The Famous Lion Stoke Pub Review

Since opening, The Famous Lion has become a favourable addition to Stoke City Centre’s sparse pub scene.

It is a fine example of a modern pub and a sharp contrast to The Wheatsheaf Wetherspoon across the road.

This former furniture shop has a smart exterior, whilst a spacious bar area welcomes you with its comfortable leather couches and non deafening plasma screen. The interior is contemporary, innovative and extremely well kept with plenty of distinctive touches. Whether it be the themed artwork, unusual fireplace, or stained lion head glass windows, a great deal of endeavour has gone in to creating a unique experience. To the side, the bar expands in to a surprisingly sizable drinking and dining area with a pleasant beer garden at the rear. Comfortable, rather than spectacular, it’s impressive how the space has been utilised. Although a lengthy distance involving a steep staircase, the toilets befit the commendable effort elsewhere.

Customers were a little short in numbers during the review period, although we’re reliably informed that the weekend discos are popular. Suits from the local offices frequent on weekday lunchtimes, although it was concerning being the only customers there during Saturday lunchtime. Maybe it was owing to the food, which is unremarkable pub fare, being non existent due to illness. Reputable punters create a livelier atmosphere in the evening. Thankfully this isn’t the kind of venue to attract mindless ruffians so don’t expect youths downing shots and flirting outrageously as a predominantly middle aged crowd gather.

The beer on offer was the one significant cause of disgruntlement. The sight of three handpumps is encouraging but during our visits only one was in use. The fact that the ale available is a changing guest offers some consolation but the dissatisfaction lies with the unused handpumps by its side. The lack of ale leaves you with no alternatives other than identikit lagers or bland spirits.

The Famous Lion exceeds expectations and is thoroughly worth a visit. It’s vastly superior to many of the other City centre’s offerings and deserves respect for it’s sophisticated appearance and ambience. As mentioned, it’s a sharp contrast to its nearest competition in The Wheatsheaf and Last Orders, and we urge you to give it a try.

Ratings

Drink – **
Atmosphere – ***1/2
Surroundings – ****
Staff – ***

The Bulls Head Pub Review

Burslem’s Bulls Head is – quite rightly – well known on the local pub scene. It could be said that it shares the title of the town’s jewel in the ale crown with The Leopard, although it may be the case that the latter just about beats the Bull’s Head – albeit by the slightest of margins.

The Bulls Head is to be found in the centre of Burslem and within easy walking distance of the town’s other pubs. Not immediately imposing, the drinking area is divided into two rooms with a reasonable sized beer garden and smoking area to the rear. Further examination reveals this to be a truly delightful pub, with a huge emphasis on its position as the Titanic brewery’s first owned house.

Possibly still regarded as the brewery’s flagship despite the opening of three larger premises, the walls are adorned by a plethora of memorabilia. Copious reproduced newspaper cuttings are present, as is an impressive ‘cutaway’ diagram of the Titanic itself. Both rooms have a large area of wall space devoted to detailing the current beers on tap, with there being 10 described during the time of review.

Also to be seen are a traditional billiards table along with two open fires, no doubt very welcome to drinkers returning from a match at nearby Port Vale FC in the depth of winter. A particular highlight in the northernmost room is a large display of beer mats, each one of the 33 on show representing a different beer produced by Titanic since the brewery was founded in 1985. Which leads us nicely on to….

The beer selection is, without question, first class. A varying rotation of four Titanic ales is complemented by an equal number of guest beers, which frequently form part of a ‘theme month’. During early December there were four Scottish ales on tap, whilst at other times themes encompass Staffordshire-sourced beers, summer ales or ‘winter warmers’. As is to be expected all are kept in excellent condition and are served alongside a real cider on handpump.

Lagers of such ilk as Carling, Fosters and Stella aren’t to be found in the Bulls Head, so if that’s what you’re looking for The Saggar Makers isn’t far away. A number of foreign lagers are on tap – Peroni being the most mass-market of these – but the pub’s market for drinkers of fizzy beer is met by its collection of four from Belgium, served on tap alongside Peroni. Beside these, the Belgian selection is expanded by no fewer than 20 different bottled varieties, all of which are listed on a blackboard above the bar.

A small variety of typical fridge-bound bottles is also available, along with Titanic Stout and Fuller’s organic Honey Dew both on ‘smoothflow’. A number of rolls and sandwiches are behind the bar, along with the normal bar snacks and pork pies. During the pub’s frequent themed beer festivals, a barbeque is normally set up in the beer garden offering the usual hot dogs, burgers and the like.

Service in the Bulls Head, whilst not the friendliest, is very efficient. One problem concerns the lack of seating in one area adjacent to the bar – this tends to result in drinkers leaning against the counter, which can cause congestion at busy times. Were it not for these two points, the Bulls Head would undoubtedly be a five-star establishment.

