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The Town Hall Tavern Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield on a cracking little pub with decent grub

Written by . Published on November 15th 2012.

The Town Hall Tavern Reviewed

THE TOWN HALL TAVERN on Tib Lane is one of my favourite pubs. 

It's not got an original interior, like say Thomas's round the corner, having been ripped out and reconstructed in the mad 1970s, but it has the right pub atmosphere. 

The Town Hall Tavern is a fine sidestreet pub. It's one of those happy buildings that politely contributes to the  street scene without dominating. 

Sitting there cuddling a pint makes you feel comfortable, expansive. It's the sort of place where you can ponder the fundamental questions of life such as what makes a good pub?

Massive set of squidMassive set of squid

Is it an atmosphere of age, the frisson of time passing? Is it beautiful fittings and fixtures? Is it talkative locals and a friendly landlord or landlady? Is it finely kept real ales?  

It’s actually most of these combined. The really good pub should tempt you in for a quick half and make you stay longer than expected. The Golden Pippin ale and the company I was sharing sorted that last week.

The Town Hall Tavern has pedigree. Indeed its antiquity provides one of those great QI moments with bells and alarms ringing because the obvious answer isn't correct for the obvious question. 

Why is the Town Hall Tavern called the Town Hall Tavern? No it's not because it's quite close to the Town Hall, it's because it was converted from Town House to pub sometime in the early nineteenth century and commemorates Manchester's original Town Hall which was at the junction of Cross Street and King Street where the Lloyds Bank is now.

Inside and downInside and down

You can still find part of the original Town Hall by the boating lake in Heaton Park, where it was transported after the rest of the building was demolished.

The pub has had a chequered past. This included in those mad 70s times as a topless bar with topless female staff. One gent recalled to me how there was a woman in her late thirties called Brenda, of substantial girth, who would scurry round rooms clearing away the chicken in a basket with a great deal of lateral movement. He said it put him off women for about four years. 

Eggs BenedictEggs Benedict

Until recently a curious pair of societies used to meet in the useful function room upstairs. I remember being up there one night in 2009 with a group of people, but at 7pm I had to move us downstairs to make way for a regular group booking.

“Who is it?” I asked the barman.

“It’s the Manchester Anarchists,” came the bar man's reply. "I know what you're thinking but they're a really nice bunch. Give me them over the philosophers anytime."

"So the Manchester philosophers meet here as well?" I said.

"They do, though not at the same time as the anarchists," said the bar man. He paused. “They can be trouble though. Very lively. Always arguing with me.”

Nice anarchists, ratty philosophers. Life's interesting. 

Aside from the function room the Town Hall Tavern is an up and down sort of place with a sunken back room and raised area opposite the bar. It's nicely done out - nice is the right word - with graphically tasteful Factory Music posters and the like in that raised bit. The pub is clearly proud of its heritage and Manchester's heritage, although it seems to avoid the issue of big Brenda.

Bacon chopsBacon chops

Grub is pub food personified. And comes in gargantuan heaps. 

The salt and pepper squid in tempura batter for £4.50 could be so constructed as to provide shelter for a whole family of chichuahas. It's decent quality as well, moreish too so, despite the size, disappears in minutes. The chicken liver pate served with homemade chutney for £3.95, lacks finesse, but is serviceable. 

The stack of bacon chops (£8.95) was another monster dish. The meat was good, pure pig, nice Mr Pig. The mash was wrong, runny and made more runny by the 'cider jus'.

Classic pork and apple sauce I suppose, but the 'jus' should in be a little jug on the side for the customer to pour, and this being a proper pub, it should be called gravy. The chef in the kitchen needs to get that mash right though, it needs to be fluffy and bouncy and forget sticking anything else in it, just make it from pure spud with real butter melted through. 

The eggs benedict for £4.95 was huge again and in truth a little overfacing. It was good again though, and if you're passing with just a fiver for food, a proper filler. 

We were too full for a pudding but probably would have gone for the crumble and custard which would probably have been delivered in a cauldron. Size matters at The Town Hall Tavern.

New Pi 018Interior

The Town Hall Tavern is a fine side street pub. It's one of those happy buildings that politely contributes to the street scene without dominating it. The ales are well kept and the food cheap and filling. Not every pub needs to aspire to gastro status. Some pubs suit putting drinking and chatter on equal billing. 

There is a charming old ghost story about The Town Hall Tavern. This states that should you see out of the corner of your eye an old gent in an Edwardian frock coat but when you look at him directly he disappears, then you're going to come into money. 

Perhaps that's another reason to hang around for that second drink. 

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield


The Town Hall Tavern, 20 Tib Lane, City. M2 4JA. 0161 832 3550.

Rating: 13.5/20 

Pubness: 7/10
Service: 4/5
Food: 2.5/5

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.


New Pi 005Inside the pub



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

grangeNovember 15th 2012.

I like this Pub. Just as an observation people often 'pop in for one' after work so it is busy at 5pm and quiet at 7pm.

Rob ShevlinNovember 15th 2012.

i've been in for a sunday roast a while back, got a whole baby chicken that had been cooked then warmed up again by dipping in the deep fryer and came out in a puddle of oil, plus microwaved vegetables. when i asked them about it, they were delighted at this cooking process based on how quick they can serve the food. We walked out.

1 Response: Reply To This...
StuartNovember 15th 2012.

it's changed hands

food for thoughtNovember 15th 2012.

Looking at this pate I need my sunglasses

Amanda EveryNovember 16th 2012.

Amused by the fact it scores higher marks than some of the 'fancy' restaurants in the town!

UrbaneFoxNovember 16th 2012.

When I worked in a pub as a student, if the University's philosophy department came for drinks I used to die inside! Everything was a row; the price of drinks, the scratchiness of pork scratchings and especially drinking up time.
Relax and enjoy the beer philosophers!!

AnonymousNovember 19th 2012.

Based on this review I took my parents who were up on a rare visit, the ex and the kids for Sunday dinner there yesterday.

We were all very happy. Good honest food, properly priced and generously portioned. The staff were great, too. We'd all go back again.

1 Response: Reply To This...
IanNovember 19th 2012.

honest food?

Howard BamforthNovember 27th 2012.

I happened to be passing this afternoon, and tried the "Two-Courses for £8.95" menu. The starter was good - crayfish and avocado - but the cod and chips were disappointing. The chips were hand-cut and chunky, but over-fried. The cod had far too much batter for my taste. Some of the batter was so thick that the inner layer was a soft white mush with the consistency of wallpaper paste. The batter had an unpleasant taste that made me suspect that the oil wasn't as fresh as it should be. The side-dish of peas was nice and tasty, and the tartare sauce helped to hide the unpleasant taste of the batter. The man on the next table ordered the apple crumble. It came in a tiny dish with a separate jug of custard, but there was no space in the dish to add the custard to the crumble! I was unable to find a quiet room that didn't have either music or TV.

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