Jonathan Schofield falls once more for the charms of an old boozer

A FEW YEARS AGO I was in the Angel pub taking a group of people from Britain and abroad on a pub walk. Some attractive Turkish girls had come along and there were some likely lad Manc boys too. Both groups were in their mid-twenties.

“Where are you from?” said a boy sidling up to a Turkish girl, who told him of her country of origin.

“I went there,” the boy said. “It was boring, wanted to come home after five hours.”

The girl was incredulous and started in with: “But there is so much beauty, culture and history and good food.”

The boy looked taken aback, his dreams of an exotic conquest fading fast. He stuttered, “Really, I just thought there wasn’t much to do.”

Then I twigged as I eavesdropped what was happening.

“I think,” I said, “you are talking about Torquay and you are talking about Turkey.”

I’ve mentioned this recently on Confidential about pubs. You can get forget your Danish ‘hygge’ because you can find it in the UK in any good pub where incidents like the one above are par for the course.

On a lunchtime visit this week this couldn’t have been more true. There was a real fire, ales galore and good wholesome food with a dash of flair. True the interior needs work in this two hundred plus year old building, but then old pubs aren’t supposed to be a Spinningfields experience.

The Angel Exterior
The Angel of Angel Street
The Angel Welsh Rarebit
Welsh rarebit with smoked bacon and Worcester sauce (£6)

The Welsh rarebit for a mere £6 came on two massive slices of bread which for the first time in the last 400 food reviews wasn’t bloody sourdough. The soft dough made a perfect bed for proper Lancashire cheese (the best for rarebit) and the Worcester sauce with extra supplied in a side dish gave it the right tang and bite. We had smoked bacon on top for an extra 50p which bolstered the dish and gave extra flavour. Bloody loved this monster starter which could easily be a full lunch.

The Bury Horseshoe (£6.50) was almost as good. The black pudding pan fried and then placed over a daal-like mix; lentils spiced with a chip-shop curry. This was another filling dish displaying character.

The pick of the mains was a deconstructed shepherd’s pie (£13) with the normal fluffy spud topping replaced by a garlic potato cake. There were generous lumps of braised lamb shoulder, lots of winter veg and a spectacular and very welcome explosion of red cabbage. The vinegar in the latter mingled with the gravy was excellent. Another very decent filler fitting the season like a well-chosen mitten.

The Angel Bury Horseshoe
The Bury Horseshoe (£6.50)
The Angel Interior
A proper boozer: a real fire, a piano, ales galore and good wholesome food

The Lancashire Cheese pie (£12.50) served with bricks, sorry chips, mushy peas and white sauce didn’t fare so well, possessing an unfortunate sogginess and lacking texture. Good flavour though.

Nor was the English burnt cream with the fruit compote and biscuits (£4.50) up to the standard of the starters and the shepherd’s pie. “The Bunsen burner’s not working,” said the charming and very busy barman/waiter/sole member of staff aside from the chef. The result was that this particular take on a crème brulee was as loose as a pair of baggy jeans in the Madchester era.

The beer was great. We had pints of Windermere Pale Ale from Hawkshead brewery which was as clear and serene as a glorious dawn over the eponymous lake.

Angel Shepherds Pie
Deconstructed shepherd’s pie (£13)
The Angel Piano
A piano and A Winehouse in an alehouse

I adore the Angel pub, even though you have to use temporary toilets in the car park that have been temporary for about four years. I love the atmosphere on weekend nights when the piano comes into its own and the place is buzzing with a mixed-aged group crowd. I love the tale of it being exorcised several years ago after a nasty spook started throwing books at a customer in the corner close to the fire where we sat. I love that despite quieting the ghost, Kevin, the boss has placed horror fiction books in the corner she (apparently it was a malevolent girl) inhabited.

And speaking of the car park, there was the time Confidential had its 2008 Christmas party in the lovely upstairs room when Manchester’s roaming chef par excellence, Robert Owen Brown, cooked the turkey in a filing cabinet in the car park. The story is here. It was a remarkable night, and another tale to add to an old pub that reeks of them.

The Angel, 6 Angel St, Manchester M4 4BQ Tel: 0161 833 4786

  • Food 7/10

    rarebit 7.5, black pudding 7.5, shepherd’s pie 7.5, cheese pie 6, English burnt cream 6

  • Service 3/5


  • Ambience 3.5/5

    a real fire, ales galore and good wholesome food