Ratings

Drink – *****
Atmosphere – ****
Surroundings – ****1/2
Staff – ****1/2

The Talbot Stoke Pub Review

Upon mentioning I was popping to the Last Orders, I was met with a furrowed brow. A reputation preceded it as a soulless pub with no ale. Upon approach, my expectations rose as I observed that its designation had transformed since my last visit, the month previous. Last Orders had indeed been served, and the pub has reverted to its former guise as The Talbot, a pub with a reputation as a lively music venue. Indeed, the situation has improved, although not significantly so.

Witness the exterior and The Talbot gives the impression of being a small traditional pub. However, once inside, an unexpectedly long and well-lit bar room greets you. Bright, clean and airy, it creates a decent first impression. The recent renovation has resulted in spruced up tables and chairs (Wetherspoon take note), and a shiny wooden flooring that matches the wooden bar. Photographs of football and boxing greats are strategically hung by the operational pool table at the rear.

The multitude of Plasma screens display the accustomed pub favourites, Sky Sports News and At The Races. This most appropriately represents the type of punter to be found. They’re an unreserved bunch who frequent the pub as regulars. There may not be an air of sophistication, but instead, plenty of friendly banter and background chatter

The perky bar staff are just as willing to serve newcomers as they are the aforementioned locals. This is a notable step up on the dour hospitality witnessed on previous outings to the Last Orders. Service with a genuine smile is forever valued, and although regulars are greeted by name, you won’t feel unwelcome.

Peer past the warm greeting and your face will likely drop, as a glance at what’s on offer stirs up levels of huge despair. John Smiths, Fosters and Carlsberg are all served in their “Ëœextra cold’ varieties as does the obligatory cheap cider, Strongbow. And that is it, no alternatives served at room temperature, and no Guinness, extra cold or otherwise. Outstanding for the Sahara desert, alas not a below freezing Stoke-on-Trent. Spirits are as similarly low-grade and unremarkable, although indisputably warmer! One can tolerate a pub without real ale and specialist liquor, yet the lack of options on offer here is rather frightful.

Bar this serious flaw, there’s not a great deal amiss with the Talbot. The introduction of some inspiring ale would obviously improve matters. However, not having too much awry doesn’t create a sterling pub, just a very mediocre one. With better alternatives situated not too far away, The Talbot may struggle to attract new punters.

Ratings

Drink – *
Atmosphere – **
Surroundings – **1/2
Staff – ***

The Market Tavern Hanley Pub Review

Having left the Market Tavern a tad discontented after my first visit there two years ago it was with some trepidation that I approached this review. With its classic facade, traditionally engraved windows, and promise of a decent pint of Bass from the latest Potter’s Bar, I held some hope that the situation had improved. Regrettably, I was to be left disappointed.

On approach, the well maintained exterior hints at the history of the pub last rebuilt in 1892. Once inside, the wooden decking, historic images of Hanley, and quirky antique rifles suggests that The Market Tavern could offer a rare and hospitable experience oft missing from the bustling City Centre. However, scrutinise the initial impressions and they prove to be misleading, as the pub exposes itself to be a wasted opportunity.

Head inside, past the pleasant narrow bar, and a drab back end, featuring a Chav central pool room with an unsightly open kitchen area, makes itself apparent. An unnecessarily large sign advertises all live sports as being shown on a massive screen. Despite the promise the stereotypical plasma was switched off whilst Sky Sports News beamed out on a tiny television in the corner. The Market Tavern appears to harbor an excessive fascination with mirrors. Ones bearing their name are littered around the walls. Although such pub traditions are ordinarily valued, their sheer number and fact that many have drinks advertisements plastered on, negates this point.

If the environment’s a slightly mixed bag, the beer situation can only be described as a shambles. Three handpumps stood unused with no sign of the promised Bass. Instead, John Smiths Smoothflow, Guinness and a couple of bland lagers represent the only options, a truly limited and saddening choice. Stowells also appears on tap, a wine not blessed with any merit, and presumably takes the place of any ciders. Drink offers seem to be relatively regular but as Wetherspoon is located across the way there’s cheaper pricing elsewhere.

The clientele seemed to consist mainly of regulars. Loud and lively, they create a decent atmosphere. However, a few punters of dubious nature seem to frequent the place and although peaceful on our visit, they may become boorish at other times. The necessity to have warnings over drug use actually painted on the wall demonstrates this concern. The one regular who had the freedom and attention of the whole floor was the enormous, but amiable, dog.

