Country heaven in the city

It may be an inner-city pub but at the Angel, writes JEFFREY OLSTEAD, you’ll find superb game cooking and locals who are flocking to country sports.

There’s used to be a lot of shooting in Manchester – mostly the kind that doesn’t do us any favours. But while the Uzis and Makarovs rattle away less frequently now in Mosside, there is a group gathering off the Rochdale Road toting shotguns.

Are these the good, old-fashioned bank robbers of popular fantasy with the obligatory sawn-off 12 bores?

No, they’re the regulars from the Angel off for a day’s clay shooting. On another morning you might find them clutching fishing rods as they gather for a day’s sea fishing. And everything they catch will end up on the table at the Angel.

The Angel, you might have gathered, is not your ordinary inner-city pub, though from the outside you might be fooled. It sits in a back street on the fringe of the city centre – an area that has definitely seen better days; in fact, the pub was only recently saved from demolition.

Step inside and it is what the Sunday supplement writers might call retro chic. You might call it scruffy; but this is the scruffiness that comes from a well-used, well-loved, honest-to-goodness local. It’s a real pub and the owner, Robert Owen Brown, is a real chef.

No posturing for the camera here – though he has done a bit of television – and no ranting or raving. Rob’s a quietly spoken Manchester lad who began his shooting career with an airgun in his backyard.

The chance to extend his shooting experience came when he worked for hotels on the west coast of Scotland, and game shooting and stalking became secondary passions – secondary to his passion for cooking game.

So, on the daily menu alongside local delicacies like faggot and chips, there is always a taste of game. Rob believes that even in inner-cities people are becoming increasingly adventurous when it comes to eating game, helped, no doubt, by the huge endorsement it has received from celebrity chefs and TV programmes like Kill it, cook it, eat it for which Rob cooked.

He explains: “To me it seems perfectly normal for an English pub to be selling game, it’s as natural as selling real ale. We produce some of the best game in the world in this country, and, to me, that needs to be promoted. Since opening we have sold more game than anything else; I can still sell more pigeons than steaks on any night of the week.”

But why chose a city pub? Surely a country hostelry would have better suited Rob’s aspirations? Rob again: “I opted for a pub in the city because that’s where the majority of my clients are; country pubs are great but they are very difficult to staff and sustain financially. There is also the fact that, if I was out in the countryside, I think I would find it very difficult to get any work in the kitchen done.”

Fortunately, Rob does still find time to shoot and fish, and has found a growing interest among his city customers; “The locals have been very supportive of the country pursuits thing; we have probably had over 20 people apply for their shotgun licences after coming on our clay pigeon trips.

“We charter, on average, nine boats a month for sea fishing trips, and once the game season starts again, I could easily put a team of eight guns out every other day of the week. The next thing we are looking at is deer stalking, and I have a couple of people that are really interested in ferreting rabbits.”

If you have ever tasted Rob’s rabbit you will know why.

You can find out more about the Angel at www.theangelmanchester.co.uk

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