ou’ll never go hungry or thirsty in neighbouring Marple and Marple Bridge where good restaurants, bakeshops, cafés and delis line the streets, offering visitors a world of good taste from Cheshire and way beyond.

One hundred and 50 years ago Manchester’s mill and factory workers, hungry for fresh air and green open spaces, descended in droves on Marple and Marple Bridge at weekends. A century later, with the founding of the nearby Peak District National Park in 1951 it was the turn of serious ramblers and weekend walkers. Today, it’s just as likely to be fine diners and foodies topping the visitor lists to this picturesque village and the small town next door, drawn by a culinary clustering that’s rivalling bigger, better-known neighbourhoods.

Great British Life: Marple Bridge with the landmark Norfolk Arms ahead. (c) Kurt ThomasMarple Bridge with the landmark Norfolk Arms ahead. (c) Kurt Thomas

Menu cards on the table. As a long-time resident of Marple Bridge, I may be a little partial. But over the past decade, there’s no doubt there has been a remarkable transformation in the food and drink scene here. Popular stalwarts such as the welcoming Maple Tree Chinese restaurant or Italian La Dolce Vita have been joined by seafood specialist The Fisherman’s Table, fine dining Fold Bistro & Bottle Shop and the North’s only Cambodian restaurant – Kambuja – to name but three. At the heart of much of this expansion of independent eateries lies passionate, skilful entrepreneurs, often with strong local roots or connections. 'There’s a massive variety of good quality restaurants now in what is a relatively small place,' says Fisherman’s Table owner Jamie Barrett.


Great British Life: Libby's staff at the pastry counter. (c) Kurt ThomasLibby's staff at the pastry counter. (c) Kurt Thomas

Artisan bakery, café and wine bar Libby’s Bread and Wine in Marple Bridge is seen as one of the catalysts. Opened by baker Dermot Sheedy in 2008 on a prime riverside site (an outdoor seating area overlooks the Goyt), its standing and offering rose as rapidly as one of its renowned sourdough specials, baked on the premises alongside the sweet pastries and sausage rolls that have won legions of fans.

Visiting on a rainy Monday morning the place is packed, the kitchen spinning plates including the best-selling full English (£12.95) with eggs Florentine (£8) and sweet buttermilk pancakes (£7.50) alongside sweet treats. Now open seven days a week, Libby’s also offers lunch and an extended brunch menu at weekends. From 5pm, there’s a quick turnaround as the homely café transforms into a cosy wine bar offering small plates and pizza, dishes ranging from harissa lamb pappardelle (£9.50) and buttermilk chicken Milanese (£9.95) to goat's cheese, red pepper and rocket pizzette (£6.50).

In 2022 the bakery was bought by Red & Blue Restaurants, its first site outside Liverpool where the company runs four restaurants including French bistro Bouchon and Salt House Tapas. On paper, the acquisition of a village bakery and café – albeit one with a great reputation – might look a little at odds with the rest of the business. 'It all came down to local connections,' explains new co-owner Paddy Smith.

Great British Life: Artisan bakery, cafe and wine bar Libby's Bread and Wine has earned legions of fans (c). Kurt ThomasArtisan bakery, cafe and wine bar Libby's Bread and Wine has earned legions of fans (c). Kurt Thomas

Paddy and his wife grew up locally and returned after long spells working in hospitality abroad. When Libby’s opened, Paddy was so impressed with the bread he asked them to supply his restaurants, transporting a car-load of loaves to Liverpool each morning himself. 'Dermot created something that the big chains would kill for – quality home-baked food and organic growth, says Paddy, a former chef himself.

He and his business partner stepped in when the opportunity arose to acquire the business. They’ve invested heavily in the infrastructure, including opening up an airy upstairs space, which has doubled the original 40 covers – although the place still packs out on a Saturday morning after the local Park Run, with the kitchen running at full pelt. 'One Saturday morning recently every check was for a full English, recalls manager Sarah Hiddlestone. Libby’s has clearly baked itself into the fabric of village life and Paddy is keen to retain its strong local appeal. 'What people have here in the quality of the bakery is exceptional and it’s part of what makes Marple Bridge so great.'


Great British Life: The 200-year-old Hare and Hounds is now a gastro pub. (c) Kurt ThomasThe 200-year-old Hare and Hounds is now a gastro pub. (c) Kurt Thomas

Oddfellows pub and restaurant just up the hill in Mellor is one of the oldest buildings in the village, dating back to the 1700s. And on the pretty hillside of Mill Brow just above Marple Bridge, with its terraced, three-storey weavers’ cottages, Ryan and Becky Oliver have just taken over 200-year-old gastro pub The Hare & Hounds.

