The Golden Cross Hotel in Lancaster Road has long been a mystery to me. By rights – by location alone – this pub should be a little gold mine.
Town Hall over the way, Guild Hall down the road one side, courts along the other – nip to more or less any city in these isles and proximity to reliable engines of ‘footfall’ like these generally adds up to varying degrees of ker-ching!
Yet somehow this discreetly grand boozer – for me one of the best looking in the town centre – has struggled for as long as I’ve known it.
Dropping in for a pint Tuesday just gone, I saw little that would either inspire me to return or to hold out much hope for the place’s future.
The selection of ale on offer along the bar was limited, with not a deal of interest, either in the fridge or along the optics to break the monotony.
And the look of the place was, shall we say, unusual.
At some point in the not-too distant past there has clearly been an effort to spruce it up, but one carried out with no clear idea of what the desired endpoint actually was.
Thus most of the trad. pub furniture has been purged to make way for dozens of what looked like 1970s car seats.
A few modernist posters and graphics hang here and there, on bare white or pale cream walls which, when you add in a profusion of new and snazzy lights, render several corners dazzling to a migraine-inducing degree.
Nursing a Guinness, I adjourned to a car seat near the bar and wondered what on Earth I was going to find to write about. Er – the Guinness was very... Guinnessy?
Then it struck me. Just before 7pm on a bleak February evening and the place was, compared to the two or three ghost pubs I had passed on my way across town, jumping.
Shrieks of laughter rang from the pool room, four or five older gents dotted around either nursed a glass in quiet reflection or nattered nine to the dozen with an oppo, and a good seven or eight propped up the bar making short work of tall drinks.
So this is what I wrote. Not every pub can be a roaring success. Not every pub need even try.
Because whatever else the proprietors are doing, on the evidence of this visit they are at least getting bodies across the threshold on what otherwise was a dead as a doornail midweek evening.
Nipping by the following day to grab a picture, I spied something else. Something which made me think the Golden Cross Hotel is also ticking a box in the city centre which, to my knowledge, goes unticked anywhere else.
Good luck to ‘em in any case.