Lark Lane – boho retreat or binge-drinking strip?

 November 25, 2008         20 Comments

A BBC Liverpool feature is questioning whether there are too many bars on Lark Lane – presumably a rhetorical question to anyone who has frequented South Liverpool busiest drinking zone.

The experience of South Road in Waterloo and Allerton Road in, er, Allerton should be a warning to powers-that-be of what happens when commercial activity is given free rein.

As someone who has lived on or around the Lane for nearly ten years, I feel qualified to suggest that a little delicate pruning of L’allouette’s boozy hang outs wouldn’t go amiss. The trouble is, although there are aspects of nearly every bar and pub down the road, famous for inspiring Pigeon Street (or something), that I like and admire – there isn’t one single bar that I actually really like.

Lark Lane

Image by John Kennan


  

Marantos has the excellent music quiz, and others, but is a fairly sterile environment; Negresco is overpriced with a poor choice of beers and lagers; Keiths is too noisy; the Albert is too frightening; the Parkfield again lacks some choice ales; Akis doesn’t seem to know that it’s not actually on Slater Street; Vinyl is rather on the crowded side; Que Pasa served me the worst sausages I’d ever eaten this weekend; and new boy Pablos resembles an 80s hotel lobby.

Among all of these bars there isn’t one I’d really call a local. The Albert used to hold that honour, but a number of incidents – including one where I was accused in the toilets of being an undercover policeman – have rather tarnished the characterful place. I do mourn the Masonic too – a pub where an old friend once took me because she though it was sufficiently ‘working-class’ to meet with my approval.

Having said all of this I’ll readily frequent all of these places quite happily from week-to-week. It’s just that the explosion of drinking establishments has turned the Lane into something of a circus, especially of a weekend.

I’ve seen a one-man attack on the Parkfield by a virtually-naked man equipped with a garden chair; a full-on hair-extension-grabbing gang catfight; and a pint glass thrown straight through the Albert’s window while out on the Lane.

By contrast Lark Lane’s shops seem to be suffering, with a butcher’s and greengrocer’s among the places to close their doors since I moved in. There seems to be an endless array of clothes shops opening and closing too, though the Amorous Cat bookshop has made a welcome return.

Green Days and the Moon and Pea should both be investigated, though I have soft spots for the Red Fort, Romeos and Chilli Banana too. I haven’t been into Jamaican Me Hungry yet but the name itself means it deserves patronage.

Even better are the newsagents, especially my friends who feed me dates whenever I go into the delicatessen, oblivious to the fact that I hate dates. And let’s not forget Paul’s barber shop, the bits-and-bobs shop, that weird gift shop on the corner of Little Parkfield and the Place-That-Does-The-Cakes.

Anyway, is there a moral to all of this? Not really, except to suggest that the Lane would probably be a better place with a couple less bars, a ban on new blocks of flats and a few hundred less cars. There’s more to the Lane than bars and hippies.

Comments

  1. I would just like to say that lark lane and liverpool as a city can do without bad press and so called journalists such as Mr Brown.

    At a time when the credit crunch is really biting us all, i am sure the owners of all the local business on Lark Lane who invest a lot of time and money would be really disappointed with Mr Browns comments. I know this is all about too many bars and restaurants as a whole, but Lark Lane will never be a Waterloo or Allerton Rd.

    Maybe he should go a find a local in manchester and do us all a favour.

  2. Sorry you feel that way Barry, though I’m flattered by the thought that my blog will cause a mass exodus from the Lane’s crowded bars.

    I think if you read it again, the subtext of what I’m saying is that I love Lark Lane despite its faults, which are plain to anyone who frequents it.

    As for whether Lark Lane is becoming more of a drinking den, a quick look at the BBC link in the first paragraph would seem to suggest that that’s exactly what people are thinking – and that’s without them being brainwashed by me!

  3. I have to say, I read it as a fairly positive and observational article rather than any sort of anti-Lark-Lane-businesses-diatribe..!

  4. Definitely try the moon and pea, it’s really nice.

    I think the Lane has some really nice food options (I think you must have hit Q Pasa on a bad day, normally I find it really good). Elif’s deserves a special mention.

