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Chetham's Arms, Chapeltown, Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield gets miffed so goes north for a meal

Written by . Published on January 17th 2012.

Chetham's Arms, Chapeltown, Reviewed

OCCASIONALLY you need to get out of the city. So on Sunday I did the modern thing and tweeted for country pub meal recommendations.

The suet was the key here, there is nothing more comforting and warming than a good suet pastry made from beef fat. 

One reply from a gent was a challenge, a gauntlet thrown down. It said something like, 'I'd recommend north of the city but you hate it up there in Confidential land so you wouldn't go'.

I'm from Rochdale so I don't hate 'north of the city'. I love the rolling Pennines, the stone villages, although it's true I'm apalled by the civic mismanagement in places such as Rochdale. As for Confidential we go northside for food whenever we hear of somewhere worth reviewing.

So rising to the challenge I went en famille to Chetham's Arms in Chapeltown in the Turton part of Bolton, my charming tweeter's choice. The village is gorgeous, perfect on a sharp winter's day, full of golden Pennine houses and long views to the hills.

It even has a Manchester link, as the pub name refers to the same Humphrey Chetham who gave his name to Chetham's School of Music and Library in the city centre. Chetham bought the estate in 1628 for £4000. 

The pub is a good-looker on the outside, three storeys proud, while inside its been given a bold edge with vivid reds and blues. The date stone outside reads 1745, an interesting year to be building given that the Scots had rebelled and were trying to get their king, Not-So-Bonnie Prince Alex Salmond - I'm sure that was his name - on the throne of Britain.

The menu is as good looking as the pub, excellent value and a bit of a revelation. 

The 12 hour braised, middle white belly pork, crispy pork scratchings, sage crushed potatoes, apple and chorizo (£12.95) is a good example of the quality and value - check that price - up here. 

Chetham's 015Pork delight

A whole-hearted good looking meal with clever combinations in the apple and chorizo and the spuds plus good sturdy juicy pork too. Impressive.

The beef and ale suet pudding with root veg and gravy was another triumph and even better value at £10.50. The suet was the key here, there is nothing more comforting and warming than a good suet pastry made from beef fat. The shredded beef inside was extra treasure.

Chetham's 021Suet heaven

The Chetham's burger, chips, home-made ketchup (£10.50) was another excellent composition, with really corking meat filling and chips. The boy Oliver adored the homemade ketchup when normally he's a stickler for Heinz ketchup. 

Chetham's 023Burger and some proper, dead proper, chips

My Sunday roast was one of the best I've had in a pub for a long while. Mostly Sunday roasts in restaurants and pubs fail because of timing. They work better within a family atmosphere where the food is ready and eaten there and then without any of it lurking around grumpily, sinking into a slough of stodge.

Here the beef dripping Yorkshire pudding was a thing of artistry that cried out to be cut and soaked in the rich gravy and then coated with beautifully tender beef, the latter having been feisted up with mustard. Good beans and baby spinach added crunch. 

Chetham's 024A pub roast dinner that actually works

A cheese board of trad Lancashires and Lancashire blues was a lovely end to the meal but not as appreciated as my elder son Jacob's sticky toffee pudding with caramel sauce, crème anglaise, vanilla ice-cream for £4.50. The pudding was light, the caramel anything but, which meant the whole was excellent and we were all scrabbling for dining implements to steal some.

Chetham's 030

A pint or two of Flat Cap - a smooth, citrussy, 4% pale ale - from Bolton's Bank Top Brewery was the only possible accompaniment on such a cold day. 

I was impressed by the Chetham's Arms, the only criticism would be with the rather unsmiling main bloke in a white shirt, he should take a lead from some of his staff and be nicer.

It turns out that the Chetham's Arms is part of a mini-empire of four pubs up here including the Shoulder of Mutton in Holcombe and the Elephant and Castle in Rochdale, created by Chris Yates. I'll have to put them on my list of north of the city places to visit this year. 

So thanks Mr Tweeter for recommending the Chetham's Arms. Now, in turn, I pass your words of wisdom on to readers. 

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield

Chetham's Arms, Turton, 83 High Street, Chapeltown, Bolton, BL7 0EW. 01204 860467           

Rating 14.25/20

Food: 7.75/10
Service: 2.5/5
Ambience: 4/5

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.


Chetham's 025

Chetham's 027

Chetham's 026

Chetham's 029

Chetham's 011

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

AnonymousJanuary 17th 2012.

love this place!!! try the shoulder next, thats the baby of the group!

big earsJanuary 17th 2012.

one of my favourites of the North West and one of the few places that uses all fresh food! About time Chris got recognised

Dawn HoldingJanuary 17th 2012.

They are all brilliant places, The Elephant and Castle in Bamford too

Marlainy PopJanuary 17th 2012.

I live quite close to this place and it's fantastic. For years I've been jumping on the train to Manchester because of the lack of decent eating places in Bolton (if anyone knows otherwise place let me know!)
The food is consistently good, great beers and the surrounding area is beautiful.

