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The White Lion Review

Jonathan Schofield chows down, Binns plays the goat and Cyst gets clubby

Published on June 28th 2011.


The White Lion Review

THE WHITE LION feels like a proper pub. Unreconstructed, ungastrofied, slightly unruly. 

This is a good thing, a comfortable thing. 

I dream in emails, in text messages and in twitter. My eyes are in thrall to the digital images flashing before them and my ears resound to the tap of fingers on keyboards. Every rushed aspect of 2011 life seems to define my days.

So stepping at teatime into the dark and pleasantly worn surroundings of the White Lion was a blessed relief. Not that I should have been there.

Img_2082Blue curried goatSimon Binns, aka the news editor and Middlesbrough correspondent, was supposed to have reviewed the pub on a Monday lunchtime but he'd been feeling blue. He came back with photographs that were azure in tonal quality.

"Why's the curried goat blue, is it sad?" I said.

"Must have been something wrong with the camera," he mumbled with a silly grin on his face.

"Blue Monday, perhaps?" I said.

The truth was that he'd left it on the wrong settings and caused the weird special effect. He'd been giddy.

This was my excuse to be back down at the White Lion at 5pm; to take more pictures, enjoy a well kept pint of Timothy Taylor's Landlord and eat more food - free of the artificial colouring of photographic incompetence.

In the evenings on Monday there's a chef changeover and another chef comes along who cooks Chinese food (Rose, the landlady is Chinese), for eating in the pub or as take-away for Castlefield residents. 

White Lion 005Chow mein mountainThe day was getting more bizarre. 

But I was hungry. And I thought what the hell. The menu was exactly what you'd expect from the standard Chinese take-away, but the special chow mein (£6.50) was a cut above the average. It was massive to start with, a Mount Everest of chow mein, with all the usual requirements of chicken, beef, spicy pork, veg oddments and chilli heat. But with the quantity came quality, it was bloody good.

Purists will scoff at chow mein and point out it isn't real Chinese food, as cooked in the old country, but really a dish adapted for Western tastes. They point this out because they are boorish gits who can't see the wood for the trees. Modern British cooking bears no resemblance to the proper British home cooking my mum used to do, but I never hear other Brits saying, "Oh don't go to that faker Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley there's nothing genuine about it."

For the record Binns liked the lunchtime specials and so did his dining partner Mr Dave Cyst (man of weird stories).

White Lion 013
Cyst had a club sandwich (£7.50). He wrote: 'Club sandwiches are very simple but wrong too often. This, however, was spot on with the simple imperatives done well. Three-tiered triangular toasted quarters held together with decorative cocktail sticks, liberally filled with chicken breast and bacon, nicely grilled even to my fussy standards with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. Slight disappointment on the intimidating mound of chips as they were clearly straight out of the bag, but nevertheless, this was a well-executed and enjoyable pub grub club.'

Shame it all looks blue in Binns' pics, who wrote of his £7.95 curried goat :'It sprang from the specials board like a lion jumping out of a rabbit hutch. It seemed an odd dish to have amid the roast this, burgered that and trad-British dishes. But it was worth the entrance fee alone, so to speak. It was spicy, but not overwhelmingly so. It was fiery but friendly. A good dish and one that more pubs like this should do more often. With a bit of tweaking it could actually become a bit of a destination dish.'

White Lion 014Memorial artGive the White Lion a chance folks. If you want something uncomplicated, a quick stomach busting, usually flavoursome filler than spin through its ancient doors. Or stay outside amidst the pleasantly re-arranged and tidied up drinking terrace. Of course it's a bit of a Red (United) pub but Rose welcomes Blues as well - and not only when people can't operate cameras. 

People have clearly become obsessed with the place. Mike, whomsoever he should be, has a commemorative plaque on the wall that reads: 'Sometimes pissed but always missed'.

That hospitality is part of a long tradition. This isn't any fly-by-night operation. Some stories give the White Lion a pedigree that stretches as far back as 1778. It's possible that it was built by Abraham Collier - it sits on the junction of Collier Street and Liverpool Road. There are some good ghost stories that go with the property as well.

Good beer, decent food: the place makes you forget about emails for a while. 

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL. £1000 to the reader who can prove otherwise, and dismissal for the staff member who wrote a review scored out of twenty on a freebie from the restaurant.

The White Lion
43 Liverpool Road
Castlefield, Manchester, M3 4NQ
0871 951 1000

Rating: 13.5/20
Food: 6.5/10
Service: 4/5
Ambience: 3/5

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away.

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20 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousJune 28th 2011.

