I haven't written much cheerful content (or much at all) for a while, and there will I'm sure be plenty of unhappy events to comment upon in 2024, so as is customary this time of the year, reflection upon the previous 12 months can be allowed to include happy times spent in pubs/bars and any other licensed premises.
So, here's a short list of the most memorable joints I enjoyed in 2023 for the first time.
HISTORICAL GEM - THE BRITONS PROTECTION, Manchester
Rightfully regarded as a must-visit for any self-respecting pub afficionado. On my first visit to Manchester since my stag weekend 15 years ago, it was first on the list and from the broad front bar to the corridors and rooms behind, it does not disappoint.
SEE IT TO BELIEVE IT - YE OLDE TRIP TO JERUSALEM, Nottingham
COUNTRY PUB - WALNUT TREE, Broads Green, Chelmsford
The closest place I've recently encountered that brings one back to a 1930s British pub experience, or should that be 1950s? Reading the history of the pub, and its many redevelopments since Victorian times, it's hard to pin down which decade it's most reminiscent of. However, you can ignore all that and just enjoy its quiet charm complete with bench dedicated to a regular and its sign that creaks in the wind blowing gently across the village green.
LONDON - THE SALISBURY HOTEL, Harringay, London
Its not often that a pub can properly be described as sumptuous, but The Salisbury deserves such an adjective. And its location in a relatively unheralded stretch of North London adds to its allure. As does its use for an early scene in The Long Good Friday, surely the finest gangster movie set in the capital.
WATERSIDE - CANALSIDE BAR, Birmingham
OK, not the most imaginative of names, but a great location on the exceptionally well-regenerated Birmingham canal system. Its interior is reminiscent of a narrow boat, ensuring cosiness any time of the year, and outside tables to enjoy in the warmer months.
DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH - THE STORK HOTEL, Birkenhead
In one hundreds of British urban districts allowed to unforgivably decline into near oblivion through decades of neglect, little corners fight to retain dignity and a sense of community. The Stork, run by a formidable matriarch, is a buzzing hub of fun and fraternity in all weathers - economic and climactic. The pub's beautiful Art Nouveau interior, fittings built by local industry (when such still existed), corridor hatch and tiling, bell pushes and other delightful details, enhance the welcome to any weary traveller, regular or bar blogger.
Honorary mentions in this category -
The nearby Crown is well worth a visit, especially when they turn up the heating...
The Anchor Inn, Digbeth, Birmingham, is a well-run oasis near the bus station, characterised by period-fitted back rooms and corridors.