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Bar review: FACT bar

Michael McIlvenna queues up for a tipple during a fact finding mission to the FACT Bar. So is it a stay-the-night or a swiftie?

Published on January 14th 2010.

Bar review: FACT bar

WITH its striking, zinc-clad exterior, the FACT centre provides one of the better entries in the race to fill every spare square centimetre of space in Liverpool city centre.

It’s all very civilised in the FACT bar where a queuing system operates, which means you don’t need the biggest gob in the room in order to get served. You just need to be in order.

Inside, it gets better: walls of glass, exposed concrete (I never dreamed I’d like concrete), cantilevered stairs, gleaming white exhibition spaces and the best (padded, reclining) cinema seats in town.

The building is “fully licensed throughout” which means you can take a drink into a film or, if you expect to be a while, the toilet, though the latter is probably not encouraged. We emerged from two hours and 38 minutes of There Will Be Blood after a humdinging, Oscar-winning Daniel Day Lewis had wrung us dry. And so to the bar.

It’s all very civilised in the FACT bar where a queuing system operates, which means you don’t need the biggest gob in the room in order to get served. You just need to be in order. Occasionally the line stretches as far as the stair rail, from which a sheer drop down into the foyer can, (particularly if you’ve had a few), be a tad unnerving.

Don’t be put off by a long queue; it only happens now and again, usually at the end of a screening, and any possibility of unrest is neutralised by the bar staff who display swiftness and grace under pressure.

The drinking space is curvy and attractive with red-topped tables, brown cosy seating and hanging-drop light shades. It looks cool, but feels warm. We stood for a while at a shelved rail around the outside of the bar area, which provides useful propping room, but soon found ourselves seated. My fellow film buff tells me he was first drawn to FACT when The Times ran an offer to see half price films there. After each screening, he and fellow money saving experts would head to the bar to pick up their free copy of . . . The Independent. Murdoch Empire 0, Rest Of The World 1. Result.

Inevitably, the bar is less a destination, more a stopping-off point, yet manages to be so much more than a glorified waiting room with enough about it to ensure it’s a very pleasant place to spend half an hour, or half the night. A diverse, cordial, ever-changing crowd included a couple of people lost in their laptops.

Booze by the bottle includes Strongbow and San Miguel (£2.95) at the cheaper end, through to Cains Finest Lager at £3.50. Guinness, Cains Bitter, Hoegaarden and Staropramen are among those on draught, with the latter, a big-bodied Czech beer for £2.95 a pint, providing more value and, frankly, more taste than the bottled Cains version.

Wine covers the usual ground, from £3.25 per 175ml glass of chenin blanc or malbec/shiraz, up to £4.80 for an all right sauvignon blanc and a whopping £6.10 for a Hawksburn Terrace pinot noir.

As well as being efficient, bar staff are polite and helpful. They also offer (max £20) cashback if you’ve for forgotten to budget for the cab home. The bar opens at 11am and if you are just calling in for a drink you need to be through the front doors (before they lock them) no later than 9.30pm, with last orders between 10 and 10.30pm.

If old-fashioned drinking and talking are not enough for you, there are fortnightly film quizzes (come in your anorak – first Tuesday of the month), lesbian film nights (that’s a film night for lesbians, not a night of lesbian films – second Tuesday of the month) and, if you’re really bored, board games (chess, draughts, dominoes, Scrabble, Jenga – ask at the bar). I doubt if many people get barred from here unless they are caught cheating at chess, in which case that’s the end of your knight.

88 Wood Street
Liverpool L1 4DQ
Tel. 0151 707 4444
Score: 7.5/10

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R. A. MateMarch 10th 2008.

That Cain's Lager - they can't even give it away, can they! They ought to stick to what they're good at: bitter, mild, stout and that '2008 Ale' knock-out drops.

Key GripMarch 10th 2008.

A prominent local cultural figure was indeed barred from FACT because he complained to the duty manager about some adverts that had been projected over the important credits for a rarely-seen film he had come especially to see, and obscured them. This story has never been refuted so I conclude that it must therefore be true.

Stanley StreetMarch 10th 2008.

Ah! The FACT bar used to be the place to meet when it opened! Eddie Berg stridently defended the gentleman’s fundamental right to smoke in there in the hysterically killjoy ‘Liverpool Echo’! The conspicuously high prices were excused because (we were told) the bar profits were the only FACT income; that apart from some measly percentage, all the money for the films went to ‘Picture House’. So by drinking there one became a patron of the arts! Having to share the bar with silent oddballs playing with their laptops was a bit off-putting, but what has long driven this drunkard away was the uncomfortably too-low, soggily-upholstered seating, and those horrible, back-breaking pouffes (take note, former Café Tabac!). Saturday afternoon ruffians had their feet all over it. The smoking ban put the tin hat on drinking there, especially with the number of stairs to the outside. And the films aren’t much cop. This place is now just a method of keeping the middle-classes and students apart from the unwashed masses that go to the Odeon. The films being shown are usually the same, Hollywood, mainstream tripe ones. There are fewer stains on the seats in the Odeon.

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