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The Tandle Hill Tavern

Jonathan Schofield takes his six year old drinking in the classic Greater Manchester rural pub

Written by . Published on July 12th 2007.

The Tandle Hill Tavern

It’s going to be sunny this weekend. This is more a matter of blind faith than scientific weather forecasting but at Manchester Confidential we’ve discovered the perfect country pub – although I suppose semi-rural is a better description.

It’s the Tandle Hill Tavern run by Michelle Fenton and her husband, David, and after fierce lobbying it has been put on the shortlist for Pub of the Year in the Manchester Food and Drink Festival. This follows the pub winning Newcomer of the Year at the JW Lees awards.

It is one of very few country pubs in Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Cheshire that hasn’t been turned into one of those ghastly Little Chefs with alcohol, run by managers more scared of their MDs than they are concerned with customer care.

So what makes it special? Above all it’s a genuine boozer, which does good food and has been morphed by Michelle into a possible model for the survival of pubs: that most threatened species of British catering, in anything like their true form. Above all it is one of very few country pubs in Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Cheshire that hasn’t been turned into one of those ghastly Little Chefs with alcohol, run by managers more scared of their MDs than they are concerned with customer care. And also The Tandle Hill Tavern has no effing Wacky Warehouse nor a car park so big it’s visible from the moon.

In other words it has charm but that wouldn’t be enough. It needs leadership as well, and this is what the Fentons provide. “Caring for the place has got to be the key,” says Michelle, who was an accountant before a landlady. “I really loved the pub and I had clear ideas about the way I wanted it to look, so I added a lot of colour and a lot of interesting pictures, flowers and wall-hangings. I changed the way we did other things as well. So the pub opens until 1am on weekend nights. I suppose I’ve softened the pub in a way which attracts a broader audience.

This is the key, it still is a two-roomed rural boozer but the decoration and the management-style have feminised the place. This means that it attracts everybody without putting off the boys. Pubs for most of the last two hundred years have frequently been male, hard-edged, often purely about the drink, the sport and the rough humour. This provides an alternative without sanitising it the way those barns on arterial routes in Chessex do. Well done to JW Lees too. This Manchester brewer is emphasising the individual nature of their business with a campaign call Be Yourself. This place sums that philosophy up.

Of course first you have to find the pub. This is officially the hardest boozer to locate in the region. It is tucked away on Thornham Lane between Middleton, Royton and Rochdale in a pocket of lovely upland countryside. If you’re in a car though beware the long un-metalled bumpy track to get to the door. It’s perhaps the only road in the city where a Chelsea tractor can be excused – no, scrap that, there is never an excuse for one of those in Greater Manchester unless you live exactly in this location or elsewhere on the hills.

The best way to approach is on foot from Tandle Hill Country Park which also offers you some of the most spectacular views in Greater Manchester. The park is accessed from the main Oldham to Rochdale Road, the A671.

The beer and food are main features of a visit. The JW Lees ales are kept beautifully and the food is good quality and great value. The home-made chips are the bee’s knees, indeed the beer, the chips and the walk up Tandle Hill is worth a trip on their own right.

Of course this ain’t fine dining, it’s basic stuff, but well-done. I went with the family. The ten year old loved the 8oz rib-eye steak with chips and peas for £5.95, the six-year old had the local pork sausages and loved them. I was hungry and enjoyed filling up with the half gammon with egg, pineapple and chips also for £5.95 – pictured here. For two and a half quid the jam roly poly, syrup sponge and apple pie were spot on. All this is hearty and wholesome, if you want finesse then you go elsewhere. Just a note of warning though, the pub doesn’t accept credit or debit cards so take cash.

One final point of joy is the name of the hamlet the Tandle Hill inhabits. It’s called Slattocks. If all the humour of old-style Northern Variety, if all the absurdity of Lancashire place-names were to be distilled, then they would produce the word Slattocks. Magic.

Pub Rating: 16/20
Breakdown: 4/5 Food
4/5 Drinks
4/5 Decor
4/5 Atmosphere
Address: The Tandle Hill Tavern,
14 Thornham Lane, Slattocks,
01706 345 297

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

NikkiJuly 12th 2007.

This pub is just fantastic.The staff are friendly, the food is great - proper pub food, lots of homemade traditional dishes and great prices too. The real ales are a treat and the decor is fantastic. This is what a pub should be - well done Michelle, David and all the staff!

