A feature of the Northern Quarter for as long as TNQR team have been going out in the area, The Bay Horse has been a staple at the lower end of Thomas Street for quite some time; but can it evolve enough to keep pace with today’s young pretenders?

A traditional boozer given a fair few spit and polishes over the years, The Bay Horse draws a mixed crowd. Groups of young ‘uns out for a session mix with old boys who probably remember the sawdust on the floor and this does sometimes lead to letching from the more “established” drinkers.

There are some interesting choices on the taps, with a couple of ales on for the traditionals (Seven Brothers on our visit), whilst Yardbird American IPA, Mahou, Erdinger and Sam Adams put the pub above many of its neighbours for variety alone. Spirits and wine are pretty standard stuff though, showing the bar is aiming firmly at a more classical pub market.

It’s a promising start but the bar is let down in a few other ways. Although we know it’s a tough job, the bar staff’s disinterest in serving customers or having any idea who was next in line was poor on our recent visit. Similarly many of the punters seemed particularly rude; not necessarily the pub’s fault but it didn’t exactly encourage us to stick around and it’s maybe a hint for The Bay Horse to look at its door policy.

The beer garden used to be one of the reasons we picked The Bay Horse for summer drinking back in the olden NQ days (there literally wasn’t anywhere else in the area with any sort of outdoor space) but really all the area amounts to is a few tables underneath a noisy, dripping air con unit and it’s usually in the shade too. Fortunately there are plenty of other options these days with Port Street Beer House‘s little sun-trap a particular favourite.

The basement of The Bay Horse has changed quite a bit over the years (sadly, the pool tables are long gone) and the never-open left hand mini bar has been usurped by a full size one on the right. Pitched as an underground cocktail haunt, The Saddle Club as it’s monikered is a typical utilisation of an NQ downstairs area with space for dancing and supping until the early hours. Similarly to Apotheca though, you lose a bit of the buzz if you end up down here in the early evening simply because there are no seats upstairs, making it preferable to loiter on the top deck to get more enjoyment from your night. It also means the venue’s moved away from being a proper gig venue, filling weekday nights instead with acoustic open mic nights.

The Bay Horse tends to be stuck in a bit of a rut despite the numerous makeovers. Because it still attracts punters you’d expect to see down the road in the Hare & Hounds, it seems to put off most of the young trendy crowd, preventing the place from catching on as a real destination bar as somehow Terrace has. Instead, it’s a pub with some half decent beer muddling through without really putting much effort into standing out or pushing customer service as its number one priority.

The Bay Horse

Classification: Pub and cocktail bar

Food: Pizzas, pies and hot dogs

Drinks: Lager, ale, cider, cocktails, wine and spirits

Price: ££

Related City Centre establishments: None

Bongo rating: 4/10