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The Grant Arms

Dave Bishop says 'what the Dickens' and likes it up in Ramsbottom

Published on May 27th 2008.

The Grant Arms

There was an ad campaign for a soft drink called Cresta in the seventies that had a polar bear spouting the slogan “it’s frothy man”. What the cartoon beast failed to say, though, was “and it tastes worse than the plastic container it comes in and what’s the big deal about froth anyway? Doh.”

There wasn’t a sign that said sexy, seductive bar with ambient music and fit girls this way and bar with leery boozy blokes talking sport and scratching their arses that way.

He could also have warned against the Cresta runs if you drank too much of the orange abomination with the most unsuitable name in fizzy drinks history.The Noughties, it seems, are now froth-free times – smoothies and slush-puppies being the gimmick of choice for alcohol-free imbibers - unless, of course, you head to Ramsbottom.

There the froth, just like the proverbial and mythical gold paving of London’s streets, can be found at foot level. Nice if you want to keep your plates of meat fresh and clean, but a pain in the ankle if you’re wearing shoes. It looks bad, too.

The froth in question spurts from the controversial sculpture, 'Tilted Vase', in the Market Place. This is a successful piece of public art, if not always described in the most flattering way by the locals. The problem is that froth, caused by scallies putting detergent in the trickle of a fountain issuing from the vessel.

But look beyond the fountain – literally. Stand on the road opposite, and peer past it and you’ll spy a rather grand three-storey building, made of stone. Actually, though, it’s just one story that makes this building, otherwise known as the Grant Arms pub, stand out from all the others in Ramsbottom.

And that’s the story of Nicholas Nickleby, by Charles Dickens. Legend has it that the great author based his characters the Cheeryble brothers – try saying that after a few scoops – on the very same Grant brothers who once lived at the Grant Arms, when it was called something else.

And if you don’t believe me there’s a nice blue oval plaque on the wall that says just that, so there (the siblings also had a tower named after them, which seems a bit greedy to me).

We visited the Grant Arms possibly a week too early. A week later and we’d have had a grandstand view of the Second World War re-enactment that takes in and around the Market Place every other year. It’s an incredible sight. Vera Lynn types in cotton print dress rubbing shoulders – and no doubt other things at the post-war festivities - with German storm troopers.On our Sunday session, though, all we had to look at was that frothy fountain, man, and the odd family wandering and wondering how to pass their Sunday.

And believe me there is a choice in Ramsbottom, and purlease, don’t even think about cracking that joke about hill folk, wellies and wool-covered animals.

The place, especially on the outskirts, is rammed, ho-ho, with great pubs. Just down the road Hawkshaw alone has the Waggon and Horses and the Red Lion, two of the finest pubs in Greater Manchester (Peter Kay is a regular at the latter). But we wanted a town centre vibe, so The Grants, as it’s known, it had to be.

Stepping past a rather handsome giant schnauzer doggy accompanied by two miniature schnauzers, we entered the pub and immediately faced a dilemma – left or right? There wasn’t a sign that said sexy, seductive bar with ambient music and fit girls this way and bar with leery boozy blokes talking sport and scratching their arses that way.

And a peek through the doors didn’t help much, although on first impression to the right looked cosier, owing to the stone fireplace.

Actually, the right side is where most of the diners like to hang out – the small telly being only a minor distraction from their noshing.

The left side has a much bigger telly (and flatter obviously) but is still quite nice in an unpretentious, matter-of-fact Ramsbottom kind of way.

To the back there are another couple of rooms, one sporting games stuff, including a pool table, and there are function rooms, bedrooms and, even further back, a proper restaurant.

Space enough, it seems, to accommodate the entire character list from every Dickens book and their mates.

Ceiling fans, dark beams and a sprinkling of understated watercolours against traditionally painted walls comprise the décor.

We plonked down in, let’s call it, the cream and green dining room with our mates the Mallinders who we met in Paros, Greece, five years ago. Family stuff, so no big session supping, just genteel sipping while the kids had coke.

The Grants, thankfully, has retained some traditional flavours to go with its traditional Dickensian heritage, namely Moorhouse’s ales on tap.

We all had the Blond Witch bitter, for no reason other than the name with its suggestions of wickedness on a Sunday.

Not that it was wicked at all, but it was very hoppy and refreshing and instantly demanded a replay, which was provided by a middle-aged gentleman who looked like a familiar slipper-wearing uncle passing over a cup of tea.

Like I said, unpretentious, and if this place has even heard of Mexican-type beer served with limes then I’ll eat my sombrero.

Sitting at an unpretentious (there I go again) varnished pine table, me in a low comfy sofa, the rest of the gang perched in sixties-style dining chairs, we tucked into unpretentious (I can’t stop it) pub food.

I had large deep-fried haddock with chips for just £5.90, which was fresh, tasty and, as it says on the tin, plentiful, while the missus had bacon and stilton baked potato for £4.50 and all the kids chose fancy baguettes at just under a fiver each.

Not what you’d call a spectacular experience, but certainly one conducive to a good family get-together for a Sunday lunch – or even to watch a great bit of armoured re-enactment if you’re lucky or fountain frothiness if you’ve got nothing else to do.

Rating: 13/20
Breakdown: 3/5 Food
4/5 Ale
3/5 Decor
3/5 Atmosphere
Address: The Grant Arms Hotel
Market Place
01706 823354
Food served: Mon-Fri noon-2.30pm and 5.30-8.30pm. Sat noon-8.30pm. Sun noon-4pm

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