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Oast House Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield falls face forward into half a chicken

Written by . Published on June 23rd 2014.

Oast House Reviewed

A LITTLE over three years ago Mike Ingall from Allied London, the developer behind Spinningfields, rushed into the office.

The half chicken at £9.95 was good again, worth a rend and a tear, the flesh moist not dry. The fries that came with it were dandy.

He was carrying an architectural model.

"What do you think of this?" he said.

"That's an oast house," I said. 

"It is and I'm going to build it in Spinningfields," he said. 

"Really, but oast houses aren't really very Lancashire. They're from Kent," I said.

But Mike Ingall had that look in his eye. He was a developer. He was not to be denied.

Oast (to rhyme with coast) houses are where hops, which flavour beer, are dried. You can only grow hops properly in the southern counties of England, hence my Kent comment.

Real oast house in the National Museum Of Oast Houses, KentReal oast house in the National Museum Of Oast Houses, Kent

So when it turned out the operator of Ingall's dream was going to be Living Ventures, well-known for beautiful boys and girls twizzling cocktails and juggling fizz-bomb lagers, it was disconcerting.

"It might be a fake oast house but you'll have to serve real ale," I said. "Otherwise the whole project will be utterly ridiculous."

And lo! For the first time since Living Ventures started seeding 'lifestyle' bars across the North West and the rest of the country, they went against their own glamorous grain and turned to ale.

Two months after opening Confidential enquired and found ale was out selling lagers at least two to one in the Oast House. It might have been three to one, I've forgotten.

We were smug. 

Gordo and I popped in on a recent Friday for food but first delighted in a pint of Loweswater Gold, one of four real ales in the Oast House (along with over forty bottled beers).

Loweswater Gold is 4.3%, brewed in Cumbria, and is a refreshing, golden, almost citrusy ale that each time I drink makes me feel more intelligent.

This time, because I'd become more intelligent, I took a picture through the glass to demonstrate how wonderfully clear the brew is. The beer is beautifully kept by Living Ventures' brew meister Warren McCoubrey. 

Alice, through the beer glassAlice, through the beer glass

The kitchen at the Oast House is open to the elements and stands apart from the main building. It is a thing of fire so if it's hot it's barbequed. Gordo ordered a cold platter first and then we had the lamb burger and the half chicken with corn on the cob as a side.  

The floaty Scotch eggs and the Coronation Chicken were easily the best things on the platter (£9.75), which otherwise was functional rather than inspirational. Still, it got the meal off to a fulsome start and stopped me looking at everything through my pint glass.  

Img_7477Lovely soft Scotch eggs on a platter

The corn on cob pieces were beautifully barbequed, juicy and satisfying all round. Love these. They've been a staple at the Oast House since it opened.

The half chicken at £9.95 was good again, worth a rend and a tear, the flesh moist not dry. The fries that accompanied it were dandy. The 'hot piri piri' sauce that came with it was useless, not hot and tasting soapy. Re-write that recipe someone.

Half a chicken ready and willingHalf a chicken ready and willing

Gordo's lamb burger was fine but a tad overdone. 

Of course the Oast House 'thing' is 'the hanging kebab'. A recent sampling of a dripping beef number (£12.95) hanging from its hook like the world's biggest meat earring was as jolly as ever. Gimmick food, but entirely full of flavour too. A veggie told me they adore the halloumi version.

A hanging kebab and a big faced manA hanging kebab and a big faced man

Keeping the fun theme going, for puddings there's a strawberry and marshmallow kebab (£4.95) or a whipped ice cream in a cone, amongst other dishes. The latter at £1.30 comes with a sauce of your choice and is a good value way to finish off the meal for those with a sweet tooth.

On my recent visit I went for another Loweswater Gold instead. Who needs dessert when there's nectar available behind the bar? 

Juicy, dripping lovely corn on the cobJuicy, dripping lovely corn on the cob

The Oast House is a fine place for harmless scran, decent drinks and people watching. It's not a destination place for an evening meal, nor does it pretend to be. The food is for most punters probably a side-show to the chat and the booze - although the menu could do with a refreshing for the regular punter, it doesn't seem to have changed for a year or two. 

The Oast House isn't bad for lunch though, especially office folk, the food comes quickly and isn't budget busting. In warm weather it's very pleasant on that vast terrace. On weekends there's usually an act on stage out there.

Inside, the bric-a-brac rustic decor can become gruesomely hot with all the bodies, but if middle of the road live music is your thing then there's plenty of that on weekends nights.

