If I seem to be getting a lot of posts out of my Hampshire weekender, stick with it. The next post is largely about a failed trip to the loo. Bet you can’t wait for that one, Dave.
At the risk of a starting an intra-Hampshire war, I’d say Southampton has trailed behind Portsmouth (and specifically Southsea) in the pub stakes, but then Pompey is a Top 10 Pub Town.
Southampton central is particularly weak. In the suburbs, Freemantle, St Denys and Bitterne have some crackers, but only a fool like me would walk there from the main station. The closest GBG pub to the trains is a giant Spoons. That accolade used to go to a Goose.
On Friday evening I popped down to the Town Quay for the annual new Guide entry. In the early evening sun, Southampton looked gorgeous, seeming to steal the best bits from Stockport and ancient Rome.
Even the new WestQuay development that dominates the route down from the station isn’t that bad, and Southampton is really a shopping town. The “Peterborough of the South”, but with ships.
What little is left of the Old Town is in good shape,
though it rubs shoulders uncomfortably with some of the worst ’60s housing outside of north Cambridge.
But it’s an interesting Old Town, deservedly getting some tourist attention these days. You can’t tell, but the Duke of Wellington is a Wadworths house.
The Guide newbie, the Dancing Man Tap is housed in a striking building adapted over 600 years from storing wool to housing folk with loud laughs.
It really is an impressively frantic looking place.
A bit like the Brewhouse & Kitchen chain, there’s far too many drinks. On the bar, on the riveted wall, in the sky. Signs all over the place. I’ve no idea how a foreign visitor has a clue what to order.
Obviously, I go for the beer that’s just been poured for an equally confused, and much younger man. It’s called something wacky like “Best Bitter“.
I found a nice posing table with good views of the Friday night action. On the bar, blokes standing around doing nothing.
Behind me was a work group “anchored” by a woman with Hampshire’s loudest laugh (possibly beaten by the one that turned out to regale Simon in the Butcher’s Hook on Saturday).
And to the front, a couple of German students discussing “Brexit”, whatever that is.
This really felt like a destination pub for people who need a destination.
The house home-brew was OK, but not cool enough for my liking, and the seats turned out to be the most uncomfortable of the year, like sitting on a tractor. So I popped next door to the Platform Tavern, of which more later.
But, for reasons unknown, I then went back to the Dancing Man. Perhaps I wanted to give it a second chance, perhaps I wanted to try the keg, perhaps I needed the loo, perhaps I was enraptured by the 1997 soundtrack of Verve and the Manics.
Or perhaps I just wanted to see if the students had resolved “Brexit”. They hadn’t, having moved on to a description of the snow in Germany that conjured images of Edward Scissorhands, perhaps because of the metallic art around me. The “loud laugh woman” was still there too, I noted. Do people only go to one pub all night in Southampton ?
I will say this. The staff are excellent and the service very quick. When I randomly asked for their (excellent) Electric Grapefruit from the wall, I was asked;
“Have you had it before ? Would you like a taster ?”
“A pint’s a taster, love” I do hope I didn’t really say that.