Jane Stuart – Writer

Writer on beer, football culture and Blackpool FC.

Cleethorpes Pubs

I’m not doing many away games this season but I wasn’t going to miss out on the trip to my beloved Lincoln. And, of course, it’s quite impossible for me to go to Lincoln without calling into my favourite chippy in Clee en route. And it would have been rude not to visit the odd pub while I was there…

I was on the train today, with my chauffeur, Lee, working this weekend. My first train was from Blackpool North to Manchester Piccadilly. I waited for ages for it to arrive and, by the time it did, my back was aching from my not-even-that-heavy rucksack having been on my back for half an hour.

But now I settled on the train with my Earl Grey (no milk, bag removed) and got to work on the latest chapter of my book, having already written my morning pages waiting for the train to arrive. I then worked on my blog for a bit and all of a sudden the train was pulling into Piccadilly.

My connecting train was due in on the same platform I landed on (13), which allowed me enough time to powder my nose and grab another Earl Grey.

Very Tempting Indeed. But I was saving myself for my chippy lunch.

I was disappointed to find no charging points on the train to Clee but I forgave this when the trolley dolly appeared (not that I was partaking). It wasn’t until towards the end of my journey that I bumped my knee against the charging point that had been hiding underneath my table.

Nice view.

Here’s what I was reading today. Highly recommended insight into non league football from the perspective of a player.

I also spent the journey time catching up on correspondence.

On arrival at Clee I was greeted by the smell of sea air and then a chippy (but not my chippy).

As I made my way through the bustling town, I was quickly reminded how busy it gets in Clee during the summer – a stark difference to our previous visit.

Right now it was noon and time for that chippy – the reason I have visited Clee every year since the very first time, in 2018, when I came here to work Chasetown’s match at Clee Town.

Steels Cornerhouse Restaurant

I’d booked a table in advance with my gravy Steels correspondent, Ian. On arrival (with no sign of Ian) I was sent upstairs, where I nosed around in search of a RESERVED sign. I was just about to take a seat at a table in the window when I was immediately leapt upon and advised that was reserved for the couple who sit there every week. Fancy coming here every week! That couple are living the dream.

I selected another table (actually my favourite) and enquired after today’s beers of choice. As my waitress scurried off to find out, I perused the menu – despite knowing full well what I was going to have.

Meanwhile the couple who come here every week were asked:

‘Are you having your usual?’

This is a life goal for me. I want Steels to know what my usual is. If only I lived closer and could visit more than once or twice a year.

Today’s beer of choice. I’d be heading to Docks next.

I placed my food order and it soon arrived.

Small Haddock & Chips with Gravy.

This comes with bread and butter and also a tea, the latter of which I refused because, let’s face it, I’d already started on the beer and a tea wasn’t going to cut it.

Now I don’t usually eat the bread and butter but today (a) I was starving, having been up for six hours with only two Alpen Light bars to sustain me; and (b) I’ve recently decided to ditch the scales for mental health reasons (I’d been weighing myself twice daily and that’s not healthy). And so today, dear reader, with Paddington nowhere in sight, I was all over this bread and butter.

My gravy was, of course, instantly poured over my entire plate. So now I had gravy-coated chips with which to build little chip butties. And oh my word these were a revelation.

I knew this to be exceptionally good because not only did it taste incredible and lead to me eating ALL the bread, but I found myself nodding while I was eating it. That’s a new thing I’ve found myself doing when consuming something particularly lush. And it wouldn’t be my last nod of the day either. Indeed this was only the start of a particularly delicious weekend.

I have been chastised for my choice of wholemeal bread here but that’s one of many healthy SlimmingWorld swaps that I will forever take forward.

Now to walk off that magnificent lunch. But first it was time to ditch the rucksack and jacket (it was scorchio here today) so I headed to check in at my lodgings for the night.

The Bays B&B

I struggled to find the entrance to this place but I found some signs to follow and soon enough I was being warmly greeted by a dog. Unsure of how to check in with a dog, I was pleased to see a woman appear shortly thereafter. I was shown to my room up these amazing stairs.

‘The light in the bathroom is motion activated, so you might need to dance around a bit.’

‘Ah no problem – I’ve been in that situation before. It’ll be reet.’

I waved her away, confident I could handle the light.

Left to settle in, I unpacked my toiletries and scoured the room for a hairdryer. I was travelling light so I hadn’t brought mine – and I was sure I’d messaged to check this online. I scoured the room again – checking all the cupboards and drawers – before heading down to ask my landlady on my way out.

‘Oh you can borrow mine, lovely.’

‘I won’t need it until the morning.’

‘I’ll leave it outside your door for you.’

Ah wasn’t she lovely? I felt right at home here.

I skipped out in the direction of my first pub of the day. It was over in Grimsby but happily it was in a straight line, which meant I could keep my eyes on my surroundings, as opposed to the map on my phone. Since there wasn’t much to look at, my mind quickly turned to tea. I was hoping to eat at Willys tonight but needed to check they were definitely serving food, otherwise I’d need to make alternative plans. I rang them up.

