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A bar a day....

Stanley McHale's own guide to the best summer bars to be seen out and about at, once it stops raining

Published on January 14th 2010.

A bar a day....

GEORGE Gershwin was an idiot. Not only did he freely make assumptions about people's daddies being rich and mammas being good looking, he also thought that in “Summertime” the livin’ was easy.

Well it might have been in South Carolina, George, but as we here in Liverpool know, summertime can be a frustrating and disappointing cloudy ordeal.

Gershwin did, however, redeem himself slightly when he said “It ain’t necessarily so”. Town may not be blessed with a great number of obvious outdoor drinking spots, but with a lot of people choosing to have a holiday at home this year, the “staycation” the media-types have dubbed it, we decided that a weekly schedule could be drawn up, so no matter what the day, if the sun be a-blinkin’, we’ll be a-drinkin’.

It’s a scientific fact endorsed by the Met Office that if we all hope hard enough for a long, hot summer, it will actually happen. So think positive, slap on the Factor 3, and call a cab to:

Speak to people about The Pump House and you can get some crummy feedback. Time then to give it a second chance. Since a much needed refit last year there is certainly much more to be said for a venue that happens to be celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

But this isn’t about the pub, this is about the outdoor seating. The views, of the Jesse Hartley Grade I warehouses, or back at Liverpool One, are ever-changing and mostly rewarding. And aside from the Neptune development blocking the view of the Three Graces, which you may or may not enjoy, it’s like sitting with a cold pint in a big, sunny cinema.

Go Mondays because there’s live jazz in the evening to cool the sunburn.

Dave (Manager) says: “Lavishly refurbished historic building, and THE best outdoor drinking. Best staff on both sides of the Mersey. Oh, and the summer menu starts at the end of May!”

Two words: Proper. Pub. Since being taken over and reopened earlier this year by John O’Dowd (also responsible for the wonderful Lion Tavern on Tithebarn Street), an old classic has deservedly been revamped and returned to the circuit.

Come summer, this is also going to be a destination boozer for those in the know. Located discreetly on Sugnall Street, off Falkner Street, you can get one over on the masses down the road trying to (understandably) get a table outside The Quarter by taking advantage of The Belvedere’s spacious suntrap.

Good tables, comfy seating, maybe even an outside bar when things really warm up. You heard it here first.

John O’Dowd (landlord) says: “We’ve a past more chequered than the lounge floor. Home to saints and sinners, upholders and breakers of the law. You wanted this about summer? Oh, we’ve got the summer too, naturally.”

The Bluecoat’s ‘Upstairs’ bar and restaurant is well worth a snoop on a rainy day (of which there will be none this summer. Remember our psychic deal with Sian Lloyd?) but let’s concentrate on the Espresso Café downstairs in the foyer.

The fridges are heaving with bottles of pale ale, cider, Cains lager, rose and white wine, so what say you and some pals slap down the kitty and carry armfuls of the stuff outside to the haven that is the courtyard garden? No, it’s not a traditional drinking spot, but it’s hard to think of a more pleasant one.

Besides, what are we here for if not to help the city scene evolve and remodel? Who says the Bluecoat courtyard can’t be the new locale for sozzled, salubrious sunny fun? No one.

Amanda (from the Espresso café) says: “Where else can you enjoy top food and drink whilst basking in the sunshine of a blossoming garden/courtyard in the centre of town?”

It is not exactly a revelation – hardly a front page exclusive – putting Hannah's

in a list of summer destinations. For many, summer in the city IS Hannah's, and has been for years. This baby is made for long, hot eveningsā€¦ Especially on a Thursday when that man Ogo hosts his brilliant, oft-copied, never beaten open-mic night.

There’s another good reason why it would smack of insanity to try to be all ‘different’ and leave Hannah's off the list: The roofs now retract. Yep, downstairs, and upstairs in the glass box restaurant, when the sun comes out the ceilings disappear. It’s like being on Tracy Island.

