I wasn’t the only City fan secretly happy when Wigan nicked the FA Cup in 2013; it’s hard to dislike a town that gave us Stuart Maconie, Limahl and pie on a barm.
As I’ve wrote before, it’s a beautiful town with proper shops, unlike one close to home I could name.
It’s also fast becoming the centre of the world as far as micropubs are concerned. Middlesborough and Ramsgate may stake a claim, but in Wigan they now seem to dominate, certainly as far as Beer Guide entries are concerned. Good quality real ale comes in a vast variety of settings here.
I’d never criticise the omission of pubs from the Guide, as only local branch members can really assess relative quality and consistency of beer. A town that can’t find a place for the John Bull Chophouse has a real embarrassment of riches though.
So the two newbies had a bit to live up to. Luckily, the Tap’n’Barrel is quite special. It’s pleasantly located too, down an attractive little hidden courtyard next to the “Thai Massage” parlour.
There’s a few things that really appeal to me in a pub. First, get the beer right. I asked the nice lady to recommend me one, and the dark stout looked, and was, spectacular (NBSS 4). She was enthusiastically chatty about the beers and brewery (local Martland) too, which is always a bonus. A proper meat pie was supplied at room temperature, and worked perfectly with the stout.
By 12.30 the pub was filling up nicely with the sort of folk you’d expect to find in the Raven. The beer is cheap at the Tap, but it’s cheap nearly everywhere in Wigan, so the Tap must be offering something else. Get rid of the jam jars and you can have a place in my Top 100 pubs.
On the way along Standishgate to my other GBG tick I passed a host of former Beer Guide entries, traditional pubs like the Royal Oak and Millstone, as well as the inevitable new bottle shop.
Blundell’s is a solid café-bar with decent (and bargain) beer, “Love will tear us apart” n the radio, and an attractive wall-painting of Venice. Mrs RM would have loved it.
I might have felt even better about it if the Chinese takeaway across the road had been great, but it was average. Unlike Wigan.