There aren’t many people with a good word for the Potteries towns, even among it’s many escapees, but Mrs RM and myself (and my parents) love the place.
Clearly it helps if you like gritty urban walks, basic pubs and calorific foods, but this is also one of our greenest cities, with some of our most interesting and hands-on museum. The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge is no match for the Gladstone Pottery with it’s history of the toilet.
The pubs are among my favourites, with the Coachmakers, Glebe and Rising Sun matching the most traditional Stockport boozers, with the added bonus of a fair bit of Bass.
I stop a few times each year on the way to Stockport and beyond, and always find something new to explore. We explored Hanley’s new Smithfield office/leisure development on Saturday, a speculative venture that looks impressive but in need of a few more tenants.
That’s a publicity shot, of course. You’d never see people running in Stoke, but it is a genuinely attractive development, and the wildflowers are stunning.
You’re back to reality in Piccadilly, the most interesting shopping street in Hanley, its Oldham Street or Mill Road if you like.
For the first time, we found a decent independent coffee shop there, tsp providing a touch of Tib Street at Potteries prices. Across the road there’s the sort of handwritten guide to art installations that I love.
We spent an hour exploring. A few of the places had already closed, including the Back to the Future Café, but clearly the very cheap rents are attracting a number of independent start-ups.
The record shop actually had CDs, a rarity in Cambridge, and a Hungarian café with imported Czech beer would have looked enormously appealing after midday.
Some great street art too, covering a range of modern styles;
It’s all very encouraging, and reminds me a bit of the changes in Mansfield we saw last year. Except for a distinct lack of micropubs, or many pubs at all.
The Unicorn still flogs its London Pride, oddly, and the Coachmakers still stands proud near the shiny new bus station. The Wetherspoons is THE place to go to see morning drinking in all its glory.
The bad news is that the big hope for a beer exhibition pub in the town has closed within two years, a matter of months since its Beer Guide debut. The Smithfield came from the same lineage as Brum’s Wellington, but even the Potteries thirst for real ale couldn’t make it a destination pub.
So our one new Beer Guide pub down the road in Fenton was a throwback rather than a sign of the future. The Bench & Bar proclaims its cask ale credentials, and to be fair a range of Bass, Hancocks and Joules appeals to me, as did a typical Potteries bar lay-out. I should have had the Joules, but my well-known loyalties won out, and Bass it was.
NBGSS* 4 for the glass, NBSS 2.5 for the beer. Mrs RM wasn’t impressed by what I’ll call a “lived-in” feel either, and the pub was very quiet until a group of locals tipped up just as we were leaving,and just as the free sausage rolls were arriving. Funny that.
At least Hanley still has it’s culinary fallback in the town centre (not Poundland).
* National Beer Glass Scoring System