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The Pub Review - Stage Five

Thursday 22nd February 2007

Pub One - The Mermaid

Mermaid It was great to be able to have a pint of Everads Tiger as this was one of my favourites from many years ago. This is an Everads owned pub but the only real ale they appeared to have was Tiger.
Lagers available included Stella and XXXX. Service was noticably slow, mainly due to the pub being busy early in the evening and only one person serving.
My guess was that there were around thirty people in the pub and this is enough to make the pub feel busy and fairly full.
Geoff, Alex and Dave had already arrived and were located at a small table under the front bay window.
As this pub is a couple of hundred yards from the main high street it is generally missed by the young crowd 'doing the circuit' and the clientel is mainly middle aged regulars, mostly men.
The other very noticable thing about the Mermaid is that it is very smoky - this will of course change after the smoking ban in the summer.
The evening that we were there they seemed to have a darts match on against another pub.
Karen and Paulette then entered, quickly followed by Stuart and Rachel who decided to go straight to the next pub because the smoke was now getting quite dense. It was remarked that some of the glasses were dirty.
Our visiting time was up and it was time to take a quick photo and go off to the next pub.

Pub Two - The Blacksmiths Arms

Blacksmiths Arms The Blacksmiths has gone through many changes over the past years. It was one of my favourites around ten years ago when it had a great selection of real ales straight from barrels lined up behind the bar. It even hosted its own beer festivals. Nowadays it has stopped serving real ale, although it has left two handpumps (Bombardier and Youngs) attached to the bar to frustrate us real ale drinkers.
I chose a pint of Guinness. It was noted that they had a good selection of bottled beer at 2.95 a time. Prices of draft beer were reasonable but shorts were expensive at 3.25 for a gin and tonic.
Although the pub from the outside looks very traditional and oldy worldy on the inside it is very modern with wood laminate flooring, bright lights and plasma screens.
It seemed to attract a wide range of drinkers during the day but in the later part of the evening the clientel would be mainly young people with a high percentage of those being men.
Service was quick and pleasant and one of the great features of this place is the large patio/garden area at the back with plenty of seating.
We arrived at around 8pm on a Thursday and was surprised at how busy the place was and that it had quite a lot of background noise, however, it seemed to lack atmosphere.
As well as having two plasma screens and a projector the Blacksmiths also had a pool table.
We managed to find a seat in the lower section and met up with Stuart and Rachel, closely followed by Neil and Simon.
Around half past eight the Thursday night Karaoke started. Despite Dave singing vocals in in a small band he couldn't be persuaded to perform for us.
Once the "entertainment" started we decided that this would be a good time to vacate the place and move on to the next bar.

Pub three - Bar 62

Not far to walk to Bar 62, formally the Pineapple, just a couple of hundred yards up Catherine Street.
One of the big disappointments about this place for me is the lack of real ale. When Bar 62 was first opened a few years back they had two or three ales on the go, one was actually their own badged Bar 62 ale.
Recently they have dropped the real ales, maybe they didn't sell enough.
Although there was no real ale there was a selection of sixteen different types of champagne! This speaks volumes about the type of clientel that frequent Bar 62.
Drinks were very expensive with a glass of wine costing 3.75.
The pub was fairly busy around 9pm on a Thursday night, mainly with smartly dressed people in their mid twenties to early forties possibly discussing the stock market and money as many probably work down in the city.
Although there are no plasma screens or a juke box in here it is rather noisy with the sound of conversations, I guess it must be down to the acoustics of the place.
The drinking area is fairly small as the tables on the right seem to be for diners only. However at the back there's a conservetory and further on there's a pleasant garden with seating.
A couple of years back this place had a good reputation for food and apparantly the old chef is returning in April. However, as with the drinks, the food is expensive.

Pub Four - The Cock

Cock This place, like Bar 62, is another pub that has been smartened up a few years back in an apparent attempt to attract the more middle-aged well off drinkers rather than the young crowd.
The back of the pub has been turned into a separate dining area so the drinkers are squeezed into the small front bar. Most of the time there is sufficient room to feel comfortable although it does get crowded at the weekend.
Food is served at lunchtime and evenings with bar food available at the front bar and a full menu available in the back restaurant section.
The Cock has a good selection of real ale. Green King IPA is normally available with one or two other ales. I selected a pint of Tom Woods, which was excellent after being deprived of real ale from the previous two pubs.
Service was good and friendly and the place in general had a good atmosphere. There is one plasma screen for showing the football, but the volume is kept to a minimum - not always a bad thing.
Most of us remarked that this was a nice pub with traditional beams and one that we feel comfortable in and would come back again.

Pub Five - The Waterend Barn

Our final pub of the evening is one of the newest pubs in St Albans. It was opened a couple of years ago as an upmarket chain of Wetherspoons pubs known as Lloyds No 1.
It is a very large pub and restaurant that has been converted from an old fashioned barn that was standing for many centuries. It appears that all the original beams, fireplaces and other features have been kept intact.
This is an impressive place. They serve real ale and with two standard ales (London Pride and Old Speckled Hen) on the handpumps at the left end of the bar whilst the two or three handpumps at the right end of the bar serve up guest ales.
Drinks are very reasonably priced and they have an extensive selection of bottled foreign beers. Just inside the entrance is a large patio area with many tables and chairs. Moving into the pub, the restaurant is on the left and the main bar is on the right.
There's plenty of comfortable leather sofas to sit on, making this a nice relaxed place for a drink.
After 9pm at the weekends the place becomes very busy and is popular with drinkers in their twenties - minimum age for entrance is 21.
Most evenings the music is pleasant background music whilst on Tuesday there is a jazz band and at weekends after around 10pm there is a DJ playing the latest sounds until 1pm.
This is one of my favourite drinking places - good beer, patio area for summer evenings, comfortable, spacious and good mix of people.