The old Smithfield Hotel & Bar was a beer lover’s delight featuring numerous hand pulls from up and down the country at pretty reasonable prices. As with so many other traditional boozers though, custom dwindled as costs soared and the place eventually closed. Cue Blackjack. The local micro brewery had been putting on BrewTap events at their own railway arch premises for some time and as they became more and more popular it made complete sense to do something a bit more permanent.
June 2015 saw the revived Smithfield open and brilliantly, Blackjack have made simplicity the key word. Retro mismatched wooden tables and chairs punctuate the pub, whilst each section has it’s own game section. The dartboard is a great addition (we’re competitive here at TNQR and love a good toss) and punters are also given the opportunity to have a crack at table skittles, shove ha’penny or just grab a book from the mini library.
It’s this that perfectly sets out what The Smithfield aims to do; be a modern pub equally as suited to a quiet afternoon pint as it is to a longer evening session. There’s no elitism or snobbishness here; you know what you’ll get and you’ll bloody well love it too.
Oh yes, the beer. It seems odd that we can be so glowing without even mentioning the produce on offer but that’s just a sign of how great we think this place is. On any given day, you’ll be confronted with a veritable smorgasbord of cask and keg beers with friendly staff always happy to give you a recommendation. There are usually three or four Blackjack beers on at any given time, but refreshingly the bar isn’t exclusively stocked with their produce. Local friendly rivals Cloudwater pop up on the wickets on occasion as do breweries such as Oakham, Wild Beer and Runaway to name but a few, offering customers the chance to experience something new, and often starting at around the £3 per pint mark which is rare in the centre of town these days.
Food takes the form of bar snacks, with locally sourced pies at around £2.60, backed up by a selection of nuts, scratchings and traditionally glorious pub grub keeping you ticking over until the wee small hours.
There have already been a few new beer launches in the pub too, with the brewer standing on a chair in the main bar to give an informal overview of his latest tipple, dishing out cake and free samples to all and sundry. This relaxed way of doing things gives the pub a fun, chilled vibe, encouraging a real mix of people in at all hours of the day and night.
A nod to the past but always thinking forward, The Smithfield is a revelation in how to do a city centre boozer in Manchester in 2016.
The Smithfield Market Tavern
Food: Pies, sausages, nuts and the odd pickled egg
Drinks: Cask and keg beer, cider & spirits
Related City Centre establishments: Blackjack BrewTap
Bongo rating: 8/10