It’s going to be sunny this weekend. This is more a matter of blind faith than scientific weather forecasting but at Manchester Confidential we’ve discovered the perfect country pub – although I suppose semi-rural is a better description.
It’s the Tandle Hill Tavern run by Michelle Fenton and her husband, David, and after fierce lobbying it has been put on the shortlist for Pub of the Year in the Manchester Food and Drink Festival. This follows the pub winning Newcomer of the Year at the JW Lees awards.
It is one of very few country pubs in Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Cheshire that hasn’t been turned into one of those ghastly Little Chefs with alcohol, run by managers more scared of their MDs than they are concerned with customer care.
So what makes it special? Above all it’s a genuine boozer, which does good food and has been morphed by Michelle into a possible model for the survival of pubs: that most threatened species of British catering, in anything like their true form. Above all it is one of very few country pubs in Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Cheshire that hasn’t been turned into one of those ghastly Little Chefs with alcohol, run by managers more scared of their MDs than they are concerned with customer care. And also The Tandle Hill Tavern has no effing Wacky Warehouse nor a car park so big it’s visible from the moon.
In other words it has charm but that wouldn’t be enough. It needs leadership as well, and this is what the Fentons provide. “Caring for the place has got to be the key,” says Michelle, who was an accountant before a landlady. “I really loved the pub and I had clear ideas about the way I wanted it to look, so I added a lot of colour and a lot of interesting pictures, flowers and wall-hangings. I changed the way we did other things as well. So the pub opens until 1am on weekend nights. I suppose I’ve softened the pub in a way which attracts a broader audience.
This is the key, it still is a two-roomed rural boozer but the decoration and the management-style have feminised the place. This means that it attracts everybody without putting off the boys. Pubs for most of the last two hundred years have frequently been male, hard-edged, often purely about the drink, the sport and the rough humour. This provides an alternative without sanitising it the way those barns on arterial routes in Chessex do. Well done to JW Lees too. This Manchester brewer is emphasising the individual nature of their business with a campaign call Be Yourself. This place sums that philosophy up.
Of course first you have to find the pub. This is officially the hardest boozer to locate in the region. It is tucked away on Thornham Lane between Middleton, Royton and Rochdale in a pocket of lovely upland countryside. If you’re in a car though beware the long un-metalled bumpy track to get to the door. It’s perhaps the only road in the city where a Chelsea tractor can be excused – no, scrap that, there is never an excuse for one of those in Greater Manchester unless you live exactly in this location or elsewhere on the hills.
The best way to approach is on foot from Tandle Hill Country Park which also offers you some of the most spectacular views in Greater Manchester. The park is accessed from the main Oldham to Rochdale Road, the A671.
The beer and food are main features of a visit. The JW Lees ales are kept beautifully and the food is good quality and great value. The home-made chips are the bee’s knees, indeed the beer, the chips and the walk up Tandle Hill is worth a trip on their own right.
Of course this ain’t fine dining, it’s basic stuff, but well-done. I went with the family. The ten year old loved the 8oz rib-eye steak with chips and peas for £5.95, the six-year old had the local pork sausages and loved them. I was hungry and enjoyed filling up with the half gammon with egg, pineapple and chips also for £5.95 – pictured here. For two and a half quid the jam roly poly, syrup sponge and apple pie were spot on. All this is hearty and wholesome, if you want finesse then you go elsewhere. Just a note of warning though, the pub doesn’t accept credit or debit cards so take cash.
One final point of joy is the name of the hamlet the Tandle Hill inhabits. It’s called Slattocks. If all the humour of old-style Northern Variety, if all the absurdity of Lancashire place-names were to be distilled, then they would produce the word Slattocks. Magic.
|Breakdown:|| 4/5 Food |
|Address:|| The Tandle Hill Tavern, |
14 Thornham Lane, Slattocks,
01706 345 297
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