Landlord Steve (with arm in cast) outside the City Arms
Manchester has no shortage of decent places in which to get a few pints – the Marble Arch is becoming renowned far and wide for its microbrewery, and the Port Street Beer House has a selection that guarantees pretty much anybody will find something to drink. But if you head southwest of these two new institutions, through the small Chinatown and past the art gallery, there’s a classic, two-roomed public house called the City Arms.
Shoehorned in between two other pubs, it looks almost like the smallest brother being forced to line up for a photo. Are there any other places where three sit side-by-side on a quiet city backstreet? The Vine Inn and a large Wetherspoons don’t seem to take away any of the punters – on my visit people were queuing outside on a weekday ready for the noon opening* – and after the bolts were drawn back it got busy fairly quickly.
In part, this is due to the size. The City Arms has two rooms – the rear lounge is sunk down a couple of steps – and both are fairly snug in size. It’s clearly popular with the local office workers – another reason why it gets busy. The beer range is good too, although the pub is tied to Punch, landlord Steve Crook manages to mix and match to get a range of things on the eight handpulls.
Steve’s extremely amiable, and knows my old man well (as he drinks his bodyweight in bitter there every month or so). The three of us had a long chat about various Scottish beers he’s had on, and how they fared with the regulars. During our visit – which coincided with the SIBA Great Northern Beer Festival – Steve was taking an unforced break (if you’ll pardon the pun) from licensee duties, after trapping an arm between two casks in the cellar.
I liked the City Arms immediately – it’s extremely welcoming, the beer is good (I went for a couple of lunchtime-friendly 3.6% pints of Red Squirrel Red Tail) – and most importantly, it feels relaxed. With glass office buildings opposite, not to mention the two hulking neighbours, it would be easy to be crowded out – or worse, overlooked – but the City Arms is a great pub that does everything well, and makes you feel the better for it.
*Ok, admittedly I was at the front of the queue
The City Arms
48 Kennedy Street, Manchester M2 4BQ
Tel: 0161 236 4610