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British Guild of Beer Writers' Best Regional Writer.

Byline: Mike Chapple at the bar...

BEEN there, done that one" could be the catchprase for this Pub Column on its three years-plus sojourn around our finest alehouses.

It would be especially pertinent for those conveniently placed in the city centre, enjoyed in the occasional breakouts from Castle Greyskull accompanied by Penge's only honorary Scouser, Arts Editor Mr Phil "I've got a luwerly bunch a coconuts" Key.

But continually oversights spring up, the latest being The Saddle on the corner of Dale Street and Hackins Hey in one of the oldest parts of this Capital of Vulture (sorry just a Freudian slip).

Stuck between two other stalwarts previously featured - Thomas Rigby's and Ye Hole in the Wall - what was formerly called the Palatine may have been previously overlooked because of its somewhat drab appearance.

This is not being unduly unkind as landlady Victoria Johnson admits herself.

"It was embarrassing, especially after Rigby's got done up - I looked around and thought we've got the dirtiest pub on Dale Street," confesses 32-year-old Victoria, who has been "in the Saddle" over nine years.

That's all changed now - certainly at least with the exterior. Half of the roof has been replaced and it has been painted a fetching combination of cream and a rich chocolate brown. Even the old pub sign, a portrait of White Star Line founder Thomas Ismay has been replaced with a trendy period reproduction of what appears to be Lord Snooty's butler -although Victoria plans to put the image of the Liverpool shipping magnate back on display inside when the interior gets a much-needed matching spruce-up.

Years of ciggie smoke billowing out from the lungs of Puffing Billys have turned the walls a familiar parchment yellow. So the July 1 ban, although not to the liking of some of the older smoking customers, has finally left the way free for some serious toilet renovation and general redecoration.

The existing maritime theme will nevertheless be retained and includes a fascinating original New York Times front page announcing the sinking of the White Star Line's Titanic in 1912.

There are a number of other hitherto undiscovered plusses attached to the Saddle, including a cheap doubles and even triples bar which pleased whisky-a-go-go Key no end.

The news that a treble house whisky only costs pounds 2.40 was music to his ears. With such prices also come some interesting characters, the Arts Editor not withstanding.

A wrinkly who couldn't have been a day over 104 hopped by our table wearing a jacket with the words NVA Rebels and a pair of Hells Angels wings etched on the back.

"Here he is mate, The Wild One," said Mr Key drolly as we traded anecdotes which the atmosphere in these great old Liverpool pubs always seem to somehow magically conjure up. One had been related earlier by our Echo colleague, Grantie, and focussed on the banter between John Lennon and Tom Jones when the Beatles shared tours with the Welsh warbler.

On one occasion, an inebriated Lennon teased The Boyo with his own version of It's Not Unusual featuring the line: "It's not a unicorn, it's an elephant..."

My how we laughed.

Victoria thinks there's something special about the vibe at the Saddle as well.

"I love it here, it's like a second home, a family local in the middle of the city centre and, when the work's finished, I want to be able to say I've got the best pub on Dale Street."

Ride 'em, cowboy.


The Saddle Inn pub, on Dale Street Picture: COLIN LANE/ c1080807saddleinn-2
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Aug 11, 2007
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