Sunday 14 June 2015


Last weekend I was up in Blackpool or the "Vegas of the North" as it's known by absolutely nobody. My nan lives in nearby Cleveleys so I have had many visits to Blackpool over the years. Three or four years ago things were not looking good for the town - they missed out on the "Super Casino" bid, development plans had stopped and the tourist attractions were outdated and slowly crumbling away. But in the past few years it has gone through a bit of a renaissance - Merlin (who own Alton Towers and Thorpe Park) have come in and bought up the Blackpool Tower and the hilarious Louis Tussauds, whose waxworks were so bad that I once had to ask a friend why Paul Merton was on the Titanic, and they had to point out it was actually Leonardo DiCaprio. It's now an official Madame Tussauds and both it and the Tower are looking much better for themselves.

With Merlin throwing money at the resort and the council also starting to wise up and continue developing the town, the town centre is now looking much better, although the area around the Blackpool Pleasure Beach is looking a bit forlorn and forgotten. Hopefully the cash will start to make its way there. Along with Merlin another company making its way into Blackpool is Wetherspoons, who now have three blockbuster pubs in the town. In a way Spoons are a perfect fit for Blackpool, as their giant pubs serving cheap booze and food make it perfect for hungry families and the thirsty stag and hen do's.

The first Spoons of the weekend was The Velvet Coaster, a short walk away from the Pleasure  Beach. This is by far the biggest Spoons I've ever visited, spread over three floors and featuring a roof terrace and a glass lift. Each floor has a bar and they were serving different ales at different bars, which got a bit confusing. The location used to be an amusement arcade, and the decor is designed to evoke memories of fun at the seaside fair. For my first beer I went for the local offering of
Lytham Gold from the Lytham brewery which is only a 15 minute drive from the pub. It was a solid pint once it had time to settle. While ordering my second beer I noticed that New Zealand craft beer superstars Yeastie Boys had a beer on cask. I was initially excited but a little bit of research revealed that the beer was actually made at the Wadworth brewery in not so exotic Wiltshire, although the pump clip didn't indicate this. Bit disappointing but it's nice to see Spoons continuing to try and cater for the craft crowd, although I didn't see anybody order it.

My second drink was the Gold from the Ramsbury brewery which was a very refreshing and hoppy sup. On a Saturday afternoon the pub was in full swing with an eclectic mix of couples, parties and families and the barn like acoustics meant the downstairs was very noisy, although things were a bit quieter upstairs. Staff were friendly and serving as quickly as they could, the toilets were clean, the atmosphere was typical Spoons and quite frankly I liked the place. It's a great option for families who want a decent value lunch away from the expensive Pleasure Beach eateries.

Next up was the Spoons outlet in the centre of town, the Layton Rakes. Not as big as the Velvet Coaster, but still boasting a roof terrace, this was a more traditional Spoons experience, with slightly worn carpet and somewhat sticky table and chairs. Music was being played on a Saturday night which was unusual but actually welcome in this Spoons, as otherwise the atmosphere would have been pretty dead. The place was rather quiet punters wise, and I thought more would be coming in for a cheap drink before hitting the clubs. Although to be fair Blackpool clubs tend to be quite reasonable with their drinks prices, probably because there's so much competition.

I initially ordered a Bengali Tiger from SixPoint, but after the confused barman bought me back a bottle of the Singapore Tiger beer I had to point out in the cabinet what I wanted. Turns out they were all out of Bengali anyway, so I settled for SixPoint The Crisp at a wallet satisfying £1.99. Curiously the "premium" lagers such as Heineken were priced at around £3.40 which I found a bit high for a Spoons - maybe that's why there weren't many punters in. I find The Crisp to be the weakest of the SixPoint offerings but it's still a well made and very tasty pilsner. After a drink me and The Lovely Jemma headed on down to Funny Girls, an amusing drag cabaret and Blackpool classic that has to be experienced at least once by every visitor. I stayed away from the beer their though - I wasn't in the mood for a fizzy lager or Worthington Creamflow.

It's great to see Blackpool doing a bit better for itself and I hope the regeneration continues. The town centre is looking much smarter and they've even got a Pizza Express and a Nando's - things are truly on the up! If you find yourself there it's well worth a visit to the Coaster or the Rakes - to be honest there's precious little else you can go in town to get a decent pint of ale. On the way back home we stopped in Preston to enjoy lunch at The Continental, a fabulous pub nestled on the banks of the River Ribble. The food was excellent and my pint of Brewers Gold from Pictish was a superbly refreshing session pale. An excellent pub and a very pleasant end to an entertaining weekend.

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