Lisa, Morvyn, Jane and McKelvie (bar staff) say: “You can relax on the terrace of an evening watching the sun set over the Liverpool skyline enjoying 2-4-1 cocktails. Plus the bar staff are just as tasty as the burgers!”

It was God who invented outdoors, but it was The Peacock that perfected the concept. It’s as if the designers said “let’s stop this place being indoors.” A great roof terrace leads off the upstairs bar and overlooks the apartments on Fleet Street, where the residents' goings-on can be observed in a curiously voyeuristic, Rear Window type way.

The staff are first class, each and every one, but try seeking out Claire and asking for some liquor of her choosing. She’s tiny and should be made to live in a matchbox but she can conjure up some furiously feisty cocktails that will smack you around the chops before kissing you on the nose.

As if to cement their reputation, each Friday sees a free barbecue, and an equally free monthly hog-roast. The secret has long been out, but the glorious summer our telepathy has guaranteed should be it’s crowning glory.

Alfie Torres-Silva (Big Cheese) says: “The Peacock is a contemporary urban local. A pub. A boozer. A slice of straight laced watering hole, and with three outdoor areas it’s perfect for those lazy, sunny afternoons.”

Arguably the best looking addition to Liverpool One, Zeligs is also the hardest to find. Which is surprising, because it’s the size of Northern Ireland. Located on the upper tier of units that face the Hilton, this is another Korova venture that clearly has some hefty backing but manages to not take itself too seriously.

After 5pm the ground floor is given over entirely to drinking as the diners move upstairs, and this is when the outside terrace (large – tick, views – tick, comfortable – tick) should really blossom during its first summer. Already very popular at weekends (live soul and jazz bands on Saturdays) the room easily accommodates the relaxed, pleasant crowd and never seems congested.

The forward thinking among you can even stand outside and look down towards the Pump House, thinking of Monday afternoon’s fun.

Koni Bannon (General Manager) says: “Zelig's’ weekly barbecue is the perfect summertime jaunt. It’s held on our sun drenched terrace which overlooks Liverpool’s new and improved, super stylish waterfront.”

Sunday is a day that always has, and always will, been associated with long afternoons having a tipple in the open air. That’s why it’s called SUNday. In olden times, people used to get married on a WEDnesday, and go to barbecues on a SUNday.

The space that La Cubanita occupies has had various reinventions over the years and none particularly stick in the memory. Perhaps this Cuban-themed bar can change that this summer when the large, sculpted patio area should prove a real boon.

And it’s Cuban! Anything Cuban is synonymous with sun, heat and rum, right? It’s a medical mystery but if you even think of the word ‘Cuba’ your brain warms up by four degrees. La Cubanita's location is all about fun and cheerful cocktails outside under the trees. Sounds like a plan.

Glen Miller (Manager) says: “Come and visit the sunniest bar in town – Liverpool’s best kept secret!”

So there you have it. Seven days of summer fun. Liverpool is not a city ideally built for al fresco frolics, but thanks to the places listed, and the contribution of several others, you won’t have to be clambering for a grubby table in the last sliver of ultraviolet as soon as the sun breaks out.

Clearly this has only dealt with the city centre, so PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE tell us, below, your favourite summer haunts in other areas.

Forget last year’s washout – it’s going to be fan-bloody-tastic. So hush little baby, don’t you cry.

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23 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

LisaMay 19th 2009.

What a fabulous City we have. So many bars and so little money to enjoy in them!! How about getting Stanley to do an article on "Eating out for a £5"?

DigMay 19th 2009.

The best bar for outdoor drinking used to be Honey Harmony. It was a great bar. Great decor, drinks and staff. Then one day totally out of the blue it was no more. Rubbish drinks, dirty and tatty and full of unsavoury characters. Very strange how a lovely place can change so dramatically in such a short space of time. Anybody any idea what happened to it?

Bon VivantMay 19th 2009.

I'd rather have the fiver than eat out.

Bon VivantMay 19th 2009.

