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The Crown Inn, Stockport

Dave Bishop finds a perfect pub nestling under the famous Stockport viaduct

Published on March 25th 2008.

The Crown Inn, Stockport

SOME customs are bad, some are good. Take Morris Dancing, an easy target I know, but something that should only be allowed under a care in the community order. Ergo, very bad, and not in the way Michael Jackson meant it.

Dogs are allowed, probably because the landlord has his own Japanese Shiba Inu (his name is Mr Miagi – the dog, not the landlord), while lager-loving scrapping scrotes are conspicuous by their absence.

Which brings us to the good – or ooh, goody-goody, accompanied with lots of hand-rubbing and licking of lips - as in the case of the custom of ‘wetting the baby’s head.’ It’s a man thing. We’ve been through the vicarious agonies of childbirth and we need to bond with our mates and down a few beers.

So when the next door neighbour’s weary head popped above the garden fence for a chat on the joys of fatherhood, I offered to take him and some other chaps to the Crown Inn, South Manchester’s new CAMRA Pub of the Year, faster than you could say the real McCoy. Because when it comes to keeping it real, nowhere compares to the Crown. The authenticity begins at the very building, which, framed as it is by an arch of the huge Stockport viaduct, looks straight out of t’Hovis ads. And it’s green and cream – strictly old school, with none of your fancy dan beiges and ivories.

“If this isn’t the best ever wetting of a baby’s head, I’ll eat my flat cap,” I almost blurted out to new dad Ollie, before crossing the threshold into beer heaven. And you know, for the next three hours, during which time each of us put away five pints, no consumption of said retro titfer was required.

As we discussed the merits of breast-feeding, the three-wheeler buggy and the ridiculous price of nappies these days (as if), the night flew past in a real ale haze. So successful was it, I couldn’t remember what we had or how, in fact, we got home. That infant’s bonce was well and truly soaked.Which meant that, in the line of duty, I had to go back exactly three days later – this time with my wife Jane – to do some real research.

But you don’t have to work for MORI to work out what makes the Crown so special – it’s the beer, stupid. As the ultimate free house, the Crown has a constantly changing roster of ales, so no two visits are ever the same. The only constant seems to be Copper Dragon. They are all advertised on a chalk board above the bar and on our visit there were 13 to choose from – all cask, all beautifully kept, all around the £2 mark.

Which meant that we did what’s known as ‘The Crown Thing,’ where you stand gawping at the beer, scratching your head and taking an eternity to decide.

My wife, chocoholic to her core, went for the Marble Chocolate, which I find too chewy and stouty, but which she likes. I chose the Wren’s Nest bitter from the Howard Town brewery in Glossop, an ale which has just been selected to go into the Strangers’ Bar in the House of Commons. It’s a superb number and possibly the greatest breakthrough in democracy in the last 50 years.

The Crown serves lunch between noon and 3pm every weekday and, if you’re a shopper or town centre worker, you’d be bonkers to eat anywhere else.

I normally go for the coq-au-vin, with salad and new potatoes for UNDER a fiver, but this time picked the beef goulash with similar extras for the same price. My wife had a starter of soup of the day and baked potato filled with pan-fried beef and peppercorn sauce with salad, at just over a fiver. It’s all created in the tiny kitchen by a chef who looks like a chef, if you know what I mean, and takes time because most everything is fresh and home-cooked. It was all excellent for the price.

The Crown’s interior is thankfully still sectioned into snugs and a games room off the main bar. The décor looks like it was designed by a Victorian – actually it was restored to its original glory when the new owners took over last year – with green and burgundy leather banquette seating, oak tables, stripped and tiles floors, embossed wallpaper, bells to summon the waiters (decorative only), framed beer pumps and taps, beer mats on the walls from half the world’s real breweries and real wood-burning fires in every room.

