The Aul Lad

Well, after finding nothing on the box midweek and eventually talking herself into putting her coat on, we got on a bus and took a trip into the city centre. We took a stroll in the direction of Queens University and found ourselves in Botanic Avenue outside The Empire.

I thought it was best we tackle the steps going down into the lower bar as the older you get the harder it is to climb them and besides, with a little libation or two we might just get a spring in our step to get up them on our way out.

The Empire is a converted church that’s now referred to as a music hall and hosts the famous Comedy Club on a Tuesday night. It’s spacious in the lower bar with wooden floor and seating on three levels. The Bar is on the left side at the rear and a large clock adorns the top of the wooden shelves that house the various bottles of spirits, a great shame it doesn’t work as it is a real eye catcher.

To the left of the bar is a large glass case with ‘S S Titanic’ on top and various items pertaining to the tragic ship and a large brass bell with ‘Titanic 1912’ adjacent to the case fixed to the wall. There’s a stage area against the back in front of the bar and a large screen which was showing a football match to all who were seat at the tables in the middle of the room and the noise was quite loud.

The bar was well stocked with 10 beers on draught and two Guinness pumps as well, I had a pint of the dark stuff @ £4.60 and herself opted for a Jawbox and tonic on special @ £7.95. I took the G&T to a corner away from the big screen and returned to the bar for a good nosey at what was on display and a wee yarn with the lad behind the bar.

There are 23 Gins and over 30 Whiskeys on display on the shelves below the big clock and on the back wall hangs a large portrait who Paul the bar man said was Lord Abraham. He was unsure of his relevance to The Empire, but said he haunted the place, so staff called him ‘The Ghost’. Paul served a few customers while I waited on my pint settling, I found him to be attentive and helpful in suggesting drinks for a chap who was driving and some ladies that where out on the tare. 

My pint was set on the bar and all looked good so I returned to my other half and sat people watching before I wanted a puff of the old Peterson and a fill of Miss Moran’s No.3 mixture. For a smoke I needed to go outside to ‘The Beer Garden’ which is basically the area under the steps to the upper level and sits below pavement level in a subterranean oasis. I chatted with a lad who had one of those vape things that smelt fruity and he didn’t even know what was in it, such is modern life. 

On returning to the door I visited the Gents and while they were clean with the odd bit of paper laying about I was sadly disappointed at the non-functioning hand dryer and no paper towel substitutes. Herself was chatting to a couple in the corner when I returned and could not help noticing how dark it was inside. There are lights hanging from conduit on the ceiling that were reminiscent of old gas lights similar to those in ‘The Crown Bar’ but the orange coloured bulbs didn’t shed a lot of light to allow me to study the music hall memorabilia hanging on the walls.

The Empire serves food, tea and coffee in addition to the various wines, beers and spirits so you won’t go hungry should you need sustenance. The bar was clean, the staff were friendly and welcoming, however, being a converted church, access is limited for those who are not fully able-bodied. My pint was good but I would have loved my glass to have been polished clean and not reliant on a quick automated glass washer to ensure its cleanliness, but it’s hard to find old time bar staff that check a glass and then wipe it with a linen cloth to ensure pristine delivery of the dark stuff.

I rate this at bar above average but could do better, sorry no City citation but maybe next time.

Price: £££
Value for money: 🍺🍺
Atmosphere/Entertainment: 🎵🎵🎵1/2
Staff: ❤❤❤❤❤
Would I be back? Aye, sure why not


The Young Fella

As with any group of mates there’s always that one person that says “If I’m going I’m only having one and nahin more understand?”, that friend was me the other day. As is usual, there was some ruckus in the group chat with word of heading for a pint or two. I agreed to put my dry spell (in aid of weight loss) to bed and go for a sociable.

After much deliberation back and forth, I said to the lads to meet at The Empire on Botanic, I’d never been, and it seemed like a quaint wee spot so it was agreed.

At the front of the building you’re greeted with a choice of going up the stairs, (if you’re heading to one of the many gigs or comedy shows that the building is host to) or down if you’re for the bar. There happened to be a concert on the night we went so downstairs it was and straight to the bar at the back of the place. We found a wee spot near the bar, (avoiding any potential long treks for drink), on the way I spotted the toilets on the right-hand side, always handy to know in case yer man brings over six shots of sambuca again.

I ordered a pint of Guinness, well poured and served with a smile from the young lad I assumed to be the manager of the night. There’s the usual on draught, including Foxes Rock, and a good selection of bottled and canned beers for the more seasoned IPA or craft drinkers. 

The décor is pretty old school and could benefit from a brighter bulb or two but apart from that there was a good atmosphere and it adds to the nice vibe in the place. There were a few people in to watch the football being played on the big screen and you could hear the commentary well, if you’re into that sort of thing. I’m more of a motorsport man myself.

But alas after some good conversation the Guinness was gone, and I ventured onto that second drink I said I wasn’t having. I looked at the whiskey list, which only gave about half of the selection available, and decided on a dram of Jameson Distillers Safe, parful stuff.

Now as a student I like ‘bang for my buck’, love a bit of a dance and pounding twelve shots of tequila like I don’t suffer for four days after a night out, but I also greatly appreciate a quiet one and in my opinion The Empire is a great place for just that. For £11.10 (mildly cheaper than City Centre) I was able to have a bit of a catch up and not end up upside down in a bush with a cone for a hat. Win win, really.

Price: £££
Value for money: 🍺🍺(1/2)
Would I be back? Aye, but you’re buying


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