The Crown & Kettle represents exactly what this little escapade was set up for – to uncover a gem of a bar that we’d never usually visit in the NQ.
The glazed windows on this Grade II listed building means you can’t really see in, so you’re not sure whether you’ll be greeted with a welcoming pub, or a scary inbred-locals place. Luckily, we discovered the Crown & Kettle is very much the former, and we’ve never looked back.
The first thing that hits you is the now infamous ceiling. It has seen better days, and there’s a net to stop bits of ceiling falling on the drinkers below, but you’ll catch many a patron staring upwards admiring its height, and imagining its former glory, as they sup their pint. Layout-wise, the pub is split into three areas around the central bar; the snug, which has a cosy log fire during the winter months, the cider vault, which does what it says on the tin; and the main bar area. The overall feel of the place is that it’s a little rough around the edges and in need of some TLC. The floorboards creek, tables and chairs can be sticky and a little rickety, and there’s scuff marks on the walls. This may put some people off sticking around, but in my book that’s half the charm of the place.
One possible reason for the lack of effort on the interior of the Crown & Kettle could be that their attention is focused solely on nurturing their beer and cider offering. As mentioned earlier, there’s the ‘cider vault’ that houses 25 different ciders, and the main bar provides nine cask pumps, six keg pumps and 30 bottled and canned options for the beer lovers. Keg is priced at around £5.00 a pint, and cask is a wallet-pleasing £3.00 a pint, meaning you’ll often find students here enjoying ales, as well as locals, CAMRA folk and the more adventurous of the NQ clientèle.
Ossett Brewery’s Silver King from Yorkshire is a regular feature at the Crown & Kettle, and the other pumps rotate between numerous breweries including Magic Rock, Darkstar, Thornbridge, and Tickety Brew. The Crown & Kettle have also branched out further afield, and in the past year have held beer festivals dedicated to showcasing beers from both London and Bristol-based brewers.
With their evident love of pint-sized beverages it’s no wonder this place is high on CAMRA’s radar. The Crown & Kettle was the CAMRA Greater Manchester regional finalist last year placing it in their top 16 pubs in the country, and most recently it has picked up ‘Best Cider Pub in Manchester City Centre’ from the North Mancs CAMRA group.
To keep focus firmly on the drinks, the food offering is kept to pork pies, crisps and nuts, and similarly, there’s no distraction in the way of live sport – although there are TV screens about where they’ll show the odd United or City game if asked.
As with a lot of older buildings, the toilets need sprucing up and it’s such a shame as they really let the place down. The ladies are a tight squeeze (and often out of order), there was no soap available on our visit, and the urinals in particular were in a gruesome stained state on our visit – we’ll spare you the photographic evidence on this one. There’s some outside space for the smokers, but if you’re looking for a pleasant beer garden this isn’t it. It’s basically an enclosed concrete yard with the main feature being a noisy air conditioning unit.
There’s no doubt the Crown & Kettle needs freshening up to make the place more comfortable, hygienic and attractive, however, if the environment isn’t important to you, and your main goal is to sample a great range of quality beers and ciders in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, then this is the place for you.
Crown & Kettle
Food: Pork pies, crisps, nuts
Drinks: Beers, Cider, Spirits, Wine
Related City Centre Establishments: None
Bongo Rating: 7/10