Jane Stuart – Writer

Writer on beer, football culture and Blackpool FC.

Best Blackpool Boozers #2

If you missed #1 you can find it here.

This mission was once again strategically planned to forget about the afternoon’s football but Blackpool actually won so that was a bonus (despite the match against Wigan being one of the worst I’ve ever seen). I met Karen at the bus stop and we headed north in search of top pubbage.

On board the number 5 we caught up on our respective days. I explained I’d been to Plum Tree Farm for breakfast and the menu had been decent (if calorie-laden).

‘What beers did they have on?’

‘Well I had the Greene King IPA and there was another one…er…something to do with chickens?’

‘Chickens? In a beer?’

‘Hang on, I took a photo… Old Speckled Hen!’

The bus seemed to take a long time, winding through town, enabling us to view the sights of Blackpool on a Saturday night. We could actually have walked to our first pub just as quickly – and the evening was mild enough to have done so. I also feel like I’ve earned my beer when I’ve walked to the pub. In fact, I’d earned several watching Blackpool this afternoon…

Cask (Layton)

We’d visited this excellent micropub on its opening night but I’d only been back once or twice since – for no other reason than location. But that’s no excuse really, as it’s well worth a special trip. Tonight I was reminded why, as soon as I arrived at the bar.

‘Have you been here before?’

‘Well…not for a while.’

‘I thought I didn’t recognise you.’

The barman (who had actually knocked off 20 minutes earlier) proceeded to talk us through the drinks options.

I waved my hand in the direction of the hand pumps and said that was what we were here for.

I wanted the dark beer but I also wanted the Coach House because I like their beers. I opted for a half of both – and both were in perfect nick and clearly well kept. Karen really enjoyed the Acorn, brewed by a Sandgrownun.

There was big news on the snackage front.

Bye bye Pork Shop.

The chilli & lime nuts might have tempted me, had we not been booked in for a meal shortly.

Pretty much as soon as we sat down, the man at the next table (Steve) engaged us in conversation. He’d become a regular here during lockdown, when his daily trip to the shop soon involved a detour via Cask for takeaway beer. Lucky Steve, living so close to such a great pub.

Then who should waltz into the pub but Derek, my season ticket neighbour from the South Stand.

‘I’m just walking the dog.’

Having seen photos of Noodle since she was a puppy – including in a little baby grow when she broke her leg – I couldn’t resist heading out to meet her (completely blanking Mrs Derek in the process – oops sorry!).

There were more dogs inside the pub, too, these belonging to fellow Seasiders we got chatting to.

We could happily have stayed here all night but (a) more pubs to research; and (b) we needed food. We’d definitely be back more regularly though, as great pubs like this deserve our support. Use em or lose em, folks.

I nearly got run over outside the cemetery on the walk to the bus stop, as I couldn’t take me eyes off a group of huge dogs that looked like some sort of husky / St Bernard cross (not that I know anything about dogs).

We boarded the number 9 bus to Bispham. I’m not sure if the driver was just having a bad day, but he threw four teenagers off the bus (I think they’d been vaping) before engaging in road rage with a car driver, who made his feelings quite clear with a hand signal. We disembarked at Bispham roundabout and walked up Red Bank Road in the direction of the prom.

La Piazza (Bispham)

There is an abundance of restaurants in Bispham and we have options of Indian, Chinese, Spanish and Italian. I opted for this place because the menu was enticing and also for reasons of nostalgia, as this was the first place I ever got lashed. I was delighted to see there was no Diamond White on the drinks menu tonight, as I’d have felt compelled to try one. The fact that this place is still in business some 30 years later was also a factor in its favour.

I was glad I’d booked, as the small restaurant was packed and buzzing. We were quickly shown to our table and handed menus. I already knew what I was having to eat. Drinkswise, I ordered a pint of Diet Coke because I don’t tend to drink alcohol when I’m eating in a restaurant. Why waste syns on lager?

As Karen contemplated the menu, I conducted a loo review.

The lock didn’t work on one of the two cubicles, so I used the other one.

Nice handwash.
Guessing this is a baby changing mat?

Now I don’t usually take photos of anyone else’s food, but I made an exception tonight because mine was less than photogenic. (This is a disclaimer in case Paddington is reading and thinks I ate all this).

My starter. Chicken livers with bonus gravy, bread and salad.
Karen’s starter. Ham and melon.
My main. Penne arrabbiata.
Karen’s main. Tropicana pizza.

I can see why this place is so popular. The service is excellent and efficient, with friendly waiters buzzing about all over the place. We were in and out after two courses within an hour, with an invitation to ‘come back tomorrow – we need the money!’

Cask (Bispham)

This is the younger (but bigger) sister pub of Cask in Layton and it had these beers on tonight.

You know what I’m having for pudding here, right?

There was a nice display of crisps but we were stuffed after polishing off that two-course Italian and we barely had room for beer (I managed two pints of Fudge! though – and bloody lush it was too!).

As with its (her?) sister pub, everyone seemed to want to strike up conversation with us in here. A man across the room hollered over ‘Jane!’ and came over to chat about today’s match and Blackpool’s general situation. After he’d left and Karen had conceded defeat to the Italian and gone to catch her tram, a complete stranger spotted my BFC gilet (I know it’s a bodywarmer but gilet has fewer syllables, also that’s what my posh friends call them) and I ended up chatting with him and his pal about general nonsense (I’m pretty sure the delights of Cleethorpes came up).

In conclusion, these Cask places are exactly what I want a micropub to be: a hub of the community, where strangers talk to each other as friends and the beer is top notch. I definitely don’t visit these places as much as they deserve and that is going to change.

I headed out to the bus stop, where there was a man already waiting for the bus. We were soon joined by a woman who I’d estimate to be 20 years older than me, who was up for a chat.

‘Have you had a good night?’

‘I’ve not bin out yet! I’m just on me way into town. I’ve got me bottle of voddy in me bag because, well, you’ve got to, haven’t ya? Everything’s so expensive these days.’

I nodded in sympathy, secretly admiring her stamina. I struggle to stay awake past 2230, let alone heading out into town at that time.

Aboard the bus, a few pints down, full and tired, I was puzzled at the phone charging point in front of me. What was the weird bit at the top?

It would be Monday (sober) before I’d realise that’s the bit that holds your phone in place when charging on the magic wireless bit.

All in all, I was delighted with my second mission. This is turning out to be a great series to research. And I know there are more great pubs on the Fylde Coast, so watch this space for Best Blackpool Boozers #3 coming soon…

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Next Up: Chorley Pub Festival.