Dogs are allowed, probably because the landlord has his own Japanese Shiba Inu (his name is Mr Miagi – the dog, not the landlord), while lager-loving scrapping scrotes are conspicuous by their absence. In fact, if there’s a better clientele anywhere in a Stockport pub I’ve yet to meet it.

You must visit the beer garden as well. On the downside it’s very noisy as the pub is next to a busy roundabout, but on the plus side it must be one of the most dramatic beer gardens in the country. Long and thin, it actually goes under the Euston line viaduct. I can’t image a better place to listen to live music in summer. At the moment that takes place indoors every Sunday and Wednesday, including folk, jazz and even a string quartet.

C’mon, what are you waiting for – get down to the Crown.

Rating: 18/20
Breakdown: 4/5 Food
5/5 Drink
4/5 Decor
5/5 Atmosphere
Address: The Crown Inn
Heaton Lane
0161 480 5850
Food served noon-3pm every weekday

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

RickMarch 25th 2008.

Couldnt agree more - went to a beer festival in the Crown on Saturday - in addition to the 15 beers they usually have inside, they had another 15 outside!They also had a great band, some amazing slow cooked lamb rogan josh to warm the cockles, and some of the nicest people you could hope to meet. Stockport's best pub by miles - but dont tell too many people - we dont want everyone finding out about it!!

MorrisMarch 25th 2008.

I like dancing very much Flic. But the lambada is my thing.

Mike WaterfootMarch 25th 2008.

On reading the review of The Crown I am going to jump on the train from Newton Heath and spend a couple of hours in The Crown. There are a lot of us on this side of Manchester who are bored with city centre pubs and now we all have our "Old Duffers" free passes we are searching for a regular and cozy place. Your reviews seem to point to The Crown being the kind of place we are looking for.I will let you know how it goes!Mike 17th Sept 2009

Crown fan club memberMarch 25th 2008.

If everyone had a local as good as the Crown, this country would be a much happier place. Seriously though, your comment about punters lingering around the bar spending ages deciding what to try is one very small downside in what's otherwise - genuinely - one of Stockport's biggest visitor attractions! Don't believe me? Get in there on a Saturday and there are people from all over the country in there, all worshipping at this altar of fine beer.Oh, and one final point - when the outdoor music sessions restart GET YOURSELF DOWN THERE! Despite the constant drone of passing traffic, it's a live venue like no other, in the best possible way.

AlanMarch 25th 2008.

Mark here's a hair, have you got a very fine knife so we can split it.

ancoats girlMarch 25th 2008.

I've not eaten here, but I've had some very jolly nights with friends. Friendly service, very cheap pints and a great selection of real ales. The beer garden is massive and it's a reasonable walk to Stockport station if you fancy an evening's venture from Manc city centre. I also love the pub at Stalybridge station, for very similar reasons.

MarkMarch 25th 2008.

Small but important correction. It's not strictly speaking in South Manchester. Not in Manchester at all. It's south of Manchester, in a place called Stockport, which is freely acknowledged. Stockport is not and never has been part of Manchester. It was in Greater Manchester once but these days it's just Stockport. South OF Manchester. It's also a great pub and I love it with all my bitter Stopfordian heart.

FlicMarch 25th 2008.

My husband used to be a Morris dancer and he's very proud of it. He will be most displeased with your comments, young man. I used to be a barmaid at the George pub, also near the viaduct. It was not quite the cosy corner this one looks- though I suppose it might have improved. It did give me a good grounding in breaking up fights, though.

simonMarch 25th 2008.

I have to agree this is a very good pub and within walking distance for me everybody always friendly and never seen any trouble but number one in Stockport for me is the Railway on Portwood.

Brian SmithSeptember 13th 2011.

If Dougie is at the bar drinking...ask him what it is that he is drinking! He'll lie because he tries to keep it for himself! Thursday night is quiz night (not 1st Thursday in the month). A good quiz run by russ...first prize 10 pints!! Whats not to like a great pub

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