Ryan was already head chef there when the previous landlord decided to retire, prompting the couple (Becky had been managing the Swan Inn in Kettleshulme) to seize the chance to buy the business last April. Like Paddy Smith, both were born locally and there’s a strong family feel to the business, where a busy start has already seen the Olivers transforming a car park into a beer garden and introducing tapas nights, taster and grazing menus. 'You can come and have a traditional meal of fish and chips and sticky toffee pudding if you want pub food but then there are also dishes which are much more restaurant style,' says Ryan.

Great British Life: Guinea fowl and ox tongue pudding served up at the Hare and Hounds. (c) Kurt ThomasGuinea fowl and ox tongue pudding served up at the Hare and Hounds. (c) Kurt Thomas

These might include a starter of cod cheeks, cheddar and ale velouté, mussels, samphire and bacon (£9.50) followed by a guinea fowl and ox tongue pudding with chicken-fat pomme purée, greens and veg (£19.50). The provenance of the food is important to the couple too.

'It’s Mettrick's of Glossop for our butcher, Chatsworth beef, High Peak lamb, venison from High Clough,' says Ryan. And buying local also means supporting his fellow restaurants: 'I went to The Fold down in the village for my birthday dinner,' he says.


Great British Life: Fold head chef Craig Sherrington. (c) Kurt ThomasFold head chef Craig Sherrington. (c) Kurt Thomas

The Fold Bistro & Bottle Shop, serving ‘British seasonal sharing plates, with multi-cultural influences and a touch of North West nostalgia throughout.’ opened in January and is already a vital part of the area’s growing reputation as a dining destination. 'The underlying ethos of Fold is "familiar but different", says head chef Craig Sherrington. A 'lobster hot pot' is hand-rolled egg yolk fazzoletti with a sourdough crumb (£26), 'chip shop croquettes' are monkfish with a champagne court sauce, smashed peas and mail vinegar dust (£9) and 'cheesecake' is whipped sweet cheese with Turkish delight ice cream and summer bloom (£8). The drinks list includes natural, organic, and classic wines as well as best beers and hand-crafted cocktails to enjoy at the bar or to go.

Again, this distinctive and high-quality undertaking is founded on personal connections. Co-owners Michael Harrod and Sean Finnegan met when Sean started dating local businessman Michael’s sister. 'I hadn’t even heard of Marple Bridge back then,' says Sean, who has a long track record in hospitality and now lives locally. The duo hatched plans and stepped in quickly when a unit on main thoroughfare Town Street came up.'That was last August and we didn’t have a chef,' recalls Michael. His network came to the rescue. 'I’ve been friends since childhood and even travelled the world, with an amazing chef called Ryan Stafford. I’d heard he was changing jobs and rang him to ask him if he would work with us as executive chef.'

Great British Life: Fold's fire-roasted salmon nori taco. (c) Kurt ThomasFold's fire-roasted salmon nori taco. (c) Kurt Thomas

Ryan was born in Marple and has had an illustrious career, working with household names such as Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver and cooking for celebrities, leading political figures worldwide and members of the royal family. As well as designing the original menu, he hired Great British Menu finalist Craig Sherrington as head chef. Sourcing premium ingredients and gradually building up their local supply chain, the ever-changing menu is made up of snacks, cold and hot plates and includes a four-course set lunch menu for £29 from Wednesday to Friday.

When I visit, Craig is making his final tweaks to a new menu he’s now devising with his team of three chefs, featuring sticky pork cheeks with Mellor honey, ginger and Chinese spice and starter oysters with yuzu, chardonnay shallot and dill oil. 'I love the flexibility and freedom here to innovate and change depending on what suppliers have,' he says.

It’s a menu for discerning palates and Sean notes that the pandemic has created new opportunities here. 'Everyone ate and drank "up" during lockdown,' he reflects. 'People were spending more on food and drink, building their know-how and that has had a lasting effect when it comes to dining out. Michael adds: 'After lockdown, we thought it would be great for people to be able to do that dining out locally.'

The Fold team is still in its first year of trading and the optimism for a business Sean describes as still a toddler shines through. 'I do not think there is any cap on what we can achieve here,' he says.


Great British Life: Kambuja's lemongrass saute with tofu. (c) Kurt ThomasKambuja's lemongrass saute with tofu. (c) Kurt Thomas

Just half a mile away (although it is up a very steep hill, as walkers will know) is another local outfit that also earned gamechanger plaudits when it opened in 2015 – Marple’s Cambodian restaurant Kambuja, formerly known as Angkor Soul. Founder and executive chef Y Sok has won nationwide acclaim for her compact restaurant, one of the very few of its kind in the UK and catapulted into the limelight by a rather surprised Guardian food critic Jay Rayner in 2017. 'Marple, just outside Stockport, is not the kind of town in which you would expect to find a restaurant like Angkor Soul,' he wrote, going on to praise the vivid, extremely fresh Cambodian home cooking of 'this little diamond in Marple'.

