped up and over to the bar before I’d finished eating. This was chaos.

‘You pick for us.’

I returned with the Pina Colada Sour (which I would have had if they hadn’t had the Black Forest), only to be told that sours were the one thing Christine didn’t like. I bounced back to the bar and returned with a tropical Berlinerweisse, which was better received.

‘Ooh they’ve got plates over there.’

I turned round to see what looked like Korean food from Yoki Social Table. Mmm…

Other traders here are:

Slap & Pickle


Dokes Pizzeria

Something for everyone? Well at least a good choice. But now it was time for us to move on so I could get my tick (although I’m still not a ticker).

Christine and I reverted to ‘follow mode’ as Martin led the way. I learned on our first meeting in Sheffield that Martin likes to take the scenic route which to be honest is fine as more steps is better for my health. I think the weather changed at least three times (it wasn’t supposed to rain!) by the time we reached our destination.

Salutation (GBG)

We were very much in StudentVille now and this traditional boozer stood out like a sore thumb.

On stepping into the pub I experienced a new and unique sensation: I felt tall. Why was this? Christine pointed out that it was because I was standing next to her and she was only 5’1 (one of the reasons I like Christine so much) but it must have been more than that? Was the bar lower? Why was I looking down into the fridge when I normally had to stand on my tiptoes and peer over the bar to see what was in the fridge? Was the barmaid really so much shorter than me?

At length I spotted that there was indeed a step down to get behind the bar. Was there a slope too?

Christine was asked by the barmaid if she was part of a particular (presumably student) group and she replied in the negative. I’d have said yes on the offchance I might have got a discount but of course discounts are frowned upon these days, aren’t they? Although times are hard for all of us (especially when we’ve just paid £13.75 for a box of mush).

Anyway here are the beers.

Bollington Brewery is in Macclesfield (where I think I might be going for a match pre-season, although I reserve the right to fuck that idea off between now and then). This puzzled Martin and we wondered why there was a tie-up between a not-that-local brewery and a student pub in Manchester (answers on a postcard please).

I liked the beermats in here (from the brewery) and was sneaking one into my handbag for my beermat-collecting friend when I realised Christine didn’t have a beermat for her drink so I reluctantly slid it underneath her glass instead.

I had a pint of the Oat Mill Stout, which was odd in that it didn’t taste of stout. Had I been blind testing, I’d have said it was a bitter. Maybe it tasted of mills. I don’t know. As I forced it down I gazed adoringly at the fridge.

Like Society (which this place wasn’t in any other way), the audio was uncomfortable in here and I struggled to hear the conversation. If there’s a Campaign for Pubcarpets and Soft Furnishings then please sign me up. They cushion sound wonderfully, as well as making a pub more homely and comfy.

This pub reminded me somehow of the Sacks of Potatoes in Birmingham. They’re both traditional pubs in a student area, serving real ale and pub grub (I didn’t see a menu but burger and chips was delivered to the opposite table while we drank and subsequent research reveals this was £6.50).

I know you’re dying to know about the toilets. There was a high cistern with chain flush in here, which pleased me.

Surely there are sterner deterrents for spiking drinks than those listed…?

We headed off in the direction of Sandbar but were distracted en route by one of those pubs we simply couldn’t walk past…

The Footage (not GBG)

What a treat to find a pub that’s a converted cinema that isn’t a Spoons! I could see Martin was equally enticed by this pub and he was muttering something about how sometimes pubs can be worth visiting even if they haven’t got beer.

‘But Martin – there’s a sign in the window saying CRAFT BEER.’

Those were the magic words that opened the doors to the pub for us – and inside we stepped, Martin only stopping to call Matt to tell him about our change of plans.

Well, what’s not to love about this place?

Had I not already placed my order for a pint of Clwb Tropica, I’d have been tempted with one of these cocktails.

We were soon joined by Matt and Emma. My favourite fact of the night came from Matt, who insisted that 90% of Tiny Rebel’s output was Clwb Tropica. I can well believe that, as it is a fine beer resembling another popular drink, Lilt.

We were excited to see the tables had plug sockets. We sat ourselves down at the bench seating (think Wagamamas) and my eyes were drawn to the tv.

Yes that was Estonia v Serbia in the pool. I never knew televised pool was a thing, let alone a former Liverpool goalkeeper (who I thought was Zimbabwean) played for Estonia.

I took a peek at the food menu and this is what I would have had.

The vegetarian version of Angry Birds.

I’ve chopped the price off here but I’m pretty confident they were less than £13.75.

Now I had used to be a Heineken drinker in my day (back when it was £1.53 a pint), so I could have no objections when Christine insisted I had my photo taken in these seats for the blog.

As we finished our drinks, the others headed off somewhere Oriental for their tea (well they’re Southern so probably call it ‘dinner’), while I consulted Google Maps to guide me back to Piccadilly station, as I had no idea where I was, having followed Martin down here.

On the train home to Blackpool, armed with a bottle of water, I watched Borgen on Netflix (an old BBC4 favourite from the days when I watched stuff other than Eurovision on the BBC).

When I realised I was going to get home before the episode finished, I began watching it at 1.5x speed (who knew that was a thing?). I made it back to Blackpool North with a good minute to spare. Result!

Thank you Manchester for another fun evening’s exploration. Look out for Mission #6, which I expect will take me up Rochdale Road as I bid to complete the city’s GBG entries…

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Next Up: Southport v Blackpool.

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