Church Inn does the Food and Drink Double!

After a marvellous year for the Church Inn team, from receiving National recognition to the success of ‘Pub in the Park’……we are delighted to announce that the Church Inn has been recognised in the Good Beer Guide 2020, for the first time since the pub was rescued from closure back in 2013 by Tim and Mary our owners!

To get in the Good Beer Guide is the ‘perfect match’ to the Church Inn also being confirmed in the Michelin Guide 2020 for our food, all in the same month! Good news for the Kitchen team and good news for the Bar team too.

Siobhan our general manager at the Church Inn said “We are naturally very proud indeed of this recognition from two very thorough publications…who have visited on numerous occasions to ensure we are to a high standard, consistently. The whole team play a part and work very hard indeed to deliver great food and drink. We are proud to use very local suppliers for all ale and our food too and they too must share in this recognition..Cheshire and Manchester Ales at their finest and great farms, bakers and butchers across the same region, local and proud togther”



First Port of Call….for the team at the Fitz’

The Fitzherbert Arms in Swynnerton, Staffordshire, situated on Lord Stafford’s estate, has been appointed a ‘Graham’s Port Ambassador’ at a Port Tasting evening held at the pub on the 24th October 2019. The Fitzherbert Arms is the first pub in the UK to be presented with the award and joins a very special group of just eight establishments worldwide. The award recognises not only the exceptional Port list, with 30 different Ports available, (twelve of which are served by the glass) but also the dedication and professionalism of the Fitzherbert team who have delivered a consistent experience over the past 3 years with Graham’s and Port overall.

João Vasconcelos, Head of Sales for the Symington Family Estates, flew in from Porto to present the plaque to James Griffiths, Landlord of The Fitzherbert Arms and his deputy manager Charlotte Dawe in recognition of the work they have done. It has been an exciting time for James and Charlotte, as both spent three days in Porto and the Douro Valley on a company trip in September to improve their knowledge and experience even further.

Commenting on the evening, Tim Bird and Mary Mclaughlin, the owners of the Fitzherbert Arms, stated “It has been a wonderful evening celebrating the Ports from this historical region of Portugal, we are over the moon and very honoured to own the first pub in the UK to be appointed as a Graham’s Port Ambassador. We look forward to continuing to increase the awareness and enjoyment of these amazing Ports in the Fitzherbert Arms and across our other pubs within our Cheshire Cat Pubs and Bars Group. It was lovely to share this special night with our loyal customers and Lord Stafford. They too are very proud of the pubs achievement.”

Our First ‘Tour De Cat’ is a great success

On Sunday 13th October at 8.30am sharp, 18 cyclists braved the weather and took to the country roads that link our six wonderful pubs. They left from the Church Inn in Mobberley after registration.

With all the rain we did think we would have a poor showing, but to get 18 cyclists was amazing! In front of them was a one hundred mile challenge, taking them in to Staffordshire, to our Fitzherbert Arms pub via our Cholmondeley Arms and Three Greyhounds Inn before returning to Mobberley to pick off the Roebck Inn and Bulls Head. With the rain falling it was a gruelling, yet rewarding trip. Every rider had to collect a tiddlywink at each pub until they had the six. A Burger and a pint or three were waiting!!

Everyone completed the Cheshire Cat 6 other than three who missed out the Fitzherbert Arms, but did do the ‘Cheshire 5’ instead. The photos tell the story of how delighted everyone was to have risen to the challenge.

All the riders arrived back safely to the Bulls Head in Mobberley with the exception of three riders who had started at the Fitzherbert Arms and circled round to finish there rather than the Bulls Head.

All enjoyed a drink and a burger ‘on the house’ before they took part in (Cheshire Cat owner) Tim’s cycling ‘Tim-bola’ which raised a few more pounds for our company charity ‘Action Against Hunger’. On the day we raised £315.00 for the charity! Which is a really great result. Despite the weather, the cyclists loved it and most importantly loved our pubs!!

We would like to thank cycling enthusiast Sam, from our bank HSBC, for supporting the event and for supplying the British Cycling Jerseys and books as prizes in the ‘Tim-bola’.