‘Hello. Are you serving food tonight, please?’

‘Yes, from five til eight. It’s curry night.’

Dear reader, I sprang off my feet and punched the air in delight. I’d finally get my curry at Willys after the heartbreak of my last visit.

On arrival in Grimsby, I was greeted with these steps to a footbridge I remembered from a previous visit (unblogged, but I tried an alternative walk back via the docks and almost died as it was so hot and I couldn’t find my way out through all the fish factories).

I’m not saying Grimsby is stuck in the 1980s but…

Docks Beers

Finally – an oasis!

I headed first to the fridge – more to cool down than anything.

At 11.5% I immediately ruled this out as the first beer on my crawl. I was meeting Ian from Steels for a drink later on and was under strict instruction to ‘stay sober’ in the meantime. Obvs that wasn’t going to happen but his voice was like Paddington’s in my ear.

I had to have Docks’ own beer, of course, so I started with a half of Shutdown, a bloody tasty American Pale, which I supped quickly on the terrace at the front of the building.

Mockingbird were out here offering streetfood action. Of course, I’d just eaten, so I wasn’t as interested as I might have otherwise been. But, looking at their menu now, I am beginning to regret this. Next time I will be all over those Buttermilk Fried Chicken Tenders, Mango Piri Piri Sauce and Poutine Topped Tots. Oh yes I will.

As I’d walked all this way, it seemed a shame to only stay for one, so I broke my own unwritten rule of only having a half in each pub. I went in for a third of the Graveyard Shift, Docks’ Milk Stout. Now I have had this before but this particular one solicited a nod while I was drinking it, it was THAT good. Indeed, it was my favourite beer of the day – and I’ll definitely be seeking out more of this.

I love Docks. On my last visit here, you may recall I was upstairs in Docks Academy for a gig. Honestly, if I lived anywhere near Grimsby, I’d be here all the time for their lush beers, great gigs and comedy nights.

But I had other favourite haunts to revisit today. Google Maps led me to the bus stop where I could board the bus back to Clee (I wasn’t doing that walk again – and, besides, it was the far side of Clee I was heading for now). I got chatting to a friendly woman at the bus stop. I introduced her to Google Maps as a useful tool for finding bus stops and timings; while she confirmed that the capped £2 single bus fare also applied over here. Apparently you can get all the way to Hull from Grimsby on the bus for £2. Her son does just this on his days off, using his season pass at The Deep to spend all day watching the fish. What a wonderful way to spend a day. I fell in love with Hull and The Deep when I visited and could happily spend a day gazing at the sawfish that reminded me of Josh Bowler. As the bus arrived, my new friend waved me aboard ahead of her, despite her having waited longer than me.

‘I’ll let you go first as a guest to the town for the day.’

I love the people here – another reason I keep returning.

I gazed out of the window of the very hot bus and chuckled at a little boy doing the robot as he walked down the street.

I missed my stop but the next one was nearer to my destination so that was a bonus.

Cleethorpes Taphouse & Kitchen

I’d been so excited to find this place on our last visit that I wasn’t missing out this time.

(Lots of pics because I had to wait for the barrel to be changed on the beer I ordered).

I went for a half of the Atom Camden Ink Stout. I got confused trying to check this into Untappd, as it apparently didn’t exist. I thought about it and got even more confused. Why would Atom Brewery be brewing a Camden beer? Did Camden Town Brewery still exist? Was it a collab? Had they sold the recipe? I resolved that I couldn’t be arsed to find out (I know you’re only here for the gravy anyway) and headed to the beer garden to relax with my beer.

This is the life.

Dear reader, I simply cannot explain why I once again managed to resist the Kinder Bueno Cocktail. It was likely a combination of (a) full from all that bread with my chippy lunch; and (b) curry night being just around the corner. Ooh curry night! There was no way I was missing out on that again. I resolved to be in situ before the night even began to make doubly sure of it…

Wot no seagulls.

It was a delightful stroll down the beach. I’d have ambled much more slowly if I hadn’t needed a wee.

Willys Pub & Brewery

I was well early for curry night but I couldn’t wait to get here. I strode up to the bar with a smile and was immediately greeted with a compliment.

‘Ooh I like your t-shirt.’

Immediate bonus points to any pub that greets me like this. The only other one to have done it was Stocks and Shilling in Poulton, which was instantly my favourite pub there. Not that I’ve been back since but that is a timely reminder to myself to get back to Poulton soon.

Anyway, the tee in question was my KEEP BRITAIN BOOZING Lancashire Hotpots tee, which I do like to wear on pub crawls and and beer festivals because it’s an important message. There’s even a song about it.

I responded in kind.

‘Ooh I like your nails.’

‘Aw thanks. I thought it was an unusual colour but, since I’ve had them done, I’ve noticed everything’s this colour: the handles on the bus, my dustpan…’

I ordered a half of the Azacca before heading over to study the curry board.

