Jonathan Schofield can't help returning to a classic pub

It's a place you return again and again. It's a classic, it's got the looks, the eccentricity and the beer. It's got excellent food as well from chef Eugene Fadil. The Marble Arch pub on Rochdale Road is one of the North West's best pub all-rounders.

Eugene Fadil knows his spuds and these dauphinoise were exceptional: luxuriant and indulgent.

For a year or more now we've been suffering a tedious welter of restaurants sweeping across the city delivering a neon bowel-blast of over designed Insta interiors. Meanwhile there's been a concern our pubs, the cornerstone of British hospitality, have been letting the side down with their grub.

The Marble Arch has never done that, it's been a consistent force for good. Thankfully though, the whole scene is slowly improving with a growing number of places offering much more than a crummy selection of stodge. 

The Edinburgh Castle and the Black Friar already provide excellent food, the Lamb of Tartary (sister of The Edinburgh Castle) looks set to follow suit and the recently opened Founder's Hall, especially with the superb small plates, shows that even the big family brewers such as J W Lees are stepping up to the plate. 

2024 03 12 Marble Arch Pub Rochdale Road 3
The bar area in the spectacular interior Image: Confidentials

The Marble Arch is the only one of these pubs with an original interior. This dates from 1888 for McKenna's Harpurhey Brewery and it's spectacular, an exhibition in the main room of tile and mosaic. 

Unbelievably, it wasn't always like this. These paragraphs are taken from our previous article about the Manchester pub guide from 1975.

'The Marble Arch (according to the guide) is a pub ‘where the interest almost ceases on entry’ and is described as the sort of place ‘that is very good if you want to watch TV.’ The amazing interior of tile, mosaic and glazed brick under the ‘paper, paint and plastic’ had yet to be rediscovered. 

'Some strange person in the 60s or early seventies had covered up the whole of that splendid interior.

'This wasn't limited to pubs, there seemed a powerful desire across the board to cover site specific and rich interiors with chipboard on the walls, carpet tiles on the floors and fibreboard doors? Think of all the elegant fireplaces across the country that were ripped out.'

That was then, this is now and we can enjoy the original interior again. Part of the eccentricity of the pub is the sloping floor in the main room. It follows the contours of adjacent Gould Street. Why didn't the architect level it off? Was it done as a bit of a laugh or for practical reasons? 

2024 03 12 Marble Arch Pub Rochdale Road 1
Look at that tiling and those names of beverages Image: Confidentials
2024 03 12 Marble Arch Pub Rochdale Road 2
Magic mosaic flooring: look at those Lancashire roses Image: Confidentials
2024 03 12 Marble Arch Pub Rochdale Road 8
Welsh rarebit Image: Confidentials

The ale at the Marble is brewed by the in-house Marble Beers at Weaste. I especially adore the lush 5% Lagonda but there are good wines too with a potent bottle of Barbera Cornale coming in at £31. 

The Barbera worked well with the black pudding and sausage croquettes (£7.95) and the Arch Pie (£16.95). The croquettes came with a pear and porter relish and were very good, not dry in the least; the meaty bits blended beautifully with a rich and appealing balance and when bunched up on the fork with the relish made for a fine start to the meal.

The pie was a real star, the pies in the Marble always are. The description on the menu says it all, 'Marble stout marinated feather blade steak and drunken onion'. This hints at the heft of the dish, its pie-eyed potency, its glorious solidity under a perfect pastry crust.  

With the pie you can go with mash or chips and buttered greens or mushy peas. Definitely go with the mash, it has perfect consistency, one which welcomes a generous dousing of the boozy gravy like an old friend. The gravy over the pie is another winner. 

In September last year I'd brought in a corporate group on a tour and they still talk about the pies. 

2024 03 12 Marble Arch Rochdale Road 1
Rich black pudding and sausage croquettes Image: Confidentials
2024 03 12 Marble Arch Rochdale Road 2
An exemplary pie and friends Image: Confidentials

A haddock florentine at £17.95 was another cracker. The haddock was steamed and wrapped round spinach and Parmesan, with an asparagus veloute, but for me it was the dauphinoise that did it. Eugene Fadil knows his spuds and these were exceptional: luxuriant and indulgent. 

We shared an apple and cider strudel (£6.95) for dessert which came piping hot. Again nothing wrong with this dish at all, pastry excellent, with a filling that was a pure blast of apple-y sweetness sat next to loads of custard. It's the sort of pudding my mother could have given classes on. These classic dishes sometimes need to have the feel of home cooking and this was the case here.  

2024 03 12 Marble Arch Rochdale Road 4
Apple Strudel waiting to be attacked Image: Confidentials
2024 03 12 Marble Arch Rochdale Road 5
An extruded strudel Image: Confidentials

On other occasions in the last six months I can recall a really good Welsh rarebit (£6.50), a fine beer beef bourguignon (£17.95) and a top notch Sunday roast which is a bit of a bargain at £17.95. 

There is real quality in the kitchen at the Marble Arch and diners will never go hungry. Portion sizes are beyond generous. The inclusion of Marble beers in dishes is a cunning way to add distinctiveness. 

Then we have that interior. Between courses guests can gaze upwards or maybe into the flames in the fireplace. 

Or people watch. The Marble Arch always has a buzz to it. 

The pub is justifiably popular with people of all ages for that combination of great beer, great food, good service, lovely tile and mosaic work and even that sloping floor. I'll be back again and again. 

The Marble Arch, 73 Rochdale Rd, Manchester M4 4HY

The Marble Arch is on Confidential Guides

Recommended by Confidential Guides

The scores

All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, and ALWAYS paid for by and completely independent of any commercial relationship. They are a first-person account of one visit by one, knowledgeable restaurant reviewer and don't represent the company as a whole.

If you want to see the receipt as proof this magazine paid for the meal then a copy will be available upon request. Or maybe ask the restaurant.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their type. What we mean by this is a restaurant which aspires to be fine dining is measured against other fine dining restaurants, a mid-range restaurant against other mid-range restaurants, a pizzeria against other pizzerias, a teashop against other teashops, a KFC against the contents of your bin. You get the message.

Given the above, this is how we score: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: sigh and shake your head, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: nothing's that good is it?

  • Food 7.5/10

    Black pudd croquettes 7, haddock florentine 7, steak and ale pie 8, rarebit 7.5, beef beer bourguignon 7, apple strudel 7, Sunday roast 8

  • Service 3.5/5

  • Ambience 5/5