Take a short drive out of Manchester, make your way down some winding country lanes, and you’ll find the best pub in the UK.
The Church Inn at Mobberley received the prestigious honour last month at the National Pub and Bar Awards.
So what makes this small pub in a quaint Cheshire village stand out from the crowd when up against the very best of the best from across the country?
Well, it certainly has the location and looks boxes ticked. With its chocolate box setting, you couldn’t really imagine a more quintessentially British pub than the Church Inn. As the name might suggest, it’s directly opposite the village church of St Wilfrid’s, with shrubs and trees shrouding the roads to its entrance.
Step inside and it’s like being inside a Harry Potter novel. Decadently dark interiors fizz with drops of light from flickering wax candles on every antique table.
Five years ago, Tim Bird and Mary McLaughlin, the current owners, gave this historic pub which dates back to 1775 a major refurbishment which has sensitively restored its classic details while adding quirky details inspired by its location like church hymn boards cheekily displaying the impressive gin offering.
Not only did the Church Inn scoop the best pub title but chef Richard Williams claimed the honour of best pub chef in the UK too.
A swift glance at the menu and you know you’re in gastropub territory here. It’s not just any old fish and chips, it’s craft lager battered fish with locally-grown Massey Farm chips, don’t you know. It’s not just any old burger, it’s homemade venison burger with Welsh rarebit. You get the picture.
There’s no doubting that in chef Williams they have something a little bit special though. I opt for the lamb and feta croquette starter (£7.95) which also featured when this pub starred at Tom Kerridge‘s Pub in the Park Festival earlier this month. It’s a rich and accomplished dish. The swathe of meaty fronds encased in a crisp shell is exquisitely matched with the smooth minted yoghurt and pea puree.
For mains, we tried one of the dishes from the seasonal specials – ale-braised featherblade of beef (£16.95), as well as a country tavern favourite – and yes – the ultimate pub grub treat – fish and chips (£13.95).
The featherblade, to my mind, could have done with a tad more cooking to make it just that bit more tender, and there was still a jelly of fat at its heart. I would have also preferred a little more generous portion of gravy than the smears of “jus” around the side. But the silky smoked marrow mash was something of a treat.
However, the real winner here was the posh fish and chips – a giant mound of deep-fried delight. You could really taste the craft lager in the batter, a gloriously thick shell to the succulent white cod inside. The chips were everything you could possibly want from a pub potato – fresh, crispy morsels of carb heaven.
For those who believe a pub is for drinking rather than eating, the Church Inn has plenty to recommend it as well.
There’s a roster of regularly changing guest ales, from local breweries including the Mobberley Brewhouse, Beartown and Dunham Massey. Bottles of spirits crowd the walls of the bar area, and the pub’s passion for wine is put to good use with regular wine-tasting nights.
On our visit, on a wet Wednesday lunchtime, the place was packed with diners. The ripple effect of that national pub award has clearly taking hold. When – or perhaps if – we finally do get a British summertime, there’s also a pretty summer terrace with more seating to the side and rear of the pub.
But key to The Church Inn’s ongoing success is that they’ve got a classic yet inventive offering that will stand the test of time. Long after this latest award is consigned to the history books.
Church Lane, Mobberley, Knutsford WA16 7RD