I took a seat towards the rear of the pub and contemplated the menu at length. I simply could not decide between the Beef Rogan Josh and the Chicken Balti. Hmm. I wondered if they’d do me half and half? That’s not something I see much these days but I do love a Thali. There used to be an Indian restaurant in Walsall where you could order two smaller portions of two different curries and I’d always go for that. Fuck it – what was there to lose by asking? Besides, they seemed like lovely people here. I headed up to the bar at two minutes to five and posed the question of the barman.

‘Do you know, in all the years I’ve been here, I’ve never been asked for that.’

The barmaid interjected.

‘They’ll be served in the same dish.’

I said that was fine and, of course, these kind people accommodated my request, as I knew they would. I fondly remembered the staff here from my last visit, when the barman scurried off into the kitchen to see if he could find me a curry, even though the kitchen had closed an hour previously.

To accompany my curry, I had half of The Durango Kid. At 5.3%, it was stronger that I would have liked, but how could I resist a beer brewed by my old mate Scott from the Black Country?

Anyway, here it is – finally!

No way could I eat all this but I tried my best! My research revealed that the Chicken Balti just edged it.

As I was stuffing my face, I heard a raised voice at the bar.

‘How does this work, pal? He’s just walked in and got served and we’ve been waiting 20 minutes.’

I checked the time. It was ten past five. He certainly hadn’t been there 20 minutes ago, as I’d been up there in the meantime to order my curry. I know that because I went up bang on two minutes to five. I simmered as I finished my curry and my beer. How dare that man speak to the lovely staff here like that. They managed to calm him down and shut him up but I was still angry about it. Should I confront him? I’ve never done anything like that before but I really was that cross. I couldn’t believe anyone in this lovely town would speak to anyone like that – let alone the lovely staff here. I had to do something. After some consideration, I decided to take a different course of action, cancelling out rudeness with kindness and tipping the staff a tenner on the way out.

‘I’m sorry that man was a dick. You don’t deserve that. You’ve been brilliant.’

And they had. This is lovely pub and an absolute must visit on my annual visit to Clee. Visit yourself and I know you’ll be kind, dear reader.

Message in a Bottle

And now to visit another place I’ve called in at every time I’ve been to Clee: simply the best bottle shop in the land.

I was greeted by closed gates, was immediately confused and stood outside and Googled their opening times. Hmm. Should be open til 7pm. And it wasn’t 6pm yet. I ambled back over and resolved to find someone to ask. I’d seen people milling about inside. I tried the gate. Ooh it was open. I crept inside, where I was immediately greeted by Ryan’s friendly face.

‘Hello again. Will you be drinking with us today or are you just shopping?’

I confirmed the former and was invited to take a seat in the bottle shop area (the outside seating area being closed tonight, hence my confusion). It’s a small area but I was invited to join a man at his table, which I gladly did, barely interrupting his sudoku. Here’s what I chose to drink.

Lethal at 13% but how could I resist this beauty? And it was absolutely lush.

As I waited for Ian (of Steels fame) to arrive, I was putting the finishing touches to my plan for tomorrow’s pub crawl around Lincoln. The pubs I was happy with, but it’s the eateries that always trip me up in Lincoln; I’d yet to find somewhere to eat that was The One. I thought I might have cracked it this time with the recommended Castle View Indian restaurant. As Lee doesn’t eat Indian food, I had been denied this on our last couple of visits…but he wasn’t here this time. I’d looked to book online before I’d set off but there were no slots available online. I decided to give them a call now, just on the offchance…

…and only went and secured a booking for tomorrow night. Woohoo!

I had a message from Ian, who was outside, confused that this place was closed. I confirmed it wasn’t and he soon joined me, shortly followed by his wife, Rachel. It was lovely to have some company after a day out on my own – and even Mr Sudoku joined in our conversation before too long.

We learned that Gareth Bartram, head chief at local Michelin star restaurant Winteringham Fields, was coming here to Message in a Bottle to host a Supper Club. That is some coup and testament to how well thought of this place is. That is, if you need any further proof, in addition to the fact that I visit from across the country every year without fail.

The bell rang for last orders so I (stupidly) felt compelled to down what was left of my 13%er and dive in on that very 11.5%er I’d seen in Docks earlier today.

Oops. Well how much harm could it do, with last orders at 7pm? I could always sleep it off…

Sadly all too soon it was time to retire for the evening and I headed back to my B&B. I bumbled about my small room for a bit, attempted to watch Corrie and couldn’t get my head around why it wasn’t on (clue: it was Thursday), could not find a glass ANYWHERE despite needing water to get me through the night and had no intention of going downstairs to ask because I’d already got undressed, and was on the verge of using the lid from my hairspray as a makeshift glass before I eventually found some sort of odd vase thing, which I decided would have to do.

Meanwhile I’d been battling like crazy with the motion-activated bathroom light and thought I’d cracked it with an OCD-inducing ON-OFF-ON-OFF-ON combination, after which the light seemed to remain ON.

I then promptly passed out on this over-cushioned bed to dream about tomorrow’s adventures in my beloved Lincoln.

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Next Up: Lincoln Pubs.