'I hadn’t known who he was and our profile changed overnight, we were taking bookings for three months ahead. And honestly, it was a lot of pressure,' Y recalls candidly. 'The menu was very simple when we started – we had the fish amok (Cambodia’s national dish of fish curry with coconut and lime, £15.95) and loc lac (shaking beef, Cambodia’s most popular dish of wok cooked marinated beef, £16.95). It was very basic. As we have grown we have added some of our own twists, like our extensive vegan option. We are well known for that now although it’s not something that was traditionally a Cambodian offering.' Those dishes include a vegan Cambodian kari curry (£16.95) and cha kuthiew vegan noodles (a Cambodian version of pad Thai, £15.95).

Great British Life: Y Sok of Kambuja, whose restaurant was described by Jay Rayner as 'this little diamond in Marple'. (c) Kurt ThomasY Sok of Kambuja, whose restaurant was described by Jay Rayner as 'this little diamond in Marple'. (c) Kurt Thomas

It was the first time this passionate cook had run a restaurant, but her connection with food runs deep. Born in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh, her family emigrated to the USA during the civil war when she was five. She grew up in LA, going on to work as a fine art dealer in New York. Food always provided comfort and inspiration. 'After the war, food was a big central part of our community, we would come together and cook and share food and it reminded people of their country. Later on, I used to run a food club out of my own home. When I came to England I wanted to reduce how much travelling I did so we opened the restaurant.' That “we” is the clue to the location – in the States Y had met and married a Marple man and avid record collector. Together they opened the restaurant in 2015 with vinyl records on sale downstairs.

Today Y operates as executive chef, designing the menus and overseeing a staff of 40, recruited locally and from chef talent pools in Cambodia and Thailand. She also has an outlet in the Produce Hall at Stockport Market and the Mekong Cat Authentic Asian noodle restaurant in Stockport. One of her former chefs has gone on to open the Gin Khao takeaway in Hazel Grove, others run Cambodian Kitchen in Whitney, Oxfordshire and Nara’s Kitchen in Macclesfield. 'It’s healthy to grow your own competition,' she says.

Despite the expansion, it’s clear this original Marple outlet has a very special place in her heart, food again helping build connections. 'I feel very lucky; it’s a town that’s very supportive of us being here,' she says. 'As well as visitors from outside town we have a lot of regulars. One couple has come here every Thursday evening for eight years – it means so much to me that they choose to spend that time with us. The restaurant has become a special place in people’s lives and we always want to be part of the community. Marple is the best town for us. People want us to succeed and that’s why we are here.'


Great British Life: Nice things from All Things Nice. (c) Kurt ThomasNice things from All Things Nice. (c) Kurt Thomas

The importance of that local support, combined with the growing food tourism, isn’t underestimated by any of the Marple and Marple Bridge owners. It’s another busy morning, this time at the All Things Nice Café, Bakery and Deli on Marple’s Market Street/Derby Way pedestrian precinct and co-owner Nick Garner and I are surrounded by regulars – a business contact tucking into eggs Benedict (£10.20), a remote worker with a latte and laptop ready to go, dog walkers packing out the pavement tables. During the day a popular brunch menu includes croque madame (£9.50) and salt beef hash (£11) while lunch can be small plates like homemade hummus and flat bread (£8.50) or a charcuterie board for two (£19.90). At the deli, as well as a wide selection of bread and cakes, baked on the premises, there’s a well-thought-out selection of wines and beers.

As the light fades, the wine bar brightens the precinct on Fridays and Saturday evenings with a small plates and sharing platters menu. 'When we started on evenings in Marple we wanted to focus on the drinks side, that’s where we thought the gap was. So food wise we were offering our charcuterie and cheese boards. But because all of our food was artisan and good quality, we realised it was actually the reason people were coming for. It was completely unexpected but we started doing dinner to meet the demand and it all grew from there,' recalls Nick. The evening menu from the small kitchen changes every eight weeks to ensure variety. When I visited, for example, a Middle Eastern curation had just given way to British Summertime, including Shetland scallops with black pudding purée and apple (£7.30) and charred sweetheart cabbage with nut crumb and raspberry vinaigrette (£5.50).

