Monday, 29 February 2016

That’s the way to do it

Samuel Smith’s have recently completed an expensive and thoroughgoing refurbishment of the Swan in Holmes Chapel. This is a pub in a good, prominent situation, on the main road and right next to the station, but in recent years it seemed to have been allowed to decline, with no real ale and something of a locals-only feel. I remember it serving excellent pizzas in the 1980s, but I think food had been discontinued for some time.

The new pub is something of a revelation, and in many ways represents a step back to how pubs used to be. Going in through the front door, you enter a corridor, with rooms opening off on both sides. Persevering, you eventually reach the servery at the rear of the pub, in a smallish room with a view over the lower-level car park.

In total, there are five separate rooms, each with its own character, from the vault-style area with dartboard to the plush snug with comfortable bench seating and an antique settle, which is where I took my pint picture. Obviously it has the usual advantages of low beer prices and an absence of piped music and TV sport. It also serves the new keg India Pale Ale which I hadn’t seen before in any Sam’s pubs. Holmes Chapel has a fairly well-heeled population of 5,700, and only three pubs, so there should be no shortage of local trade. The pub also offers nine letting bedrooms.

Other pub operators really should take note. Sam’s have created an interior with genuine character and individuality, with attention paid to intimate spaces, warm colours and comfortable seating. So many other refurbs seem to be intent on eradicating all three, Joules perhaps being an honourable exception.

I know that at times this blog comes across as something of a Sam’s love-in, but no other pub operator seems to have much interest in creating proper, old-fashioned pub interiors, and I have to say that in my local area few pubs come anywhere near to creating the vibrant, mixed pub atmosphere that Sam’s do.

On the other hand, I can’t really endorse their sometimes high-handed and quasi-feudal management practices and, while I like Old Brewery Bitter and think it’s a quality beer, there are other beers I’d prefer to see as the sole cask offering, such as Draught Bass and Lees Bitter, to name a couple available locally. But we have to take what we’re given, and Sam’s pubs at their best are great proper pubs in a way that few others are. Last Saturday night, the local CAMRA branch gave our Pub of the Year presentation to the Boar’s Head on Stockport Market Place. Great atmosphere, excellent beer, wide cross-section of customers, and licensees well chuffed. Although, inevitably, some have moaned.

I’ll add that Hydes have recently completed a sympathetic refurbishment of the Horse & Farrier in Gatley, one of my favourite Stockport pubs, which generally retains the positive features I mentioned above, so well done to them too.

(The exterior pic of the Swan leaves something to be desired, due to poor light, the back end of a white van, and roadworks barriers. But you get the idea – smart, restrained and classy.)

9 comments:

  1. Off topic slightly - sorry. I assume you have seen this artocle in the Stoke Sentinel online, but in case you haven't: http://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/pictures/64-Lost-pubs-Stoke-Trent/pictures-28829146-detail/pictures.html

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    1. Cheers Woodsy, duly shared on Twitter :-)

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  2. This is really good news. The (new ?) accommodation and cheap trains to Manchester might just encourage me to add this to my stopovers when visiting.

    I remember the impression this pub left on us 20 years ago, nothing like this down South !

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  3. there are other beers I’d prefer to see as the sole cask offering, such as Draught Bass and Lees Bitter

    And there's me thinking you were going to suggest a coconut and lychee saison.

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    1. I think even the most dedicated crafty wouldn't think a coconut and lychee saison would be the ideal choice for the sole beer in a pub. Some kind of hoppy juicy banger, I would expect.

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  4. I like Sams pubs. I like being offered knock off gear. I like the offer to shoplift to order anything I want from poundland. Proper boozers.

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    1. I doubt whether you'll find any knock off gear or shoplifting offers in the Swan.

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    2. Opening for you then, fella. Get your dirty trackie on and walk round offering to sell stolen pork chops from an old plackie bag. It's the type of entrepreneur self starterism that would make Maggie proud.

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  5. Nothing wrong with sam Smiths pubs. The beer is excellent and very good value. I love them !

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