Bigger thanks have to go to Adam from our wine merchants Boutinot. Adam is a very keen cyclist too and made all the arrangements for the event with the help of Tim and the pubs too. Adam also helped with the wines for the ‘Tim-bola’ and cycled the 100 miles for good measure!

This is the first time we have held the ‘Safari’ and it will now be an annual feature on the Cheshire Cat calendar! Thank you to all the cyclists who took part, including Rory who travelled from London to have a go!

See you all next year!

Cholmondeley Arms wins ‘Best Gin Pub in the UK’ for the second year running!

Award-winning country pub, The Cholmondeley Arms, near Malpas in Cheshire, has been awarded the prestigious title of ‘Gin Pub of the Year 2020’ by The Good Pub Guide. The award category, introduced for the very first time last year, was added to recognise the increasing number of pubs now stocking an impressive selection of gins. This is the second year running that the Cholmondeley Arms has been chosen for this award.

With its staggering collection of more than 400 gins, it’s amazing Gin and Music Festival held annually in July and its Gin Tasting Classes, the Cholmondeley Arms showed the consistency and innovation to keep the award a second year! The award recognised the Cholmondeley’s 8-year focus on gin, before the renaissance really began too. The award also comes in the very month of the eighth anniversary of owners Tim Bird and Mary McLaughlin’s re-opening of the pub after its restoration to what you see today.

Tim Moody, General Manager of the Cholmondeley Arms, comments: “We’re proud and delighted to have been awarded the title of ‘Gin Pub of the Year for 2020’. Gin has always been our favourite tipple and being recognised with such a prestigious award for the second year running is a real boost for the whole team who have worked so hard to bring ‘Gin to the Inn’ here at the ‘Chum’. I’d like to say a big thank you to our excellent team and also to our loyal ‘gin loving’ customers – we couldn’t have done it without you all.”

Mobberley Football Club, Umbro and The Bulls Head – success storiesa

MOBBERLEY Football Club are benefitting from Umbro’s ties to the village as they go from strength to strength.

They are looking ahead to a fresh season all kitted out in new gear – supported by the sportswear company and its birthplace, The Bulls Head, Mobberley. After a hiatus of nearly 40 years, MFC was re-established by a team of enthusiastic footballing parents in 2016.
Starting with just half a dozen children, MFC now boasts three full year groups of players from age five to 11 and have been playing matches in the Cheshire and Timperley District League since 2017.

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Porto and the Douro Valley

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As we flew out of Manchester on the Tuesday evening nothing could have prepared us for the trip we had ahead of us. We landed safely in Porto and after a quick ‘check in’, we headed to a small local restaurant just outside the Porto Railway station (which I have to say is one of the most beautiful stations I have seen). Restaurant Rapido named after a train…not the service….was lovely and we ordered homecooked fish and Veal with some excellent Douro Wines both white and red. A great meal was had by all and the wine was quaffed with gusto.

Our hosts were Ed from Fells, the company owned by the Symington Family Estates. The family is now in its fifth generation and own superb Ports such as Graham’s, Dow’s, Cockburn’s, Warre’s and several smaller Quintas (Vineyards/Wine Farms) situated on the banks that form the valley of the Douro River. The river runs from Spain through Portugal and reaches the sea via Porto.

After a sensible night we all slept well and woke the next day to find the sun shining with beautiful blue skies. We all made the short walk down to the ‘British Factory House’ which is a Neo- Palladian building located close to the Douro as it arrives in Porto. The building celebrates the influence of Britain on the Porto Wine industry. Our visit was exclusive, as this building isn’t open to the public. Photos can be seen of the cellars which hold some of the rarest ports in the world. The building is very grand indeed and is a meeting place for the owners of the Port Houses.

As we left the house we headed to the river. The team posed for a photo as we waited for our mini bus to take us to our first port of call (pardon the pun) which was Cockburn’s. James and Charlee from the Fitzherbert Arms (which has over 30 different Bottles of Port by the bottle) were on the trip for all the fine work they have done at the Fitz.