Hanley has too few cosy real ale pubs and to discover The Market Tavern still isn’t one of them was distressing. With the appropriate management this could develop in to a welcome haven amongst the busy shops surrounding it. Instead, it’s a major let down and offers no competition to The Unicorn or The Coachmakers Arms.

Ratings

Drink – *
Atmosphere – **
Surroundings – **1/2
Staff – **1/2

Post Office Vaults Burslem Pub Review

Upon approach a well maintained frontage with eye-catching hanging baskets and classically engraved windows welcomes the uninitiated, oblivious to the delights inside. Step inside and be welcomed by the convivial and attentive staff as you become accustomed to the tiny, but homely, single roomed bar. However, this undoubtedly is a diminutive pub so don’t expect to be blessed with a guaranteed seat to park your posterior. A wait at the bar can at busier periods be expected but the aforementioned staff are thankfully experienced in the art of determining the correct order of service.

In accordance with a great number of pubs in Burslem town centre this is an ideal place for ale enthusiasts as the beer is a particular highlight. Six hand-pumps occupy the bar of which three are guests. These are replaced regularly, rich in flavour and hail from a wide range of microbreweries. Of the regulars are Greene King Abbot and the less familiar Jaipur IPA from Thornbridge, a hugely quaffable drink even at 5.9%. Nothing else jumps out regarding any of the other beverages on offer but with such finely kept ale it’s unlikely you need look. As for food, with this being such a small pub don’t expect anything other than a bag of nuts

The bar is eclectically furnished with a post box and stamp machine furthering the post office theme alluded to by the twin red post boxes either side of the entrance. It can be fascinating searching for the Post Office themed knick knacks as they are not obvious nor over bearing. Dominating mirrors adorn the walls whilst three good sized televisions display all manner of live sports and music. Toilets may be cramped but require no update as they retain the period feel whilst a reasonably sized heated smoking area brings up the rear.

The clientele are a good natured bunch and help contribute to the hospitable mentality of the pub. However, the pub can become contracted with only a few people in especially before and after Port Vale home games (home fans only) often creating a lively, but amiable, atmosphere. Indeed, as is its prime location in the centre of Burslem it is more than likely popular most nights.

As with many of Burslem’s alehouses The Post Office Vaults comes enthusiastically endorsed. Impressive beer and a uniquely themed experience allow this to live long in the memory. Forget the small size and instead revel in it’s huge character and we’re certain you’ll return.

Ratings

Drink – ****
Atmosphere – ****
Surroundings – ****
Staff – ****

Christmas Drink & Drug Driving Campaign Begins

The annual campaign to target drink and drug drivers in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire has begun in a bid to cut fatal and serious road traffic collisions and protect other road users.

In last years campaign in Stoke-on-Trent officers recorded 21 positive breath tests out of a total of the 442 they carried out. This was a slight improvement on 2007/08 which saw 452 tests carried out, and 24 proving positive. It is hoped that this years campaign will see a further reduction in positive tests.

Les Dyble, Staffordshire Police’s Traffic Management Officer, said: “Police officers will carry out random road-side stop-checks on vehicles and their drivers during the campaign. Any driver that an officer suspects has consumed alcohol or drugs or has committed a moving traffic offence will be required to provide a road-side breath test for analysis. Motorists involved in road traffic collisions are also breath-tested as a matter of routine."

“People going out for a drink with friends or family, or even staying at home and having a drink but driving the next morning, should think of the consequences of drink driving. You should always ensure you are fit to drive. The more alcohol you consume the longer it takes to clear your body. Remember, you can’t calculate your own alcohol level, but the police can.”

Driving while under the influence of drink or drugs is dangerous, against the law and has short and long term consequences:

  • when you are caught you will be breath tested and, if positive, arrested
  • you will be taken to a police station and if the station test is positive, or you fail or refuse to provide a blood or urine sample, you will be charged
  • you will attend court and if found guilty, be banned from driving for at least 12 months. You will have to pay a hefty fine, court costs and may be given a prison sentence.

What happens next?

  • losing your licence may mean losing your job and your standard of living
  • you will lose the respect of friends and family and you will have a criminal record
  • you may be banned from travelling to some countries. When you can drive again you will pay a lot more for insurance cover.

If someone is seriously injured or killed as a result of your involvement in a road traffic collision, you could be charged with a more serious offence. The consequences of this could mean:

  • your driving ban will be longer
  • your fine will be bigger
  • you are more likely to go to prison
  • great trauma for the victims and families of those killed or seriously injured which will stay with you and them for the rest of their lives

Mr Dyble added: “You already know the consequences; you’ve read the Highway Code and passed your driving test. You should know that the law applies to you."

“Remember, drinking and drug driving is anti social, against the law and wrecks lives and families. The family could be yours."

“Is drink or drug driving worth the risk of these consequences?”