Ever heard of The Good Pub Guide? Here at I Love Manchester we are compiling our very own Good Grub Pub Guide.
No longer just the village local, pubs are fast becoming destination venues in their own right, notching up awards and accolades, with some even making the coveted Michelin Guide.
Seeking out the best food pubs the region has to offer, we give you the heads up for when you fancy a jaunt to the country. Because sometimes no fancy restaurant can better show just how good our traditional British fare can be.
Saturday 19th May 2018 will be a memorable date for many. After all the speculation, Meghan finally walking up the aisle with her soon-to-be father-in-law Prince Charles and saying I do to her very own Prince, dashing Harry.
For others, it was the FA Cup Final, with United taking on Chelsea for their last chance of silverware this season.
The weather was glorious, so we decided to give them both a miss. We could catch up with all the highlights on our return. As it turned out, there weren’t many of those from the Cup Final.
Our destination today, Mill Brow. But not the easy way up from Marple Bridge (twenty minutes from my front door up Hollins Lane), but the very much extended scenic route as mapped out by my walking partner for the day.
Along the Peak Forest Canal, through Brabyns Park, and onto Midshires Way. Taking in Etherow Country Park, Idle Hill, and Back Wood. What should have taken us about three hours, but was actually closer to four thanks to one wrong turn.
We spent the last half hour nearly running as we knew last food orders for lunch were at half two. The reason I know this is because today we are visiting my local, the Hare & Hounds in Mill Brow. When I say local, you may have visions of me propping up the bar every night with a glass of wine and a packet of nuts. But it’s more apt to say I maybe pop here once a month to eat with friends and family, plus we always end up here after our walks in the country for a thirst quenching beverage or two.
It’s a beautiful old little pub, both quirky and comfy. Eclectic tables, chairs and benches are positioned haphazardly throughout, more often than not filled with walkers, families, dogs, and kids. There’s one main room with the bar, further seating to the right as you walk in, and a small snug past the bar.
Owner Guy can always be found pottering around, chatting with guests, overseeing the operation fantastically run by manager Alex. It’s friendly and warm – exactly as a pub should be.
The food is just as good. The kitchen has been run by head chef Ryan Oliver for the last ten years now. It’s no easy feat keeping decent staff for this length of time in this industry.
Hence the offer is consistent but constantly evolving, with menus that change daily (key dishes stay on throughout each season although Ryan does play with each plate depending on the produce he has in that day.)
And although the draught (Unicorn, Dizzy Blonde, Light Brigade and Stowford Press Hereford Cider) no doubt keeps many happy, it’s the wine list that makes me smile. With glugable offerings by the glass, but some more unusual beauties by the bottle.
Panko Cod Cheeks, Jersey Royal, Smoked Garlic, Salsa Verde, Tomato £7.95
This was an absolutely glorious summer starter, bursting with flavour. The lightly fried crumbed cod cheeks were plump and moist, the tomatoes sweet, and together with the chunky salsa verde, a pleasure to devour. We also got a lovely little complimentary amuse bouche in a teacup, some velvety smooth butternut squash, parmesan and thyme soup. I could say it was a surprise, but I’ve been coming here years now so I’ve come to expect it. It’s a lovely touch.
Potted Crab & Smoked Trout, Watercress & Toast £7.95
A second top-scoring starter. I’ve had potted crab before, but never with the smoked trout as served here. It was slightly sweet (from the crab), salty, and smokey. Delicious with the toast, I could eat both starters again. Now.
Pork Belly, Peri Peri Prawns, Chorizo, Apple & Salad £17.95
Another summery plate. Pork was not dry at all with some lovely crackling. The dish felt slightly sweet and slightly sour with the chunky chorizo chutney, apple and sauces. I don’t know why the prawns were needed – they tasted perfectly fine but the dish would have worked better without them. There were also some dehydrated and deep-fried bits of pork fat on there that looked a bit like Chinese crackers. I like these playful elements.
Trio of Duck, Cherry, Mushroom, Carrot & Broccoli £19.95
We drink a fruity and light Casa del Toqui Chilean Merlot (£6.70 250ml) with our mains, and thoroughly enjoying it is too with this trio of duck. There isn’t really loads to say about this main course, other than the duck was cooked beautifully, and we especially loved that smooth cherry sauce. And I would have preferred a long-stem broccoli on here to make it feel slightly more fancy. But that’s me being picky.
Triple Cooked Chips £3.25
These deserve the pic. Like triumphant roasties almost. Crisp and flaky exterior, soft and fluffy innards – some of the best triple-cooked chips you are likely to find.
Affogato (Toffee Fudge Ice Cream, Toffee Vodka, Amaretti Biscuits & Espresso) £7.50
Despite the earlier trek, we are both absolutely full after the first two courses and don’t fancy any of the puddings and cakes on offer. Therefore I opt for a decaf version of this Affogato. It’s simple I know, and they can’t really go wrong (I do most of the work pouring the booze and coffee over my ice-cream) but hey, it works.
Irish Coffee £5.50
My Irish walking partner always insists on ordering an Irish coffee after her meal. She says you can tell how good a place is by their Irish coffee. This one gets full marks.
There’s a reason I regularly walk up a big hill for twenty minutes to visit the Hare & Hounds, as opposed to popping to any of the three pubs literally on my doorstep. It’s because it’s the best pub I know.
A traditional, warm, and inviting space that feels worn and used, that sits comfortably like a pair of old slippers. Full of life, lovely staff and great food. And with stunning views, it’s got the lot.
We may have missed out on the Royal Wedding and the FA Cup Final, but we can’t help thinking everyone else that missed out on this little gem of a pub.
19 Mill Brow, Marple Bridge, Stockport, SK6 5LW