150 years of gin palaces and historic pubs – VIVA investigated
Emma Chadwick | 18th September 2023
The iconic pub group, Nicholson’s, is celebrating its 150-year anniversary this year and is known for its historic pubs and ornate gin palaces around the UK.
Here in VIVA’s heartland of the Northwest there are a number of wonderfully retro Nicholson’s outlets that blend the old with the new and offer some great grub too.
We went to The Sawyer’s Arms, just off Deansgate, to find out more. It’s a Grade II building and has been a pub since the 1700s. In fact, it’s said to be one of Manchester’s oldest pubs, having first gained its licence in 1730.
It has a rustic charm steeped in history and our window table gave a great view of Deansgate, an ideal spot to watch the world go by or watch a match, as old meets new with big screen action as well as an enviable gin offering and crowd-pleasing ales.
It is a pub vibe, but VIVA thinks that’s a good thing and the clientele was a mix of shoppers relaxing, friend squads having a tipple of their very decent Prosecco (priced £40) and lads/ladettes starting the weekend with a pint.
The menu is quality pub food, including hearty pies and British classics. There are sharing platters and side dishes you can start your meal off and we enjoyed some gorgeous halloumi fries with a wonderful mayo/sweet chilli dip which were gorgeously crispy (no sogginess here). We also dipped into a great humus and flatbreads.
It being a Friday, we opted for fish and chips and weren’t disappointed. This was a huge piece of haddock, again cooked brilliantly with a light, crunchy batter served with chippie chips and mushy peas. The perfect Friday fish supper and a total bargain for £14.50.
Onto puds, and a classic sticky toffee pudding was a delicious, sweet treat. Light sponge, thick gooey sauce. A food coma waiting to happen in a good way.
Servers are attentive and friendly and the whole thing is a real bargain with snacks from £4.50, mains from £10.50 and desserts from £3.50.
Other Robinson’s gems in our neck of the woods that are well worth a visit, are The Bank, one of the most culturally and historically important buildings in Manchester. Originally knowns as The Portico Library, it was conceived in 1803 by a group of businessmen and built-in Runcorn stone with neo-classical style. The library and newsroom opened three years later in 1806 and the Portico Library still survives upstairs to this day.
The Old Wellington built in 1552, is the oldest building of its kind in Manchester. Nicknamed ’The Old Welly’, the pub became part of Draper’s Shop in 1554 and was the family home of the Byrom family. It was John Byrom, born here in 1692, who invented an early form of shorthand.
VIVA verdict: Hearty pub food, warm and friendly, steeped in history and great prices. Perfect for hooking up with your mates and enjoying a match or catching up with friends over the extensive gin menu.