Around a year ago, I wrote a post here about the pub closest to us in Mellor. We had enjoyed a Sunday lunch with mixed feelings, the food being good but despite a keen and willing proprietor with an original approach and a unique style, it was always going to be difficult due to the the lack of attention to detail, amateur staff and the ever-present financial burden of being an Enterprise Inn. Not long after, after what by all accounts was a complete débâcle of a Mothering Sunday in April of this year, the poor landlord took flight and the Oddies has remained closed since. The potential loss of the most senior pub in Mellor, which has served beer since at least 1805, has been very real with the strong possibility that the pub would be lost to developers and become yet another house or flat conversion.
Now a small group of local business people have bought the pub from Enterprise (Don’t be a stranger now, ye hear, y’all come back now…..on second thoughts) and are committed to restoring the place to it’s former fame. We have enjoyed a drink on two Saturday evenings since the reopening in mid November and were pleased to see a good number of people not just drinking but eating too.
The pub has been sensitively restored to a more simple, tasteful and appropriate style with fireplaces rebuilt, the fires being brought back into service and essential maintenance tasks undertaken. The Parisian boudoir décor has been consigned to the skip and importantly a new staircase built to facilitate a more efficient delivery of food from the kitchen to the diner. (The previous arrangement of a service lift being a thorn in every previous landlord’s side.) There are some other smaller and subtle changes made which may address some of the previous niggles that some people had with the Oddfellows. The bar area has always been small and some visitors felt blocked by crowds at the bar, so the introduction of two high bar tables in the main area of the bar should naturally draw drinkers to them and free up bar space.
In the past, the Oddfellows had a great reputation for both it’s food and it’s beer. A previous regular fixture in the Good Beer Guide, it had always offered a welcome relief from the domination of Robinson’s Beer in the area with at least three real ales from diverse breweries on tap. With the decline in custom for food, the pub was unable to keep enough drinkers of cask to ensure the turnover of barrels and consequently the condition of the beer suffered. Happily, the pub initially seems busy enough to sustain cask beer and keep it in good order. It currently, somewhat bravely, offers five excellent real ales, virtually all of local provenance: Marble Brewery’s Manchester Bitter, one from the Bollington Micro, Jenning’s Worlds Biggest Liar, Phoenix Arizona and a Marstons bitter. The majority of these beers are not cheap but it seems that the Marstons is priced on a par with some other local pub’s Unicorn at £2.90.
As regards the food, the new chef is Bryn Evans latterly of Didsbury’s Rhubarb, The Grosvenor in Chester and Manchester’s Obsidian. The initial menu is relatively small and reasonably priced with some interesting dishes, probably as the owners are feeling their way initially, the accent at first is on hearty classics and grilled meats. There also some interesting takes on traditional bar snacks and sandwiches that look enticing.
We decided today to try the Christmas menu on offer at £12 for two and £15 for three courses. This featured a choice from four starters, four main courses and four desserts. The menu we collected on Saturday had already changed a little to the one we were presented with but no matter, it was eveidence to my mind of the adaptability of the kitchen. The starters included a Celeriac and blue cheese soup, fresh squid rings , chicken liver parfait and Morecambe bay shrimps. Main courses on offer were Pheasant (scheduled to be turkey but a local came in with some pheasants), a char grilled baby chicken, a cheese and onion shortcrust pie, and a potato topped fish pie. Desserts were a treacle tart, bread and butter pudding, a chocolate mousse and cheese and biscuits. Everything is home made and locally sourced if possible. The chef even bakes his own bread.
We started with the squid and the Morecambe bay shrimps. The squid rings were served in a mesh basket, the crisp batter flavoured simply with black pepper with a dip of home made mayonnaise. Absolutely no complaints , a simple thing made well from good ingredients. The Morecambe bay shrimps were served with a blade mace butter on a toasted home made muffin. Not complicated again but delicious.
For our main courses , the OH chose the Char grilled baby chicken served with cabbage and bacon and small roast potatoes and I went for the Pheasant Breast wrapped in bacon, with a sausage, real gravy and roasted root vegetables. A small dish of home made cranberry sauce was also on the plate. What a dish, the substantial pheasant was moist and flavoursome with a gamey,smokey taste. Both dishes were cooked to perfection and the food received our full and complete attention. I have not eaten pheasant often but this was the very best I have eaten and cannot imagine how it could be any better. The only improvement would be ……..another plateful, preferably after a long walk in the winter sunshine, a nice pint of real ale first and a substantial red wine to drink with it.
Finally, given the chance to try desserts for only £3 a head from this menu, we tried the bread and butter pudding served with both a small portion of ice cream and a delightful side dish of custard. The pudding was almost sponge like in texture with a few sultanas studding the bread. Then we shared the local village cheeses which were served with home made brown bread, biscuits and a tangy rhubarb and plum chutney. The cheeses were 3 generous portions of Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire, Kidderton Ash goats cheese and a tasty blue , probably Blacksticks . I sampled three of the real ales, all in good condition, the dark Jenning’s Liar matching the cheese very well and the OH drank a glass of Shiraz from an interesting wine list.
We couldn’t fault our visit, the staff were friendly, attentive and efficient, the pub warm and welcoming, there was pleasant music in the background and outstanding food at a great price.
Everything is cooked from fresh, the produce is all quality, both seasonal and locally sourced if possible. I feel this meal will be the first of many at the Oddfellows. We are now becoming spoilt for choice locally with the number of good places to eat in growing by the month. Sometimes it’s necessary to go back to go forward.