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Pub Crawler

Getting locked in the Crown

the-crownNo, I didn’t get drunk in one of Belfast’s, and indeed Northern Ireland’s, most famous pubs. I literally got locked into their snug section. Had I been inebriated, I would have used the opportunity to grope my girlfriend, but having reservations in the nearby trendy Apartment I had to relinquish that thought and try to get the attention of the noisy crowd.
Being vertically challenged, it was a hard task trying to give some polite, yet noticeable salute that we were trying to escape the enclave. Luckily after some attempts of shouting at the group of executive type women standing in front of the door, we escaped – to the amusement of many. I wish now that I had groped my girlfriend while we were trapped, at least that way the walk of shame would have been worth it.
The Crown Liqueur Saloon, or as the locals call it, the Crown, is one of the oldest bars either side of the border, dating back to 1826. Located on Victoria Street, the epicentre of Belfast city, it takes full advantage of its tradition and, as such, is the quintessential tourist watering hole.
Descending upon the quaint establishment on a Friday afternoon, we were surprised to find that there was an eclectic mix of locals, mostly well to do business executives in suits, and only a few tourists. Clearly, the deterioration of the American market is affecting such pubs, but the locals are still drawn to this medium-sized one. This may also be because in recent years Belfast has experienced a wave of so-called trendy bars and this is the last fabric of the old style city. Whatever the reason, it was a welcome feeling from the nip outside.
When you enter the Crown it is like stepping back in time, as if you are in the middle of the old west. The thing that caught my attention the most were the cosy looking booths situated to the right of the bar. These snugs are ideal for enjoying a quiet pint or two and are equipped with gun metal plates for striking matches (obviously introduced before the smoking ban) and an antique bell system, which was used back in the day to alert bar staff that you were running low on golden liquor. However, given my aforementioned experience, make sure the door is left ajar. Well only if you want to, of course!
Not frequenting the North too often, I was unaware of the hard core tradition and loyalty to brands (that barely lasted a decade in the Republic) such as Tenants and Harp. You can only imagine the look I got when I naively asked for Budweiser. I was given a curt reply by the barman – it was almost as if I had said something sacra religious. I don’t think I would have been given such a look had I shagged my girlfriend in the booth.
Speaking of the lady in question, she asked for a wine and was offered the usual quarter bottles which she loathes. But given the fact that she was brought away for the weekend, she put up with her McGuigan Sauvignon Blanc for the sake of keeping peace. Why do bars, especially ones that clearly enjoy a healthy trade, insist on serving such plonk when it makes more economical sense to have a selection by the glass?
For the Tenants, which I might add didn’t taste too bad, and the wine it came to a cool £7, or €7.80 when we converted it. For that price, is it any wonder we stayed for two more?
The Crown is your typical tourist spot, with the merchandise behind the bar and traditional music in the background, but it’s a watering hole that deserves at least one visit.

The Crown Bar Liquor Saloon (www.crownbar.com) is located on Great Victoria Street, Belfast, BT2 7BA, tel: +44 (0)28 90 243187

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