Harley Young warms her cockles by the fire with a pint of plum porter and a sausage roll
What: A proper, cosy, quality pub
Where: Lime Street
Food/drink type: Bar snacks, sausage rolls and pints of cask beer
When: Sunday to Thursday 12pm - 1am, Friday to Saturday 12pm - 2:30am
Independent or chain: The 1936 Pub Company
Take all the elements of a brilliant British boozer and meld them together in an impressive Edwardian building of equally impressive stature. You’ll get The Vines.
Originally built in 1867, back when it was affectionately known as ‘The Big House’, it was recommissioned by Robert Cain in 1907 to be fabricated in its current ornate style. And what a beautiful job they made of it.
The Grade II listed pub features delicately carved woodwork trims, doorways and banquettes while gold plasterwork adorns the ceiling. There’s every bit of taxidermy you could imagine; elks heads, pheasants, crows, badgers, even a human skull (though its authenticity is questionable).
There’s wallpaper peeling in areas and the chandeliers looking like they could do with a bit of polish, but the signs of wear and tear from almost two centuries of love from the community only add to its charm.
Then the pièce de résistance - a stained glass ceiling that hangs over the lounge bar like an atlas. Although the key feature for me was the roaring open fire with two leather armchairs sat either side of it, conveniently empty at my time of visit. A stroke of luck, or fate perhaps?
The main event
I ordered a pint of plum porter and a burly-looking sausage roll from the bell jar sat at the side of the bar and made my claim at the “best seat in the house”. I know this, because a regular walked by and gave me a nudge before saying “You’ve got the best seat in the house.”
It was hard to disagree with him. I did feel like something out of an Edwardian novel sat in this bloody great big armchair drinking a smooth-as-velvet plum porter (that was very ‘plummy’, I’ll have you know) from a pint pot huddled by the fire in my scarf. If it wasn’t for the flat screens showing Everton receiving the biggest deduction of points in Premier League history I’d have guessed I’d travelled back in time.
The sausage roll was almost overflowing with filling, with a flaky outer pastry crust and slightly chewy inner layer, as all good saus’ rolls should be (in my eyes, anyway). Served with a pot of your choice of sauce on the side - I went with ketchup - and a knife, fork and napkin if you’re feeling posh, it was a welcome addition to my pint of porter.
The Vines is a pub you’ll enter and struggle to leave thanks to its charming decor and warm welcome - from both the fire and the staff. I could’ve easily spent a few hours here if I’d not had to catch a train to the Manchester Art Fair.
I plan on returning very soon. And probably again shortly after that.
Follow Harley Young on X @Harley__Young
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, and ALWAYS paid for by Confidentials.com and completely independent of any commercial relationship. They are a first-person account of one visit by one, knowledgeable restaurant reviewer and don't represent the company as a whole.
If you want to see the receipt as proof this magazine paid for the meal then a copy will be available upon request. Or maybe ask the restaurant.
Venues are rated against the best examples of their type. What we mean by this is a restaurant which aspires to be fine dining is measured against other fine dining restaurants, a mid-range restaurant against other mid-range restaurants, a pizzeria against other pizzerias, a teashop against other teashops, a KFC against the contents of your bin. You get the message.
Given the above, this is how we score: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: sigh and shake your head, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: nothing's that good is it?