Liverpool’s best pubs: The Augustus John
In part 1 of our search for Liverpool’s best pub – Benedict Spence takes a trip to the beloved AJ
‘Labs finished early: AJ time!’
So went the mantra of my housemate (who in the interests of preserving his anonymity, I shall refer to only as Richard Challenor) for near enough the entirety of first year; though he swears he’s changing his ways (and indeed, his course) to this day I suspect it remains his philosophy.
This boozer is a staple venue on the well-trodden path around university for revellers and inebriants of all varieties: conveniently placed for scientists and medics, and within stumbling distance from the Guild for society members, drama types and students elected to positions of minor power. The chances of you ending up here at some point, through peer pressure or otherwise, are high.
From the exterior, it doesn’t look much; think Bosnia circa 1995. Hidden behind Blackwell’s bookshop, this is a pub that sets little store by décor, hamstrung as it is by its premises. The interior looks uncannily like ‘the inside of a lung that has endured 40 years of heavy passive smoking,’ and the vista offered from the windows is of… the University of Liverpool. No, not University square; a couple of concrete walls and a car park are what you get to gaze at, you ungrateful pack of layabouts.
For the most part this does little to detract from what is usually a lively atmosphere. A slight irritant is the tendency to play music (alas, of the metallic variety) at a heinously loud volume, which can affect your ability to follow the anecdotes of your peers. Fortunately for all, the wide array of alcohol on offer often negates this issue before long, as said anecdotes become progressively more raucous, and your fellows begin their steady descent into sweet, all-embracing inebriation.
Usually boasting a strong set of ales, the AJ is also known for its wide range of ciders, and the walls and ceiling are festooned with assorted coasters; that visual tribute pubs engage in which hails the pedigree of the beers that have graced the bar over the years, but that are despairingly unavailable to you now.
Local beers are a staple and the bar staff are a helpful bunch, full of conversation, good cheer and the occasional free half, though sadly when one attempts to gage their knowledge of the classics or the works of Evelyn Waugh frustration can ensue.
It’s a perfect setting, in rain or shine, to unwind after a long day, to prepare you for the night ahead, or should the circumstances arise to break the news to your friends and family that you are resitting the year. If you’re on the ale, a tenner should get you readily merry; any more will leave you swaying and wishing you’d filled your stomach with more than a Yorkie at lunch, but will certainly make that convo with the ‘rents less daunting.