All Things Nice also embodies the now-familiar story of local connections and long-standing relationships. Nick co-bought the café and bakery five years ago. 'I live locally and used to come in here as a customer,' he says. He was fresh from a successful career as a general and operations manager for large groups such as Individual Restaurants (coincidentally he also met Fold’s Sean Ginnegan during this time). He partnered up with resident head baker Dean Blackwell and long-standing colleague and friend Tom Norris, who has a drinks specialism and runs the Macclesfield branch. 'Our vision is to do simple things really, really well,' said Nick. 'We use the best ingredients we can afford, and local produce where possible. I would love to see Marple becoming a destination like Altrincham and we’re in the perfect position for it here.'

Great British Life: Dean Blackwell of All Things Nice. (c) Kurt ThomasDean Blackwell of All Things Nice. (c) Kurt Thomas

It’s also another business branching out from local roots. The onsite bakery, home to three bread bakers and three specialising in cakes and Viennoserie is about to be enlarged and now also supplies the second All Things Nice outlet, which opened in Macclesfield’s Chestergate in September last year. And further expansion is on the cards. 'We are always on the lookout for other units,' says Nick. 'We want to grow.'

Like his fellow restaurateurs, he has seen the customer base evolve over the last few years. 'I think lockdown has meant more people have moved here. I served a couple who had moved from London and now commute there once a week; we have people from all over the place moving in.' He always eats local himself: 'Fold is incredible, I like Two Suns, Libby’s... it’s so important to support local and it’s the same in Macclesfield, I’d search out the indies. Supporting your local independent is so important and Cheshire is a great region for this, there’s so much on offer.'


Great British Life: Fisherman's Table head chef Louis Brace. (c) Kurt ThomasFisherman's Table head chef Louis Brace. (c) Kurt Thomas

Sourcing high-quality, fresh local produce is clearly a shared preoccupation and priority across this community – cue The Fisherman’s Table, opened five years ago by Marple fishmonger Jamie Barrett. 'I’ve been a fishmonger since I was 12, so for 25 years. I’d been supplying restaurants and had good friends who were chefs so when our building became available, it seemed like a natural next step,' he says.

Jamie collects the fish in Fleetwood at the crack of every dawn and transports it to Marple so both retail customers and his chefs have the pick of the fresh catch. The restaurant menu changes every six weeks, as fish supplies alter, and can include everything from smoked haddock risotto topped with crispy leeks (£10) to John Dory fillet with grilled king prawns, pancetta and shellfish bisque (£28). A tapas menu from 12-4pm each day offers three plates and a drink for £20 and ranges from cod and pancetta croquettes to Loch Fyne oysters and tempura battered king prawns. There are also some meat dishes on offer, because three years ago Jamie bought a farm as well, which provides organic free-range meat and poultry.

'Local diners are our bread and butter and they know us because of the shop as well. But people also come from far and wide. Seafood restaurants are few and far between because sourcing the product is not easy, whereas with me it comes through my own premises,' he says.


Great British Life: Brothers Matt and Paul Dutson who used to play shop as children, and now own one. (c) Kurt ThomasBrothers Matt and Paul Dutson who used to play shop as children, and now own one. (c) Kurt Thomas

Back down in Marple Bridge, there’s a final stop many visitors make for souvenirs of a foodie visit – Dutsons Delicatessen and Kitchen. A gourmet Tardis, the deli stocks 150 different wines and 50 beers (from the likes of Tatton and Bollington Breweries), along with locally sourced lines including Burt's Cheese from Altrincham, Cheshire Farm Ice Cream, Cheshire Smokehouse Meat, locally roasted Dutsons Original Roast blend and bread from Cowburns Family Bakery in High Lane. Toby Crowley, the resident chef, also serves up an ever-changing menu of deli and lunchtime takeaway dishes, with Mexican and Thai-inspired treats his own particular favourite.

Opening Dutsons in 2012, originally as a deli and café, was the culmination of a childhood dream for eponymous owners and brothers Matthew and Paul. 'Since we were children we have wanted to open a shop together and yes, we did play "shops",' they say. They grew up in the village and went to school here before moving away to learn their trade, Paul working for Majestic Wines after university, Matt learning the hospitality ropes at the then Rocco Forte Group’s 5-star Lowry Hotel in Manchester. On Matt’s 23rd birthday, Paul got in touch with his younger brother. Both were thinking of a job change: should they take the risk and start up themselves, as they’d always dreamed? That was a “yes”.

