Pub/Bar of the Month January 2013: Stalybridge Station Buffet, Manchester, UK
Stalybridge Station Buffet, Manchester, UK
One of the most exciting on-trade developments in recent years has been the move to refurbish station refreshment rooms, or other platform-side facilities, into thriving pubs.
Sheffield Tap, York Tap and The Parcel Yard at King's Cross are three that instantly spring to mind – revived and vibrant places where the emphasis is not just on a comfortable atmosphere but also on outstanding beer.
Of course, trackside pubs are nothing new, as anyone who has frequented the station at Stalybridge, Greater Manchester, can testify.
The Stalybridge Station Buffet has been open, in fact, since 1885. It closed briefly in the 1990s but reopened, fully restored, in 1997 ('saved from ruin', the 1999 Good Beer Guide reported).
It consists today of a small outside seating area, a wood-panelled, heated conservatory, a main bar and a separate lounge. From that it sounds enormous, but the truth is rather different.
Hub of the Pub
The outside area and conservatory provide a handy over-spill, while the lounge – if it's to be called that – is a quiet retreat. Formerly the ladies' waiting room (first class), it's furnished with old railway prints, brewery posters and a venerable factory clocking-in clock. But the hub of the pub is the main bar.
With a ceiling so distant that the room seems higher than it is long, it has space for just three tables, which are supplemented by stools at the bar, and it packs a lot in.
Railway paraphernalia – old lanterns and signals – share the décor function with stained-glass windows, an original marble counter top, red vinyl seating, a small black iron fireplace, and numerous reviews of the pub clipped from the local and national press.
Old enamel advertising signs for products such as Wincarnis, Colman's Mustard, Camp Coffee and Fry's Cocoa maintain the period feel of the premises.
Food extends no further than the odd stew or pie and peas, and entertainment largely boils down to conversation (although somehow they squeeze in quizzes and live folk music at times), with tongues loosened by the excellent selection of beers.
While the bottled beer provision is adequate without being extensive (Chimay Red and Blue, Duvel, Timmermans fruit beers), the cask ale choice is remarkable for such a small pub in such an unusual setting.
Eight handpumps deliver changing beers from trans-Pennine breweries, including the likes of 3Bs, Magic Rock, Thornbridge, Ossett and Empire Brewing.
The pub today is leased by Mike Field, who has loved the premises for many years and who was inspired to create the West Riding Refreshment Rooms on Dewsbury station in the 1990s in homage.
As well as inspiring the new wave of station pubs, Mike and his team are keeping part of our national heritage alive.
Stalybridge Station Buffet, Rassbottom Street, Stalybridge, Manchester, SK15 1RF