You’ll know I’ve not overjoyed about the growing numbers of Ember Inns in the Guide.  I’m not the only pub tourist with that view. It does seem that Wetherspoons get a lot more flak for running identikit dining places than Ember, Marstons and Greene King, and I generally find Spoons have a lot more of the pub about them.

Ember are no different from a host of smart casual dining pubs in smart casual towns like Holmes Chapel, whose residents probably wonder how Sandbach got the Brunning & Price instead of them.

Most of the towns visitors appear to be folk using it as a bypass of the M6 rather than a place to “rest awhile amid its rustic charm“, or whatever its slogan is.  In truth, it’s no Sandbach, but does have a fair amount of history.

This is the sort of town my parents would like walking round, stopping every five minutes at a new café, and peering in people’s windows (that’s still allowed in the Fens).


They would definitely be happy with lunch at Ember’s Old Red Lion in it’s attractive cobbled setting.  The Lion was surprisingly quiet last Friday lunchtime, perhaps due to competition from the George & Dragon with the offer of Trooper at lunchtime.


If nothing else, busy dining pubs at least give Simon and me the chance to enjoy customer meltdowns when the wrong condiments are supplied.  No such fun here, just a very good half of Ghost Ship (NBSS 3.5) in a dull pub.  I could have shown you a picture of the beer or the pumps but I know you’ll want to see the dull pub.

Dull pub

In a sense, the Old Red Lion is a measure of the reliability of the Good Beer Guide.  As in dreary Embers in Caversham and Redcar recently, the beer quality warranted the GBG listing, even if few would recommend the pub. I like that a lot.

20 years ago Mrs RM and I had a wonderful introduction to the joys of Sam Smiths at the Swan, conveniently placed a stumble away from the station.  It may have been the Museum ale that caused the stumble.  The Museum, and the excellent pizza, didn’t last long, and nor did the Swan’s Beer Guide place.  It’s still a handsome pub.

In truth, I wish the Swan was in the Guide, but since cask has just been reintroduced this year following refurbishment I guess that may come later.

If it can happen in the Swan it can happen in Sinclairs.


  1. Firstly, well done for writing an article about Holmes Chapel without mentioning Harry Bloody Styles!
    I didn’t know the Red Lion was in the guide (have not purchased it yet), it once had a bit of character- uneven stone flags peeling wallpaper but Ember saw fit to homogenise it .
    What did we do to deserve it?


    1. Any relation to Styal Country Park ? Thought not. I’m a big One Direction fan you know.

      Ember Inns somehow manage to look nothing like pubs. When they started appearing in Brum a decade ago at least they had an adults-only angle that saw quite a few Brummies drinking there in preference to Spoons.


  2. Holmes Chapel has borne the brunt of Cheshire East’s housing expansion plans and what was once an expanding village just off the M6 has now become a building site away from the interesting streets pictured above.
    Once upon a time the Old Red Lion was quite a characterful pub, run by Peter Walker. Corporate machinations and disposals have led it to the tender care of Ember Inns, resulting in the current incarnation so aptly described by Martin as “dull.”
    The George and Dragon, also mentioned above, was historically an uninteresting 60s style Robinsons pub. A few years ago a fortune was spent on it, adding a huge dining room and a large conservatory. This made it a very large uninteresting pub.
    I think Martin is right in that HC has what it deserves .
    Incidentally, the Brunning & Price in Sandbach, the Old Hall, is a Grade 1 listed building pursued by B&P for years and restored by the Restaurant Group at huge expense.
    100 yards away is a fairly new Wetherspoons, on the site of a failed Pubco venue.
    Thus the cheapest and most expensive pub in Sandbach sit cheek by jowl. They are also comfortably the two busiest venues.


  3. There’s an incredible amount of new housing going up around Holmes Chapel at the moment, and also a big development at Arclid about five miles to the south. Let’s hope at least some of the new residents make their way to the pubs.

    The George & Dragon is IMV the worst of the three – a pub with no redeeming features whatsoever,


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