Jane Stuart – Writer

Writer on beer, football culture and Blackpool FC.

Best Blackpool Boozers #1

I am often asked for local pub recommendations so I’m starting this new series of blogs to showcase the best of Blackpool. It also offers me a fine excuse to revisit them all, providing a much-needed tonic at a time when Blackpool FC are, frankly, driving me to drink.

My research begins immediately after a 3-1 home defeat to Cardiff City. I’m not in the best of spirits and if you want to understand a bit more about the root cause of my recent depression, I rant at length at half time on Lee’s match vlog.

So right now I’m hurt and upset and angry and very, very thirsty…

No 13 Bonny Street

Once upon a time, back when it was the Pump & Truncheon, this pub was our home on matchdays. Sadly, during the boycott, the pub was lost – but it came back with a facelift and a new name: No 13 Bonny Street. I’ve given it a couple of goes since but, I’ll be honest, I was only here tonight because it was a convenient pit stop on my walk into town. With the landscape changed and the walk now less familiar, I managed to take a wrong turning on the way, winding through the back streets of Blackpool in what I guessed was roughly the right direction, until I recognised the car park by the police station, which soon saw me at the pub.

Boo no food today. Is that gravy I spy on the beef? This needs further research…

There’s a sign on the windows declaring this pub HOME FANS ONLY and I wonder what happened to lead them to take that decision. Back in the day, we always welcomed those groups of away fans who knew of our little treasure of a pub, Wolves and Derby among them. But, being a home fan myself, I wasn’t too troubled and waltzed inside.

My first stop was the Ladies. I worry about getting locked in the loos at the ground if I go after the match (after recording our post-match thoughts for Lee’s vlog) so I was pretty much dancing right now. The Ladies here are much improved since the Pump days but there is one small issue that I will highlight here.

If you look closely you can just about make out the top of my head in the mirror. How tall do they think the women of Blackpool are? Do they get a lot of stiletto-wearing hens here or something? Anyway, the water slide in between the taps is cool, isn’t it?

I was already chuckling to myself as I headed to the bar, where I was blown away by what I saw on the pumps.

Yee-haw! This is EXACTLY what the doctor ordered.
Love this one too.
Ooh a Yorkshire beer too!

I ordered a pint of mild and took a seat at ‘our’ table at the back of the pub. It was quieter in here than the last time I’d been in here after a match. It was also dimly lit again, like it used to be back in the Pump days. They really brightened up the place when it first reopened and it felt more clinical and less homely somehow. Perhaps this is a consequence of higher energy prices but whatever the reason I was pleased that the warm ambience – and great beer choice – was back.

Nice lighting.

I also loved that they’d made an effort to deck out the pub for the seasonal celebration (I love a pub that does that), with a huge HAPPY EASTER sign on the front of the bar and chickens everywhere.

Karen soon arrived and we made an unspoken point about not talking about the football. We caught up on our respective Open University courses (she’s studying German and I’m studying an English Literature module about Telling Stories). We also chatted about Coronation Street and how annoying Brian is.

That pint of mild hadn’t really touched the sides and, at just 3.2%, I knew it was safe to have another pint, so I returned to the bar. Now I’ve been noticing a severe lack of Tiny Rebel glassware in the pubs of Blackpool in recent weeks, first being served a Clwb Tropica in a Beavertown glass in Ronnies (as yet unblogged, but I will take you there soon) – and last night being served the same beer in this monstrosity in Bootleg Social:

However, here at No 13, I was pleased to eventually find some Tiny Rebel glassware.

It was also nice to see the old name of the beer living on here.

There was a large and loud hen party from Glasgow at the next table and a glass was smashed during the one drink they stayed for. I think away fans might have been less trouble but nonetheless I was actually now quite pleased they were barred from entering to help ease my suffering and help me forget.

The second pint of mild was quaffed as quickly as the first and we were already beginning to relax and recover from the afternoon’s trauma. What a surprising treat this pub had been – and a worthy inclusion in this new series of Best Blackpool Boozers. As much as we both wanted to remain here and drink mild all night, we needed to eat – and I had more pubs to research for you, dear reader – so we reluctantly headed back out into the gloriously sunny (if slightly nippy) evening.

Our walk towards Topping Street took us through the Winter Gardens, where we paused at a window to admire a display of drinks memorabilia that we thought Martin (and fellow Bass afficionadoes) would appreciate.

We continued through Cedar Square, past the new jazz cafe (not open yet, watch this space) and the Cedar Tavern, which I had thought was set to reopen but now has TO LET signs in the windows so who knows what’s happening there.

Akash Tandoori

My visit to Akash was deliberate because it is my favourite place to eat in town. My promotion of sensible drinking dictates that food must be included on every crawl – and none of tonight’s pubs would provide the substantial meal required to soak up the beer I intended to consume. As we ascended the stairs to this first floor restaurant, I warned Karen that they’d be disappointed that she wasn’t Lee. Ever since I put Sammy onto Lee’s YouTube channel on my visit last year, he’s been an avid fan and is dying to meet Lee. I have explained that he can’t eat spicy food but that apparently isn’t a reason for him not to visit. As soon as we emerged at the top of the stairs, Sammy exclaimed:

‘Where’s Lee Charles?’

No ‘Hi Jane – lovely to see you again!’. I know my place in this restaurant. It seems I have no choice but to take Lee along if I’m ever going to make it onto Akash’s Facebook Wall of Fame, which features comedians Rob Beckett and John Thompson, Keith Curle, The Lathums, Derby’s Elvis, Latin dance champions Julie and Hayden and, er, driving instructor John.

‘What’s happened to Blackpool. They’re going down!’

‘I know. Can we not talk about that please…?’