Tim, manager of our Cholmondeley Arms and Steph manager of the Bulls Head were there too after good work on Port in the year as well as Tim and Mary, to keep an eye on things!!? We were joined by Ed as mentioned above and Joao the Sales Director who was our guide and host for the whole trip!

We travelled to Cockburn’s situated over the River Douro in to Vila Nova de Gaia opposite to Porto….a full guided tour and tasting was enjoyed in what has to be the biggest port cellar ever!? It was vast and we all completed our 10,000 steps for the day before lunch!

Graham’s 1890 Lodge was next on the list a very short drive away and is situated on a commanding ridge with wonderful views of the Douro and Porto. We enjoyed, once again, a very interesting tour and were treated to a lovely lunch with wines and Port to savour.

At about 4pm we jumped on the mini bus and Joao took to the wheel as we headed off to the Douro Valley some two hours drive away. We stayed at the Graham’s Lodge House on the banks of the Douro. The house is blessed with simply stunning views of the Douro river and what is, a UNESCO World heritage site and one of the most ancient wine regions in the world.

As you will see from the photos it is simply stunning. As the sun set over the hills we all unpacked and freshened up for an intimate supper outside, on the veranda of the house. A barbecue was the order of the day and a magnificent cheese board helped us taste a little more port before bed!

As we woke the next day it was clear the Douro was around 5 degrees warmer than Porto had been. I would guess the temperature was 35-37 degrees centigrade…phew…in September! We were around a week ahead of harvest, so this was perfect timing to be shown around before everything got very busy indeed….with grape picking etc.

We walked down from the house on Thursday morning and visited the Graham’s Quinta. Graham’s has recently been awarded a British Royal stamp of approval after being bestowed a Royal Warrant from Her Majesty the Queen. This means that the Symington family are the official suppliers of Graham’s port to the British Royal Court. Dow’s, as we will later find out, has a Royal warrant too from George V.

Joao gives a tour of where historically the grapes for the port would have been trod. One Quinta still uses this ancient method, Quinta Do Vesuvio. We leave the Graham’s Quinta and head down the hill on foot, over the railway track, to a small jetty where a boat is waiting to take us down river, to the Symington and Prats owned Quinta de Roriz.

We were driven from their jetty up the dusty track to a hill above the Quinta, to take in the views…. which I have to say, were stunning. We were welcomed here by Miguel, as he explained with passion about how this Quinta developed from a tiny village to be what it is today…..a merger of wine experience, in the form of a joint venture, between the Symington family and Bruno Prats. Vintage Port is bottled here but in small quantities in very special years. So the concentration here is to produce DOC wines of great stature under the brand P + S. We tasted the three wines they have developed and all were outstanding, with my personal favourite being ‘Post Scriptum’. These wines are not inexpensive, in fact they are ‘top end’ price wise but certainly lived up to their billing.

Back on the boat and further down river to Pinhao where the Quinta do Bomfim is situated…. where Dow’s port is made. It was acquired by George Warre (recognise that name?) for Dow’s in 1896. Here there is a Symington family home, where we enjoyed the most marvellous lunch outside but perfectly in the shade. We enjoyed once again some lovely wines…after a rather cold beer….and of course a little port…this time Warre’s Optima 10 and 20 year olds.

We then toured the Quinta before heading for the station at Pinhao via a small bar….to catch the train back to the small station just down the hill from our house at the Graham’s Quinta. A rest was in order before our final supper on the veranda.

Over dinner Ed, our host, announced that the Fitzherbert Arms had been chosen as a Graham’s Port Ambassador. The first pub to gain the honour and only the second establishment in the country to gain the award. This is true recognition of all the effort the team at the Fitz have made over the last three years. This will be presented on 24th October 2019 at our special Port tasting. We are all so very proud…thank you to all concerned.

So Friday as the sun rose we left for Porto Airport and back to Manchester.

We all agreed the Douro Valley has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth…truly idyllic. Thank you Ed and Joao for your passion and enthusiasm and making this trip the most special we have ever had since we started Cheshire Cat some 10 years ago. Fine memories indeed and we will be eternally grateful to you.