The reopening of the old mood (perhaps still better known as the Fat Scot) under the name of “Tap House” has been keenly anticipated by many local beer-drinkers and pub-goers. Due partly to a clever teaser campaign and partly to the opening being delayed a month, it’s been much talked about. It finally opened its doors to the public on Friday 9 November. So what’s it like? No description will satisfy everyone, but for this writer the obvious point of reference is the Sun, especially the Sun before it was extended next door. It’s about the same size for a start and there is the same appearance of the old pub being stripped back to its basic structure before being constructed anew. A lot of the building, too, has been left on display (brickwork, floorboards); and what has been added is likewise of a palette so muted as to be almost monochrome (Although I think the wall seats in the Tap House are more comfortable). There’s a obvious similarity of aspiration, also: to be a clear cut above the average of Lancaster pubs in all its offerings. No doubt about it, both Mitchells and local drinkers owe a large debt to C2i.
Enough of how it’s the same — how is it different? It appears that the main way they want to differentiate themselves in what I am happy to say is an increasingly crowded market is to sell beers different from anyone else. If a beer is regularly available somewhere else in Lancaster, it won’t be in the Tap House. Thus, although it’s a Mitchells pub, it won’t be selling Everards or York beers. This leaves plenty of splendid ales to go at, as the range on opening proved. They sell lager, but not Carlsberg or Stella: in fact the beers they are concentrating on apart from cask are American “craft beers” — a pretty elastic term but it gives you an idea of what they are trying to be. There is no TV or games machine, but there is piped music — almost inaudible when I was there but perhaps when the pub is quiet it will be more intrusive. And it seems they are not going to be serving meals, which differentiates it from all the main competition, though I’m not clear how long this will last.
Martin Hulland, late of Furness College Bar, is in charge and here Mitchells have surely chosen the right man for the job. I can see this pub quickly slipping into a place on the itinerary of discerning drinkers in Lancaster town centre.