RalphJuly 12th 2007.

I stumbled across this pub about four weeks ago. I couldn't believe what a lovely place it was, friendly and well-run with lumps of lovely cheap food to get stuck into. The bitter was keeping well too. I agree with the writer, get up there.

ElizaJuly 12th 2007.

Finally getting out to the right side of this county

AnonymousJuly 12th 2007.


AnonymousJuly 12th 2007.

Love this pub! We sometimes cycle up Thornham Lane... (don't like to risk the car suspension!) or use it as a final destination at the end of a long walk. Very friendly, comfortable atmosphere - food looks tempting, especially on Sundays! Hope your article doesn't make it too popular!

John Willie PeesJuly 12th 2007.

Chris, have you tried real ale instead of mass produced ****e? Try a Timothy Taylors for example, I wouldn't wash the dirty glass afterwards with Pees!

John Willie PeesJuly 12th 2007.

Chris, yes i did contradict! I had had too many decent pints before typing. I was also busy rubbing the cats chest with some Pees Ointment.

ChrisJuly 12th 2007.

Mr Pees, very funny but sadly you don't know what you're talking about. A good pint of Lees' bitter is up there with the best of them, it's flavour and body: try more than one feel the flavours man. Tandle Hill is ace by the way now the Fentons have taken over.

ChrisJuly 12th 2007.

Mr Humorous Pees - bet it took you ages to think that one up - but Landlord? Honestly your tastebuds are so predictable, but mass-produced? Do you mean the Landlord that's available from Cornwall to Aberdeen. Educate thyself. Manchester is lucky to have independent family brewers like Lees, true the quality can be uneven but generally the beers they produce are very good.

John Willie PeesJuly 12th 2007.

I am sure the food and pub are lovely but my name is what the brewery should be called. How you can give that beer 4 out of 5 I will never know, it's like medicine, watered down covonia to be precise, yack.

AnonymousJuly 12th 2007.

I appreciate the reply and explanation to my comment. (I am the lady in question). If you had explained that you were busy, my judgement may have been more favourable. If you had said "we do offer hot drinks, they are usually served as an accompaniment to a meal" I would have been more than happy to order from the menu. I love traditional pubs, but I also love hot drinks and unfortunately the two obviously can't go hand in hand. My loss. Looks like I'll have to stick to coffee shops.

AnneJuly 12th 2007.

We ate here a few months back and enjoyed the hearty, home-style cooking. It's the kind of pub where you don't feel guilty for having mucky walking gear on.. the snobs on the table next to us didn't find it to their taste though , probably more used to sterile Chef and Brewer type places. My husband rates the beer here too.

AnonymousJuly 12th 2007.

We went to this pub a while ago, at the end of a lovely walk through beech woods. It's a great pub, warm fire and delicious food. We've meant to go back, but not made it yet. Good luck for the pub of the year award, hope you make it!

AnonymousJuly 12th 2007.

I visited this pub after a lovely new year's day walk. I was disappointed in the fact I asked "Do you have mulled wine?" Answer... "No". "Do you have any hot drinks?". Answer... "No". Even though it says Mulled Wine on the menu and it also says Teas and Coffees. Not the way to treat customers if you ask me. Especially having the Best Pub of the Year Award now under their belt.

JonJuly 12th 2007.

Yes, it's good to get to that side of the city, where the air is clear and the accents honest. I prefer Milnrow way though.

Tandle Hill TavernJuly 12th 2007.

I can remember the lady in question coming to the bar. New Years Day was extremly busy and unfortunatly, we had sold out of Mulled Wine by 2pm. (The customer arrived at around 3) Tea and Coffee are not prepared on the bar, but in the kitchen, which was working at full capacity and had a long backlog of orders. When the customer asked for a hot drink there was a waiting time of around 1 hour for kitchen orders. Incidentally, it states clearly on the menu that at busy periods we sometimes have a restricted menu. We are currently assessing the options of providing hot drinks from the bar area, that would solve this situtation.However we make no apologies for the fact that we are a traditonal pub, specialising in real ales and home cooked food and though we do offer hot drinks, they are usually served as an accompaniment to a meal. I'm sure that by the time this reply has been posted, Starbucks will probably have installed a treetop cafe in Tandle Hill Park(imagine the views!) which would solve all the problems!!

AnonymousMay 11th 2010.


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