AnonymousJanuary 17th 2012.

Good patch of places around there with the Pack Horse in Affetside and Red Lion, will be trying this place out very soon from those pictures alone!

Graham KingJanuary 17th 2012.

Watch Chris Yates ... he's going places. He knows what people want to eat and how to serve it in a way that raises the bar for quality far beyond what you might expect in a pub.

Barry BromileyJanuary 17th 2012.

Heard about the Chethams from a young couple we got chatting to at the Strawbury Duck (you want to see and taste their burgers as well as the rest of their food) We will definitely be eating at Chethams after our next walk round the resevoirs. thanks for the info.

SuzanneJanuary 17th 2012.

Sounds great, thanks for the recommendation. Have been going to the Shoulder of Mutton in Holcombe for some years now - but not since last summer - and have never been disappointed. It's one for taking 'out-of-towners' to.

SpencerSpurchJanuary 18th 2012.

I love eating at The Cheesewire Arms, it's a total classic and a one off to boot. Long Live kenny Mann !

Sue CookeJanuary 20th 2012.

Loved the Shoulder when Chris took it over and went quite a few times, then when we found out about the Elephant and Castle we decided to try that. Unfortunately we had a bad experience with the 'Market Menu' a couple of tiny courses for £12.95 and that has now put my husband off all Chris's pubs. We did email Chris and explain how disappointed we had been but the reply was dismissive. I would love to try the Chetham but 'once bitten' etc, my husband won't consider it. As he said 'Chris could have offered us a free meal or at least some money back'.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 20th 2012.

Very unfair comment.. The elephant is not a pub it is a restaurant.. The market menu is small.. You won't get that food at the shoulder or the chetham.. Food is about quality sometimes not quantity. My menus are based on 3 courses not 1 or 2..

AnonymousJanuary 20th 2012.

Sound like someone was after a freebie.

Chris HotchinJanuary 21st 2012.

Bobbed up there the other day on the strength of this review. Bloody gorgeous, it was.

Chris RowleyJanuary 21st 2012.

The latest welcome addition to the Lancashire Taverns Group, four of us enjoyed an excellent Sunday lunch here last weekend - pigeon breasts for starter for me, sea bass and crayfish main and a panacotta pudding all done pretty well, 2 bottles of free wine with the meal, followed by a pint of Bury's Nanny Flyer. Good to see Confidential straying outside of Greater Mancunia into Lancashire (even though in my book Manchester IS in Lancashire) - Chapeltown, North Turton falls within Blackburn with Darwen Borough.

Deborah WhiteJanuary 25th 2012.

After a couple of recent visit,s the food quality is let down by the incompetence of some staff training, firstly restaraunt priced wine was put our table un-opened, on arrival of our food we asked for condiments, mayo, etc, both times neither arrived, after several minutes we ended up asking again ,also our pre meal glasses were left empty throughout our meal.If unfortunatly the waitering staff are at a satisfactuary standard for yourselves, we suggest you lower your prices accordingly.

AnonymousJanuary 28th 2012.

I agree with the last rant, we went to the shoulder on Thursday night,note as follows 1 dining room area is tiny 2 pub looks great from outside but it's shabby inside.3 I had black pudding to start it was too cloying ,black pudding is supposed to be more crumbly. 4 no condiments on the table 5 had to ask for the free bottle of wine that was supposed to be on offer6 said wine was crap it was undrinkable. Summary , nowhere near as good as rams head in denshaw

TomJune 16th 2013.

Tried this place again today after having a fantastic meal a while back. Unfortunately it's changed hands and is now awful! Sent two roasts back because of cardboard beef and tasteless veg. The steak was really low quality and not well cooked. We should have noticed from the menus, now reminiscent in style of a Wetherspoon's one. An unfortunate lesson learned, and hopefully can prevent anyone else from making the same mistake by posting here!

B KellyApril 4th 2014.

Decided to go for a pub lunch after our walk around the reservoir. We also encountered a miserable looking guy at the end of the bar. Don't know if it was the same guy as in the review or whether they attract miserable managers. That was off putting, it felt like he was thinking who are you, you're not from round these parts. We ordered a couple of pints of a local beer which the barmaid kindly let us try first. She was lovely but up to her eyes in mounting glasses at the end of the bar. Shame the 'miserable one' didn't help her move a few! We sat down and checked out the menu but clearly it's changed. There were some classics but there was also Mexican chimichangas and pizzas. We decided not to bother and drove home instead. It's such a shame because the pub is in a great spot for walkers and the pub itself is really nice. It also lacked atmosphere, it just felt dead. We went to the Pack Horse in Affetside a few months prior and had some lovely food and local ales. The place was really buzzing and had a great vibe. Maybe the owners of the Chetham need to go there for some inspiration. I definitely won't be going back until it changes. It's a shame really because I went there several years ago and it was very enjoyable.

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