It may be old, but the Marble Arch pub proves that with age comes distinction.
It’s a fact – humans are living longer. But, at the grand old age of 125, how much history do you reckon you’d remember? The Marble Arch Pub, which celebrated its quasquicentennial in 2013 (now there’s a word you’d have to put your teeth in to say), has gathered some beautifully muddled stories over its many years. The sloping floor, in particular, has been subject to much creative speculation. Decorated with a stunning floral mosaic, its distinctive angle tips drinkers cannily down towards the bar and has been explained, variously, as a slope for unloading barrels, a trap for dropped coins and “ideal for cheese rolling competitions”.
The Marble Arch’s own barman made the rather more mundane suggestion that it was for ease of cleaning, allowing a bucket of water to be efficiently sloshed down the length of the pub (needless to say, this was our least favourite version). Even the pub’s name has a rather tenuous connection to its appearance: the façade is made of polished red granite, not marble. Accurate explanations may have faded into the past, but, by way of compensation, the Marble Arch is alive and well as part of Manchester’s present.
The pub’s sloping floor, in particular, has been subject to much creative speculation
It’s the Marble Arch’s tap signs that best act as testimony to the pub’s more recent history: the handpulls are a handy (forgive us) mnemonic for its expansion, in 1997, into a brew house. Of the beers on offer, the majority bear the logo of the Marble Brewery, which was established as a way of safeguarding the survival of the pub. Originally a four-barrel plant in the pub’s back room, production has since increased to 12 barrels, necessitating a change of location (it’s now tucked, appropriately enough, under the railway arches on nearby Williamson Street).
Specialising in high quality ingredients and innovative flavours, Marble beers are all natural, unpasteurized and unfined. They are also Vegetarian Society approved, should you happen to have an herbivore in your midst. Among the more inventive are the award-winning Ginger 6 (Winner North West Speciality Beer, Chorlton Beer Festival 2012) and Earl Grey IPA (SIBA North West Beer Competition 2013; Premium Strong Bitter – Gold) – more daring is the recent addition of a chilli and chocolate combo. This leaves a pleasing heat on the tongue; something to remember it by when you’re done.
Though the Marble Arch’s cornice is printed with alcoholic hints (the tiles spell out “Ale”, “Porters”, “Gin” and “Brandies”), there’s also an opportunity to line your stomach. While bar snacks consist mainly of pork scratchings, pickled eggs and onions, the pub’s menu proper is sprinkled with the darling of cooking competitions: micro herbs. The addition of micro-greens to traditional pub grub may, then, have been the influence of chef Adam Leavy, who worked under Marble Arch’s head chef Justin Berry before enjoying a successful stint on Masterchef: The Professionals earlier this year. It’s this kind of refinement to the food and the booze that mean that the Marble Arch is still lively at the end of a quasquicentennial (nope, we still can’t pronounce it) – despite being off the beaten track. And though we may not be au fait with the exact history of the place, the boozer’s log fire and lovely old features make it the perfect pub spin a yarn in.