Whilst excellence never gets boring, I crave something different from the “same old, same old”. It’s so easy to settle, create habits that become almost unbreakable.
Yes, there will always be favourites you can rely on to consistently deliver, but – just sometimes – something “different” is called for. But something undemanding in terms of physical effort. Then it struck me.
Swan Street. A street burned in my soul.
And whilst we didn’t start on Swan Street itself (we started just around the corner), we kept faith with part of the original N/4 pub crawl.
Just don’t call it “Northern Quarter”. I’m in retro mode.
The Angel – Angel St (Jct w/Rochdale Road)
Get off the Metro / bus at Shudehill and walk halfway towards The Marble Arch and on the left – at the junction with the inner ring road you’ll find this unheralded gem.
Briefly known as a place where chef Robert Owen Brown forged his reputation, The Angel has been through many guises. It has been knocked about and reshaped over the years since I’ve been drinking there, but still maintains a quaint Mancunian trait, a sense of “otherness”. A quirkiness.
There’s nothing quite like it in Manchester.
I had my first beer here in December 1984. On my first “works Xmas do”. The pub was then called “The Weavers”. It had – in those days – a second room, roughly bounded by the far end of the bar to the back of the pub.
It was…. narrow. It had a pool table. A colleague fell asleep under that pool table that night. An unforgettable evening.
The pub changed hands. Became one of the early Manchester free houses. It had that room knocked through. It transformed into “The Beerhouse” and developed a reputation for an eclectic beer range. You’d find beers there that you wouldn’t elsewhere.
Now being The Angel – named after nearby Angel Meadows (look it up on Wikipedia), it maintained that reputation. It continues to do so, being the only place I know to get Kissingate beers (Horsham, Sussex), notable for their catnip like ability to attract the Arch Nemesis. I put a call in. He couldn’t resist.
Yes. That’s a Baby Grand. In a pub in Manchester. And it does get played…..
To the point, The Angel is a large single room in a kind of wide L shape. At about 170 years old, it retains a Mancunian sensibility, that “Soul” I need to actually love a place.
And those who “know” The Angel do love it.
The Angel rarely gets talked about in the pantheon of great Mancunian pubs. But it really should.
It may not be pristine and shiny, may be a little “rough around the edges”, but it’s a Manc classic.
Go. Just go.
From The Angel, cross Rochdale Road and turn right. Head towards Shudehill and then left on Swan Street.
Apparently a transplant of a successful outlet/operation in Altrincham, there was a lot of excitement when word got out that this beautiful old building was being taken on.
I’ve seen messages from far and wide that testified to its impact since opening. Tonight, I thought I’d have a butchers.
The classical frontage doesn’t prepare you the the visual impact of the interior. The “WOW” factor. I couldn’t stop taking pictures.
I was surprised at the small size of the bar, but it’s Black Jack. And – for me – they’ve hit a sweet spot. The “You Bet” that I had was pin sharp. Jaz had am excellent beer from Siren, Jock had an Uber sharp Oakham Citra (a criminally overlooked beer).
This place is all about the food though.
That lovely Margherita from Honest Crust didn’t last long. Delicious. Having had them before, I expected no less. Tasty.
This place is stunning. It gets busy. It’s a big space with all the traders on the perimeter. With a mass of seating.
The beer is excellent, but I can’t get over the fact of Big Brother next door. But this is a destination venue. An Atkinson’s coffee, an Honest Crust pizza, a wine from Reserve Wines? I’d rather give these guys my money than any chain.
So. Walk out of the Swan Street door. Turn right. Walk 10 yards
The Smithfield – Swan Street
I’ve been a fan since Black Jack first took the plunge and got out the paintbrushes. They took an old run down beer tickers pub and brought it into the 21st century.
A bit of TLC. A hug and a kiss. They worked wonders.
It’s rarely quiet these days. It’s found a place for itself, gained a reputation for great beer. It has A BAR BILLIARDS TABLE!
And a dartboard. And that board gets use.
I didn’t take loads of pics in here. I just enjoyed a gorgeous pint of Jarsa by Brew York and chatted.
The Smithfield does all of those simple things incredibly well. And – when my lot are out – is one of the places we meet. Or end up.
Or both. A Manc essential.
Leave The Smithfield, cross the road, turn right. Walk 30 yards along Swan Street.
Bar Fringe – Swan Street
You will NOT find a quirkier, more charming pub / bar in Manchester.
Just wander in. Keep your eyes open. And drink it all in.
This place is simply a diamond. Cherish it. It won’t be here much longer.
A long room. With something for – almost – everyone. 4 cask beers. Draught Belgian. Excellent bottles. Brilliant eclectic jukebox.
And just, again, an old soul. A feeling.
It doesn’t matter how many times I come in, there’s always some detail I miss. Like that painted rat…..
Beer. Panda Frog from the North East. Pale. Unfined. Amarillo. I’m easy to please. I could bury my head in a bag of Amarillo and die happy.
And herein lies the core of this post. This side of Swan Street is slated to be demolished. “Developed”. Have the Mancunian element and history flattened.
To be replaced by glass and concrete. More flats.
Always more flats.
Eviscerating the history and soul from a city. Bastards.
Fuck your “progress”. Same to Manchester City Council for destroying the soul of this beautiful city. Block by block.
But I digress. Enjoy the Fringe. This little diamond. While you still can.
Leave the Fringe, turn left. Cross (the rather busy) Oldham Road.
Crown & Kettle – Oldham Road
Another Manchester classic.
A place that seemed to have lost its way in a beer sense. But – in recent months – with a new female custodian (I hate the term “landlady”), the beer has started to sing the sweetest of songs.
Yes. The C&K is another Mancunian jewel. But the beer range and quality had started to wilt.
But, with that new custodian, it’s now a “go to” again.
3 separate rooms. The small room behind the bar was closed last night, but when it’s open, just look up. And gawp.
That beautiful ceiling…..
The current pub is about 130 years old, but there has been a pub on this site for almost 300 years. You can see images/drawings of the area from that time if you scour the net.
The place is beautiful and now – again – has the beer to match. A Northern Alchemy Tawny Port Stout was the beer of the evening. Just lush.
The Brass Castle “Little Imp” was stunning too at 2.8%! Almost a session Stout, really full bodied the that abv.
Again, the C&K needs to be visited. Great beer (again) and a beautiful pub.
But all good things come to an end.
Distance wise, a short crawl. But it forms a snapshot of Manchester. A Manchester we’ll lose a part of in the next few years.
Enjoy it while you’ve got it. I will.
(I never get bored of this!)
Back soon. Jx