That chow mein looks well good. Is it wrong that I could murder that at 10am?

Jonathan SchofieldJune 28th 2011.

Go on, do it, ANON.

Good pointJune 28th 2011.

'Purists will scoff at chow mein and point out it isn't real Chinese food, as cooked in the old country, but really a dish adapted for Western tastes. They point this out because they are boorish gits who can't see the wood for the trees.' Good point this. I agree. Chow Mein is now genuine Chinese food.

Simon BinnsJune 28th 2011.

They didn't look blue at the time.

Mark BrookfieldJune 28th 2011.

Looking at Specials menu there's a preponderance of Caribbean dishes. Reviewing the club sandwich seems like ordering chicken & chips in a Rusholme curry house - surely there's a story to be told?

Dave CystJune 28th 2011.

Well, Mark, Caribbean preponderances aside, a club sandwich is a good old pub food staple and therefore a decent benchmark to compare against other pubs selling food, The White Lion is a pub after all... I had an absolute shocker of a club in the Ox next door a couple of months back too.
Plus, club sandwiches genuinely rock my world and I don't care who knows it. Them and Dyson hand dryers.

John MatherJune 28th 2011.

Good beer - but no mention of it costing £3.70 a pint!

Mark BrookfieldJune 28th 2011.

Whatever floats your boat. Have to agree on the Dyson hand dryers. Not surprised to hear the Ox cocking up a club sandwich, food ther's dismal (to match service)

Eddy BaileyJune 28th 2011.

Ive said it before and ill say it again - Its the 'white balance' on your camera that is the problem. Too complicated to explain here but am glad to advise elsewhere.

Emma DruryJuly 1st 2011.

Whatever you do don't have the pasta bake! One of the worst meals of my life!

James GillSeptember 20th 2011.

Also the best place to watch United outside of Old Trafford itself.

Angie MorganFebruary 24th 2012.

The plaque refers to the old landlords Mike & Sylvia Daley, who rans WL in the 80's. Mike liked a tipple and Sylvia did the best roast butties with little potatoes, her meatballs were great too. The whole family worked there Daughters, Sons, Aunties. Best pub on a Friday lunch/teatime full of ever walks of life mingling, car mechanics to Ad excets. Anyone know what happened to the Daley's?

1 Response: Reply To This...
Angie MorganApril 22nd 2012.

Come chaps, someone must know what happened to Mike and Sylvia?

Andrew McIvorMarch 29th 2012.

Me and my friends have lived in castlefield for over 10 years and regularly enjoyed drinks and football at the White Lion. Until last night that is. We had a couple of drinks in the sun before heading in to watch the AC Milan/Barca game. A this point the Asian owner began lambasting one of the bar staff for having the football on 2 TVs but only sound coming out of one of them. As the barman quite rightly pointed out the TVs were showing 2 different games, so having the volume up on both would have been pointless. She continued to abuse the member of staff in front of all the customers, who fell deadly silent. He complained to her about swearing at him in front of the customers again, so this is obviously a frequent occurrence. As customers we felt incredibly awkward and decided to tell the owner this. Her exact words were 'you don't have to work with him!'. Now I manage people and I would be horrified if one of my team said that to a customer. You hired him for God's sake and besides he had done a cracking job of serving us. After saying this to the Asian owner we were literally told to 'F@ck off!' At which shocked point, we thanked the barstaff for their service and made the decision to never step foot in there again. This woman is dragging one of Manchester's finest boozers in to the ground!

James KayApril 3rd 2012.

Why 'Asian' owner... just 'owner', surely?

Bizarrely, though, you've been a regular for 10 years and this is still news to you?? Rose & Steve are one of life's great double-acts!

3 Responses: Reply To This...
Angie MorganApril 22nd 2012.

And you thinks thats funny?

James KayMay 23rd 2012.

Yep! Dark humour, but funny nonetheless!

AnonymousJuly 4th.

Jim you ledgend! Yes they are the manchesters finest double acts never the less the white lion is like faulty towers and that's on a good day. The landlady is a C#%T and Abusive to all members of her staff if I was anyone I wouldn't come to this pub and the poor members of staff don't even get a single meal or a dinner break working 12-15 hours most days disgusting it's like working in a Chinese sweat shop the landlady may be used to that kind of work environment but sure as hell the poor bar staff Arnt!

AnonymousJuly 3rd.

That Indian guy who works over the weekend Vic Singh, what a charming young man, I believe he has been in the White Lion working with Mike Dilger since 1998. He has been there for over 15 years what a guy !! Does anyone know him PS Steve what a funny guy!!

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