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Bar Essentials: The River View, Woodside

Heather Smith finds good food, real ale and fairy lights in this reinvented dockside pub

Published on May 9th 2011.

Bar Essentials: The River View, Woodside

What’s the story?
Perched at the top of Chester Road, Birkenhead, The River View is named, literally, after the cracking sight of Liverpool’s waterfront from its central Woodside location.

20110509riverview03.jpgUntil recently, the sizeable old building – which has housed a few pubs on its ground level over the years - was best known as The Worsley, a fairly scruffy, gothic-vibed place with painted murals on every window.

Just before the River View came to be, however, the Woodside Hotel (which had stood stubbornly in front of the building for years) was demolished, opening up a great opportunity for Mike Scullion and his family to save the fate of the ailing, old-fashioned boozer. So, in summer 2009, the paint-stained windows were washed clean and, lo and behold, opened up the dazzling spectacle of the city opposite.

Why go there?
Let’s face it, thanks to the Neptune Development at Mann Island, you can’t see the Three Graces properly from this side of the water any more, so if you want to remind yourself of what a great city on the banks of a river looks like, over the water you go.

There must be more than a view
Much more. In a time of ailing fortunes, this pub has reinvented its inner self too. Like a detox, but with intoxicating liquor.

The bucolic brick base has been spruced with a few new tables and a tribe of high-back black leather chairs which gives a pleasant but not pretentious feel to the furnishing. Plants, candles and a sprinkling of fairy lights soften the place and create a relaxed atmosphere without any hint of cheese.

20110509riverview02.jpgOn the staff side, it’s a bit of a family do. Mike heads the cellar and the bar while wife Karen sorts the kitchen (more on this marvel later) and the daughters, by and large, do most of the serving.

For all these connections, there is no clique or exclusive nature to the clientele. If people popped in, initially curious or for the view, you can bet that they went back because of the friendly, welcoming and helpful service of the whole team.

Who goes there?
Public sector workers who heavily populate the Hamilton Square area - the lunch-time, after work and Friday night suit-wearing clan - are probably the most significant bunch by number, but by no means exclusively.

There are also the families. The River View has worked hard to create a friendly, community atmosphere, meaning it’s not really a sporty pub. You’re more likely to catch an episode of Eggheads on one of the TV screens than an endless feed of Sky Sports.

Furthermore, the range of quick transport links (it’s a spit away from Hamilton Square station and right by the ferry), means a steady stream of random train, bus and boat-goers from across Merseyside nipping in for a gargle.

20110509riverview05.jpgWhat’s yours?
On the barrel side, Spitfire is nearly always on and kept well. At 4.3%, the good old hoppy English bitter keeps the slurpers satisfied, although they are regularly treated to a guest, too, such as the gorgeous Jennings Cumberland. Other than that it’s the usual suspects lined up behind the bar, with Becks Vier and Carling on for keg lovers.

Grub up?
The menu is by no means massive but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. Karen’s cooking offers classic pub staples with a hearty, homemade taste. Whether it is the reasonably hot, tomato-savouring chicken curry, or the unbelievably beefy steak pie with puff pastry lid, there is nay a Brakes van in sight.

The Sunday roasts, though, are the real speciality. But be warned and book beforehand because they do run out. Beef, turkey and pork are all decent choices and the perfectly crispy roast potatoes speak for themselves but it’s the vegetables that give that genuine mum’s-kitchen-on-a-Sunday flavour.

20110509riverview01.jpgDon’t expect any glazed julienned carrots placed neatly on a red wine jus.  No. This is proper carrot and turnip mixed with plenty of butter and pepper and mashed to a still-lumpy submission. The peas are mushy too and there’s no holding back on the salt. Time for another pint, then. 

Guests are invited to perform on the open floor every Thursday from around 8:30 pm. Jam night typically sees a few guitars and a mouth organ be used by singers and speakers alike and the open mic invites you to go on and get it all off your chest.

Karaoke fills the room on a Friday, while there is more of a live band set up to a Saturday night. Resident acts typically return every month or so for a show.

A pub that is working hard - and winning - by luring the people in with good food, drink and entertainment.

Oh, and clock that Liver Building over there.


The River View
16 Chester Street
CH41 5DQ
0151 652 5640

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