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Robinson's Brewery Visitors Centre Cafe Reviewed

Deanna Thomas has an afternoon fling with a strapping Ploughman

Written by . Published on December 8th 2013.

Robinson's Brewery Visitors Centre Cafe Reviewed

SO, I’ve managed to hide this embarrassing social condition thus far, but I’m going to have to confess that I don’t like drinking beer. To me, it tastes like the bitter, acrid taste you get in your mouth after you’ve just been sick and I’m frankly amazed that people seem happy to swallow pints of the stuff. “Oh, no-one ever likes their first sip of beer,” I was once told. So how come there is ever a second?

There was also a dobber of rustic bread, delicious real ale chutney and a pot of pickles so perfectly astringent I had to rely on using them in alternating mouthfuls to zap me out of my carbohydrate coma.

Once upon a time, when Manchester Cathedral was a ‘new build’, men wore skirts and women wore beards, whole families used to drink beer and ale, as the brewing process made it safer to drink than water. Even now, when we no longer have to drink it, it hasn’t gone away and is produced both in massive industrial quantities by multinational corporations and in small artisan batches by independent craft ale specialists who treat each stage of the process with as much care as they would raising a child.

You don’t need to like the end result to be fascinated by the process so I decided to go and check out Robinson’s recent new Brewery Visitors Centre. Stockport’s Cheshire Family Robinson have been brewing since 1838, currently own 340 pubs across the North West and Wales and produce around three million pints of beer per year. Following a £5m pound investment, they opened the visitors centre in March to celebrate 175 years of their independently run brewing company.

You can now bring the whole family for an interactive tour and to visit two of the last ‘brewery working’ Shire horses left in the country. There’s also a shop where you can buy better quality beer-related gift items than you can find anywhere else – should you want to.

Big lads these

Big lads these

I’d heard there was a café there and wanted to see if you could go for lunch without having to do the tour or be booked in to the conference room. You can.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, maybe a contrived pub atmosphere with slightly sticky carpets and fruit machines? No, not at all. The freshly minted café is situated downstairs and feels much less like the office canteen or budget hotel breakfast bar it looks in the photos.

Unicorn Cafe

Unicorn Cafe

They’ve kept the ‘Unicorn Bar Menu’ simple and put some effort into carefully sourcing ingredients and keeping the prices reasonable. You’ll find a mixture of the pub classics you’d expect such as beef burger (£8) or beer battered fish, chips and mushy peas (£8) alongside hearty mains like pulled pork brioche with jalapeno BBQ sauce and sweet potato fries (£9).

Unicorn bar

Unicorn bar

They also offer pizzas (£8.50), sharing platters and simple but hearty sandwiches stuffed with oven baked Lancashire ham or topside of Cheshire beef with Stilton (both £6) which come served on bloomer so thick they require two hands and a firm grip.

Inspired by the effect of the brewing heritage images in the reception area, I really fancied a Ploughman’s lunch (£8) and a brew more to my taste (tea £1.90).

This consisted of half a proper pork pie with crumbly water pastry and a meaty filling that had come from the more palatable parts of the pig, two lovely thick slices of baked ham and a wedge of Cheddar cheese that could hold open a fire door. It turned out to be so hearty I couldn’t feel my legs halfway through as my jeans threatened to cut off my circulation.


There was also a dobber of rustic bread, delicious real ale chutney and a pot of pickles so perfectly astringent I had to rely on using them in alternating mouthfuls to zap me out of my carbohydrate coma.

Now I take this reviewing very seriously and understand that no matter how physically uncomfortable it might be for me, it is my duty to order a pudding so I can give an accurate report of a venue.

I had to choose between deep filled apple pie, sticky toffee pudding (both £4.95) or Cheshire farm ice cream in various Robinson’s brewery flavours such as Dizzy Blonde, Ginger Tom and Cheshire Black real ale (£4.75).

Sticky toffee won but I asked to substitute the recommended hot custard with Ginger Tom ice cream to bring a bit of Ying to the Yang. It was delicious but the sauce had split so much that the whole thing ended up sitting in a two centimetre puddle of butter; warm melted butter infused with a warm mixture of aromatic winter spices….oh God sorry, you lost me for a minute there.

Butter with puddingButter with pudding

Later, I had to purchase a harness and pull my small children home on the school run in an attempt to recreate the South Manchester mum’s version of a Ploughman to offset the calorific onslaught.

So I think I’ll return soon and do the tour before lunch. If anyone wants to come with me they can have my share of beer samples and I’ll drive, but if our next trip out is to a vineyard or a gin distillery it’s my turn.

You can follow Deanna Thomas on Twitter @deannathomas


Robinson's Visitor Centre, Apsley Street, Stockport, Manchester, SK1 1JJ 

Rating: 14/20

Food: 3.5/5 
Drink: 3/5 
Service: 3.5/5 
Ambience: 3.5/5 

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, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away

Shire horses are massiveShire horses are massive


Gift shopGift shop

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AnonymousDecember 9th 2013.

Great revue. I'm glad they've kept the menu simple. Great beer. Can't wait to visit.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Barry MaginnDecember 9th 2013.

I think you have spelt a word wrong somewhere.

AVODecember 9th 2013.

Went on the brewery tour a good few years ago which was very interesting. The best part was the open bar at the end and the buffet was decent back then too. The Old Tom beer served in small bottles is lethal.

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