The Steamhouse, Urmston, Manchester

The Steamhouse is pretty much my idea of a perfect pub.  Built into the old station building bang in the centre of Urmston, not far from the Trafford Centre, away to the west of Manchester.  The pub is as close to the railway line as it’s possible to get (see the pictures here and of the renovation here), this is a pub drenched in character – right down to the seating choice of old pews from a nearby closed church, a sharking old-fashioned open fire, a big old station clock and even gilded cherubs in the rafters.  The atmosphere is relaxed and  friendly, the staff engaging and well-informed.

Hard to imagine a more comforting ambience in which to eat, drink and be sociable, which, after all, is what public houses are all about.  This one is just the sort of place where I can envisage being with friends for a whole evening of chatting while taking libations – preferably with a designated driver.

The Steamhouse keeps a fine array of well-kept real ales on hand pumps, plus bottled Belgian and world beers, and best of all IPA and amber ale brewed by the manager in their own steam house microbrewery.  Sadly I was driving but the home-made IPA was quaffable yet complex, an excellent session beer.  It is tempting to go from one end of the pumps to the other – another time, maybe.

Even for a Sunday carvery the food was pretty good (rare roast beef, pork with proper crackling, turkey voted by diners as moist and flavoursome), accompanied by about 14 different veg – all guaranteed to keep my mother happy for this Sunday lunch.  There are many more good home-made dishes to try on the regular menu and among the specials.  Next time I’m tempted to try their pies, made on the premises by a chef who evidently knows his Mancunian customers.

It comes as no surprise that The Steamhouse has won a CAMRA Pub of the Season award in 2009 and City Life Trafford Pub of the Year in 2010.  What’s more surprising is that it has not won more awards, testament presumably to the strength of competition.  The Steamhouse also declares itself to be children and dog-friendly, both of which will greatly encourage families to add to the burgeoning popularity of this excellent destination.

If you like pubs the traditional way, this might be a relatively modern addition to the fraternity but one that keeps very much to the model for quirky and enjoyable pubs, the way that no brewery makeover could ever achieve.  The point is that it does not pretend to be anything other than a down-to-earth pie-and-pint place, for which a thousand blessings.  Top marks to the Steamhouse!

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