I’m not one of those who jumps on each and every new opening. I do get invites – which is incredibly flattering – but I need a gravitational pull. Not just anything, I’m not here for freebies or promotional bullshit, something in there has to appeal to my senses. Something unusual.
I’d seen stirrings about an impending opening in Bromley Cross (just to the north of Bolton) and kept one eye out. It helps also having friends who live nearby, so I could test drive it vicariously. Jo & Mike seemed impressed. That was good enough for me.
Getting off the commuter train at Bromley Cross station, there was an immediate comparator (and stark contrast) with where I was about to go. The Railway pub.
Closed. Boarded up. I met Mike, who told me what a great music venue it was. But now shut for two years. Heineken asking for too much upfront apparently.
I fear that for larger suburban pubs, this is the future for many. Closure. The land being worth more for development than the business itself. A sad state of affairs. Especially when combined with low pricing for packaged beers in supermarkets.
This is the age – in the suburbs at least – of the Micro Pub.
And so we come to The Nook and Cranny. Bright, shiny and new. Still sparkling from Saturday’s busy opening.
Initial impressions upon walking in were “Ooh! Not as small as I’d thought…..”. Well lit, nicely decorated. Kept simple. Impressive.
Lovely built wooden topped bar. 3 hand pumps for cask and an impressive – and rather pretty – keg wall with (was it) 10 taps? Beers from near and far, but with the accent on local. A well judged selection of trusted and new. Somebody had obviously spent time thinking about this selection.
I settled for a chat with Mike with a beautiful creamy pint of Abbeydale Salvation and admired the view. Plenty of tables for seating, a few upturned wooden casks for vertical drinkers. Cushions on the bench seating. Again, well thought out.
The arrival of a steady flow of more customers gave a better idea of the mixed demographic. Drinkers of all ages, genders drinking. Drinking bloody good beers.
“Fog”. Rivington. Always helps enhance the mood. A seriously lovely beer. Chatted with Craig (one of the owners), a man running 2 jobs alongside a young family. A busy fella. But with a smile as wide as….. Deservedly so.
Craig and his partner have nailed this. I liked the fact that the cask was local and independent (Bank Top, Prospect & Abbeydale), the keg being wider sourced, with Weird Beard & Tiny Rebel featuring alongside local classics like Runaway Stout, Rivington Fog etc. There was a Sour on the list from the Abbeydale Funk Dungeon.
The cask was well looked after, I had a nice Bank Top Luna Pale. The keg was excellent too, nice to grab a rich and roasty Runaway Stout (unashamed fanboy). 2 cask, 2 keg. 2 dark, 2 pale. That’s balance, right there. And bloody good too
Adventurous, if you know Bolton.
Places like this are the future. Certainly in areas like this. Relaxed, friendly – we happily “budged up” and got chatting – nice layout, decor. All the boxes ticked.
Whenever I go to a new Micro Pub, I always think back to my first and enduring love. Heaton Hops. And – in it’s admittedly baby steps – Nook & Cranny stands up well.
The trick will be to keep it like this whilst continuing to be adventurous with the selection, push further. And not settle into the all too easy profit hunt by selecting beer on price rather than flavour. I’ve seen it all too often.
I get the feeling that they won’t fall into that trap.
5 minutes walk from Bromley Cross Station. Which is 8 minutes on the train from Bolton. Like Arnold, I’ll be back.
It’s worth the journey.