Great British Life: Dutsons Delicatessen and Kitchen is a gourmet Tardis. (c) Kurt ThomasDutsons Delicatessen and Kitchen is a gourmet Tardis. (c) Kurt Thomas

Long held as the dream was, the commitment still required nerve. 'When we signed the lease The Norfolk Arms (a local landmark pub) was boarded up, the Fold was an empty unit where a Spar had been and Libby’s was still quite new and a third of the size it is now,' they recall. 'But we felt there was something missing from the village. We grew up here and we’d eaten great deli food, bread and cheese on holiday in France but there wasn’t anywhere locally to buy stuff like that.'

Today it’s a thriving outlet with locals and visitors alike, the sibling entrepreneurs quick to adapt to challenges. After the team decided to close a restaurant in nearby Hayfield ('the footfall just wasn’t there in that location'), chef Toby started pop-up dining nights in Marple Bridge, in the then café section. 'That was going down really well. And then came Covid.' The business had to pivot rapidly and began shipping out up to 50 fresh fruit and veg boxes a day. 'And it became clear we could really make a go of it by focusing on the retail side,' says Paul. Innovations such as bespoke hampers are popular on high days and holidays and they’re now keen to build their online presence alongside the characterful double-fronted unit stocked with deli treats.


Understandably, there is widespread acknowledgement the UK hospitality industry hasn’t had it easy recently. A potentially ruinous pandemic rapidly followed by margin-eroding utility bill hikes has been topped off by interest rate increases that have prompted some consumers to cut back on eating out. This culinary cohort has had to flex and adapt accordingly. Yet attitudes here remain optimistic and determined – possibly down to the widely held belief in what this Cheshire food and drink scene has to offer locals and visitors alike.

'This area is an oasis in the middle of a busier conurbation. We benefit from the open spaces and views yet at the same time you can get to Manchester in 20 minutes. We have the best of both worlds,' says Libby’s Paddy Smith. 'This area has changed a lot since I was growing up here,' reflects Michael Harrod from Fold. 'Demographically, we know that post-pandemic, for example, more young families are moving to areas like this – they’re coming from more urban locations that are densely packed with food and drink offerings and want the same choice in their new locations. We are pulling business back from the city centre as well as seeing visitors from across the county.' Head chef Craig Sherrington agrees: 'Quality attracts quality and the clustering gives you more reasons than ever to come to the area.'

Great British Life: Owen Stafford serves up Sunday lunch at The Norfolk Arms. (c) Kurt ThomasOwen Stafford serves up Sunday lunch at The Norfolk Arms. (c) Kurt Thomas

Eat your way through Marple Bridge and Marple

Marple Bridge

Heading from Brabyns Brow to Town Street and then to Hollins Lane and Mellor

Purple Pakora – Indian and Asian food with another branch in Congleton

The Midland Hotel – Mitchell and Butler’s Premium Country Pub overlooking the Goyt, large dining area for a menu that includes Sunday roast specials and brunch

The Norfolk Arms – Free house pub serving home made food throughout the day

The Maple Tree – Acclaimed classic Chinese dishes and a reputation for great customer service

Libby’s Bread and Wine – artisan bakery, café and wine bar with riverside tables

The Fold Bistro & Bottle Shop – fine dining plates and wine shop

The Royal Scot - Robinsons' oldest pub also serves pizza

Mill Brow

Hare and Hounds – gourmet pub serving British classics and seasonal restaurant dishes

Longhurst Lane/Mellor

Devonshire Arms – Part of Inglenook Inns and Taverns, gastro pub with an extensive menu of classics and specials

Oddfellows – historic pub and restaurant offering a changing menu of British food with a modern twist


Stockport Road heading towards Strines

Two Suns Coffee – cosy daytime café with home bakes, bagels, vegan options

Sushi Haus – Sushi and sashimi platters with a compact eat-in space

Art of Siam – family-run restaurant specialising in Thai food

Woodstock Pizzas – authentic wood-fired pizzas

La Dolce Vita – family-run Italian restaurant, full range of pasta and pizza dishes

Kambuja – unique Cambodian restaurant with classic dishes and vegan offerings

Original Marple Spice – Indian bar and grill with a wide range of Indian and Bangladeshi options

Marple precinct

All Things Nice – bakery and deli, café and wine bar with brunches and afternoon teas

Red Pepper Café – daytime café with all day breakfast

The Locks – independent café and bar with art exhibitions upstairs and monthly poetry nights

Golden Plate Café– traditional day time café

Bulls Head – Robinsons pub with large central beer garden and full menu including tacos, gyros and extensive vegan options

Church Lane

Fisherman’s Table – restaurant sibling of Marple Fish, seafood specials from Fleetwood

Ring O’Bells – award winning traditional Robinsons canalside pub with large beer garden and varied menu of home-cooked food