    You’re spot on drink-wise tho, I prob attend Negresco the most but that’s probably because very few of the girls in our gang of friends would consider going to any of the others with the exception of prob Keiths…

    I would vote Fulwood Arms as the best of all, prob doesn’t win on real ale terms, but has a good atmosphere and a varied clientele. Bit off the Lane I know, but I’m lucky enough to live closer to it!

    Barry Venables – why the personal attack? I’m sure this blog is really undoing all that work you’ve put in… Perhaps you should spend your time thinking up ways you could actually improve what the lane offers?

  5. Aye, such is the decline in the drinking dens of t’Lane, I have not really felt the need to return there since moving away.

    Given that I now reside at the top end of Wavertree and would rather drink in The Lamb, it’s a sad state of affairs.

    Pablo’s is the start of the Allerton Road effect. Shame.

  6. Shame to hear about the Albert. It started to go a little bit downhill when they got rid of all the old tatty furniture…

  7. Well all those comments might be correct but my family and I had a great time in Lark Lane after my Son’s graduation from John Moores Uni – Spanish Tapas bar (can’t remember the name) and the Albert, very friendly and good laugh, as always in Liverpool.
    Will return one day – I’m sure it will have changed – for worse or better???? it’s a personal thing!!

  8. Steve – the tapas bar is Estbena, which has got much better in the last couple of years.

    I love Lark Lane, which is why I’ve lived on it for the best part of ten years, but it’s because I love it that its growing problems bother me.

    I’ve spent many a great night in most of the bars up and down the Lane but its reputation is its downfall. It’s now a destination in itself at the weekend, and that has had an effect on the bars, shops and general atmosphere that’s not especially positive.

    Still, on a good day it’s the most interesting place in Liverpool.

  9. I’m moving there next weekend!!! So excited, I’ve lived in Liverpool for 5 years or so and never really explored Lark Lane – only been there errr 3 times! So I’m very excited….

  10. Has this whole article been written just because the writer doesn’t like the bars, what a tool. it is a great area with great bars, if you don’t like it go somewhere else.

  11. If Lark Lane is the the best of Bohemia that Liverpool can offer then really the city is a joke. The whole lane is almost totally mainstream. Keiths qualifies on the basis that it has funky art, dares to play music other than boring old soul or pop (tonight it was Bjork, Wahoo!)and the fact that there are few scallies or pensionable alchoholics. The Low bar festoons itself with images of Yello, Bowie, Krafwerk, Clash and others but plays – yes mainstream pop and soul 00H -James Brown again! Negresco has no ales and is ridiculously expensive. Que Pasa is acceptable but so packed at weekend because everywhere else is shit. No where else even qualifies. Why oh why can no one get it right? Which management genius decided to turn the Albert into a Scally Harvester? Enough is enough and today I emailed Mitchell and Butler the Albert’s owners to complain about the appalling state of this Pub. Dire service, dreadful atmosphere, appalling music, vulgar decor, atrocious merchandising. All of which has seen it lose customers in droves and attract the sort of clientele which,by the pubs very nature, used to be put off (leaving us all in peace!) Robin is now the 5th person I know who has had the “evening officer” act alongside some very intimidating behaviour. Coincidence? I think not. In Manchester London or even Newcastle the lane WOULD be a thriving cool bohemian village with the Albert at it’s epicentre. In Liverpool its a joke. The people of Sefton Park deserve much much better.

  12. The Albert has a god offer n Kronenbourg just now at £1.99 a pint. It’s a pity they’ve lost interest in giving back change though. I guess in these recessionary times they have to top up the tip pot somehow.

  13. I have always enjoyed drinking in The Albert and have done for the past 8 years. It’s really friendly and welcoming with a buzzing atmosphere. I’m glad they got rid of the grotty decor and tatty chairs and certainly don’t want it to go back the way. Yes it does have a small minority of young tracksuit wearing lads but they don’t seem to cause any bother. It’s a pub that accommmodates people from all walks of life such as professionals like myself, hard working people, old hippies and the younger generation.
    Not sure how Iain Scott can say the music is appalling as they have a juke box and open mic.
    I love the place and would choose The Albert to meet friends over any of the other bars on Lark Lane.

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