Have you not tried joining the squalid Dickensian rabble outside the main entrance to the Royal Liverpool University Hospital? They congregate near that thing that looks like a nuclear reactor that I think used to be a chaplaincy. Don't bother taking that fag out of your mouth to drink, borrow a drip and pour the Thunderbird, WKD or Bacardi Breezer straight into your bloodstream

DigMay 19th 2009.

It was tucked away between Queens Square and Whitechapel. Down little side street behind La Tasca. One night I had the usual nice drink in there, couple of weeks later it had totally changed. As quick as that.

Isla VarffMay 19th 2009.

Same thing happened to me Dig. I enjoyed an evening with some friends in the acutely triangular Cumberland Vaults on Mount Pleasant by the University. Went back a month or so later and it had been demolished! Bloody students!

Da Bei FengMay 19th 2009.

The Bluecoat garden used to be a traditional and very agreeable drinking spot with comfy wooden benches and reasonably-priced bar service with good Guinness in the old bistro before the lovely old garden was turned into a municipal wheelie-bin bay. Now it's all plastic chairs, paper cups and overpriced bottles.

Gordon TanquerayMay 19th 2009.

According to someone calling themselves Square face on the 'most expensive house white' article in LivConf, a gin and tonic in 'Zelig' set them back NINE QUID! A large Hendricks and tonic in the Racquets Club is less than half that!

Turn coatMay 19th 2009.

I have eaten at the Bluecoat cafe twice & both times was served by staff who looked like thay wanted to kill me cos I'd asked for food. They acted as though they were doing me a real favour by deigning to serve me. Hello?! It's their job!The staff in the restaurant upstairs are lovely & helpful & if a bit eccentric (but nothing worng with that!). V strange the massive difference between the 2 sets of staff.

Cuba LibreMay 19th 2009.

After reading their descriptions on the menu, La Cubanita's cocktails are a great disappointment on the palate.

Bon VivantMay 19th 2009.

I trust that this is to lure the gullible with deep pockets away from the decent places where Mr. McHale really goes?

ReefermanMay 19th 2009.

The Penny Lane winebar used to be may favourite place for an al fresco drink, not to mention Ye Cracke before the fun was spoiled.

Cuba LibreMay 19th 2009.

Ours tasted like iced tap water. Despite all the faffing around to make them I think we were given vodka in them instead of rum. They tasted of nothing really.

C.I.A.May 19th 2009.

I don't happen to believe you.

Traci BottomsMay 19th 2009.

Smoking Moes on the corner of Mount Pleasant and Brownlow Hill is great for outdoor drinking. Cheap drinks and karaoke! What more could you want?

EditorialMay 19th 2009.

Good idea, except then we'd have to give him £5

Cdr. StrakerMay 19th 2009.

What is that place in the photograph above? It looks like a cheerless hospital waiting area in an episode of 1970s sci-fi 'UFO' with all that ordered seating in brown vinyl and those useless tables.

Ann Heuser-BuschMay 19th 2009.

Those little bottles of French lager go down a treat in the car park of the Knotty Ash Sainsbury's on a sunny day. Another al fresco experience is Woodies in Wood Street when you slip out for a gasper and you are too hammered to climb the steps back inside. Incontinence brings a nice, warm feeling to your trackie bottoms as you sit there enjoying the sun and the karaoke.

Professor ChuckabottleMay 19th 2009.

You can't beat a bottle of QC in a bag on the wall outside the Kwik Save that used to be at the top of Smithdown Road. You could even get half a kebab out of the bin by the bus stop if you got peckish or if you just wanted something light there was always half a tray of fried rice by the grid. Sadly no more.

DigMay 19th 2009.

When did Bar Hannah start allowing children in?

Lord StreetMay 19th 2009.

Never heard of it, Dig old man! Where was it?

Che GuevaraMay 19th 2009.

Always at La Cubanita good salsa music and hot hot hot cocktail. I am independent customer and not connect with top Liverpool beautiful bar so loving it!

The DancerMay 19th 2009.

Hey - after dancing the night away to fab Cuban band you will feel the summer heat at La Cubanita & the cocktails for us were toooooooo good! But had too many just like on hols!

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