Inside the Oast HouseInside the Oast House

So has Ingall's vision worked? In terms of footfall his collaboration with Living Ventures has completely triumphed. This is an easy-going place that attracts punters to it like bees to honey - indeed bees, Manchester bees, the symbol of the city, are all over the Oast House, on the menu and in the decoration. 

Of course, I've had architectural purists raise their eyebrows about the building.

The Oast House is a joke building. Fakery. Just like the Trafford Centre, it's a blast of Disney. But instead of all the ersatz, pastiche, chicanery melting your eyeballs as it does after a while in the Trafford Centre, the Oast House is an island of silliness adrift in an area of sober offices and public buildings. Like a jestor pulling a daft face amongst the straight-faced courtiers, it's a welcome relief.


You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter @JonathSchofield or connect via Google+ 

The Oast House, 
Crown Square, City centre M3 3AY. 0161 829 3830

Rating: 13.5/20
Food: 6.5/10 (Platter 6, corn 7.5, chicken 6.5, burger 6, kebab 7)
Service: 3/5
Ambience: 4/5

PLEASE NOTE: 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, 18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away

Loweswater Gold makes you more intelligent - honestLoweswater Gold makes you more intelligent - honest

Goodly Coronation chickenGoodly Coronation Chicken

Lamb burger and friesLamb burger and fries

Big terrace and Oast HouseBig terrace and Oast House

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

Alan GodfreeJune 24th 2014.

As someone who spent many years living and working in Herefordshire it is not correct to say the "You can only grow hops properly in the south-east corner of England". The west midlands counties of Worcestershire, Herefordshire, and Gloucestershire have a proud history of successfully growing hops used in the brewing of beer.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Jonathan SchofieldJune 24th 2014.

Alan, I apologise and will remedy. But is the oast house to be seen in Herefordshire?

Alan GodfreeJune 24th 2014.

Jonathan, yes the oast house is alive and well in Herefordshire, Worcestershire and immediate environs. Sadly, many are no longer working, having been converted into private residences.

Andrew JonesJune 24th 2014.

Bit of a scrum for the small bar but do like this place, only living ventures place that I don't detest. Scores seem a bit harsh. Good point about quick lunch food, my hanging kebab arrived before me back at the table after ordering last week!

AnonymousJune 24th 2014.

The Oast House makes it impossible for me to take news reports from the courts seriously. The reporters stand on the sticky pavement with their serious faces on just inches from the pub, the cameras desperately angled to not get it in shot, while happy punters peer at the spectacle.

1 Response: Reply To This...
rinkydinkJune 24th 2014.


Andrew HoeJune 24th 2014.

I went on Sunday food was 10 out of 10. It was the Hanging kebab. Two bottles of cider cost me £11 which I thought was very expensive

AnonymousJune 24th 2014.

There's a two-roundel Oast at at a NT property at Whitbourne in Herefordshire, but I believe they are more commonly known as kiln houses in the district. After the introduction of hops to Britain (from Bohemia and Bavaria, via the Dutch trading companies), but before roads were capable of easily transporting hops or beer for any distance, hop gardens were near most breweries, one being recorded as far north as Aberdeen.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 24th 2014.

Love it when JS is out facted!

AnonymousJune 24th 2014.

That burger looks nice but I'm surprised nobody's mentioned Bill's restaurant yet bills-website.co.uk/…

Mark Garner The PublisherJune 24th 2014.

I see you are carrying on your campaign to ensure The Trafford Centre never advertises with us Jonathan.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Poster BoyJune 25th 2014.

Maybe you should volunteer to review some of the restaurants there...

AVOJune 24th 2014.

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned Bill's Restaurant...

Lorraine ByrneJune 24th 2014.

Bill's hasn't opened yet has it? I thought it was July? Oast House is great for lunch in the sun, music is a bit too loud for such a small place but love it anyway.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AVOJune 24th 2014.

I was mocking some anonymous employee of Bill's who had previously been spamming reviews with comments relating to said restaurant. Rather ironically, Bill's seems to have started advertising with ManCon.

AnonymousJune 24th 2014.

Schofield thought he knew the most/ He made a rash statement about houses of oast/ Egg on his face/ Such a disgrace/ So he decided it was time to give up the ghost (tour)

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Roy TaylorJune 24th 2014.


JonathanJune 24th 2014.

hardly 'egg on his face' though anon. I've clashed with Mr Schofield more than most on here must admit his tours are absolutely fantastic.

RevaulxJune 25th 2014.

The sign of a decent scotch egg is an absence of air pocket between egg and meat. The one pictured above couldn't look better. A visit beckons

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