‘It’s probably a good job Lee Charles isn’t here as he wouldn’t be very happy.’

Now I know from previous visits that the portion sizes in Akash are generous, so we passed on the poppadoms and starters and each went straight in for the Chicken Tikka Jalfrezi – mine with Chana Rice and Karen’s with a naan. I was so much in need of this comfort food that I dived straight in without taking a photo but here’s one from a previous visit.

Chicken Tikka Jalfrezi with Chana Rice.
Chicken Shashlik – my ‘healthy option’ choice from my previous visit.

Over dinner (tea?), Karen and I did talk about the football because we had calmed down sufficiently and our guard was down after a couple of pints (we were on the soft drinks now, pint of Diet Coke for me, water for Karen).

I managed to wolf down most of my meal – pausing only to blow my nose regularly – negating the requirement to take a doggy bag with me on the rest of the pub crawl (I don’t like to waste such great food as this).

Before we left, I popped upstairs to the loo and was once again reminded that I wasn’t as tall as they clearly expect people to be round here.

A good foot above my head.

The food had been the perfect combination of lush and spicy and hearty and now we were ready to continue on to the next pub.

Alberts Ale Micropub

From an upstairs restaurant, we headed downstairs to a micropub in the basement of a b&b round the corner.

On the right on entering was the bar, displaying a huge plate of OVEN BOTTOMS. Soz I forgot to take a photo but what are oven bottoms anyway? They looked like barms to me. Again, I guess this warrants another visit (it’s a hard life). I did, however, remember to photograph the pump clips for you.

Obvs I went for the chocolate fudge stout – which was every bit as quaffable as the mild had been.

In here we were greeted by Victoria and Steve (by pre-arrangement), my friends from Blackpool Fylde & Wyre CAMRA, who were sitting at the table next to the bar. Apparently our arrival was perfectly timed to avoid the big group of Cardiff fans, who had just left (phew!).

We relocated to the seating on the left hand side of the pub and I settled into a comfy sofa. Now on my right, at the back of the pub, was the back room, divided from the rest of the pub by a curtain, which has Punch and Judy above it. The music here is eclectic and tonight they were playing ‘With My Little Stick of Blackpool Rock’ by George Formby. I love this pub and its many quirks.

Victoria updated us on the recent CAMRA trip to Kirkby Lonsdale, which sounded like more travelling than drinking, which I suppose is good for the calorie count at least. Which reminds me, I must get planning my next pub explorations…

This is another of those pubs where I could easily stay all night – especially when they have such a lush beer on – but, alas, the blog necessitated us getting moving once again.

Cask & Tap

Well, it was hardly a chore, coming to the best pub in Blackpool, back on Topping Street, next door but one to Akash (we’d come to Alberts first because we’re never sure about the opening hours and didn’t want to miss it). Here’s what was on tonight:

I’d been in last night and sampled the Marble Mild, as well as this one:

So tonight I had the Wrench, as I hadn’t tried that one.

We took a seat at a table in the middle of the pub – the same one Karen and I had shared with the French magicians we met on our last night out in town. I removed my hat and coat and nipped to conduct another loo review.

Nice coat hooks.

So, why is this the best pub in Blackpool? Well the beer range is excellent, as you can see. It’s also a great pub for locals, with the same faces to be found on both sides of the bar. I’m always greeted by name and often gently guided towards beers to suit my taste with a hand on the pump clip of the lush stout. It’s also welcoming for visitors, handily situated for Blackpool North station and the Winter Gardens. As with Akash, it welcomes away fans on their way to/from Bloomfield Road. Despite only opening just before the initial lockdown, the reputation of this fine pub is growing all the time. It continues to grow with its customer base, with the frontage being developed as well as additional space upstairs being worked on. A beer fridge would be a great next step but, to be honest, those keg lines are dangerous enough for me right now. They do offer carry outs for those wanting a train beer (evidence of this can be seen on the right of the photo below).

By this point I had quite forgotten (until reminded) that we were also supposed to be going to Brew Room tonight. This is the traditional last pub of the night in town because it’s usually open the latest. But, quite frankly, we were now done with leaving good pubs behind – and I’d got quite enough material for part one of this blog – so we stayed for a second beer. And that meant it was time to review the keg board…

I’d had the Wild Weather last night so went for the lush krieky Wilde Child, which made for the perfect last beer of the night.

Not a Tiny Rebel beer.

There was much confusion about the buses tonight, it being Good Friday, so did that mean it was a Friday or a Sunday timetable and what time was the last bus? Google was saying my bus didn’t exist but the Blackpool Transport app disagreed. Victoria assured me the bus stopped just outside this pub but I remembered waiting there in vain for a bus for an hour once so didn’t trust that stop. I headed off into town, where I knew the bus stopped (if, indeed, it was running). Happily, it did arrive – and Victoria and Steve were on it, having boarded outside the pub.

I sat next to Victoria and looked quizically at the back of the seat in front of me.

Victoria confirmed this was one of those magic wireless chargers. How exciting was that?! Well it would have been more exciting if the bit that held your phone in place hadn’t been broken off, but it was still exciting nonetheless.

I arrived home safely and smiling. What a start that had been to this new series of Best Blackpool Boozers! I was expecting good beer but that was an outstanding effort from the pubs reviewed – and just what I needed after the afternoon’s shambles at Bloomfield Road. And yet this is only the beginning. I know there are more excellent pubs across the Fylde Coast and I am going to take you to all of them over the coming weeks and months. Stay tuned and subscribe to my blog (button on the right if you’re reading on a desktop or below if you’re on a mobile) and follow me on the socials if you don’t already (@blackpooljane on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram).

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Next Up: Luton Town v Blackpool.