Annie’s Manchester

20 Jan

There’s comfort food and there’s comfort food. The greasy, fatty, grab with your hands burgers and burritos of mucky face and sticky hands joy, or the altogether more soul healing food of home. To a Bolton lass, real comfort food means corned beef hash, minced beef pie and the buttery mash I was raised on, and beyond the garden gate, the hot pots, cheeses and puddings of the North West. No muss, no fuss; just simple, honest, tasty food, so, when my lovely Mum (of the no frills and fancy variety common to these parts) came to visit, I knew just the place to try out.  

Opening early December last year, Annie’s created some buzz off the back of being the brainchild of Jennie McAlpine, better known as Fiz of Coronation Street fame. Boldly positioning itself as a ‘home from home’ and boasting a bounty of regional dishes, it sounded just the thing, though I’d be fibbing to say my expectations were high. Bracing myself for a cross between a slightly surreal, pastiche-style nod to the North and (due to the celebrity connection) an establishment firmly wedged up its own bum, I was proved wrong within minutes when the hostess with the mostest met us at the door.

Annie's Manchester

Annie’s Manchester

Warm and friendly in that irrepressible northern way, the lovely Miss McAlpine showed me and my (fairly gobsmacked) Mother to the bar for a pre-dinner drink, placing us in the hands of an equally chatty bartender. Light banter, speedily served cocktails and the arrival of the menu saw us happily settled within minutes, occupying two large comfy chairs in the somewhat cavernous reception room. Styled in the vein of an old aunt’s house, true to form, the place miraculously achieved warm and inviting and that empty, not quite lived in feel, no doubt due to being such a large space spread across two floors.

If the interior was lacking slightly, the hospitality more than hit the spot. Having ordered dinner off a stellar (though not particularly surprising) menu showcasing our strong regional heritage (see Morecambe Bay potted shrimps and Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese), we were easily breezed downstairs for more waiter based banter, a chat with our table neighbours and another visit from the star patron to see how we were getting on. With such attentive service and a laid-back atmosphere, we almost forget where we were. High praise indeed! Expectations duly raised, we eagerly awaited our starters.

Evening Service at Annie's Manchester

Evening Service at Annie’s Manchester

Mum’s black pudding spring rolls came delicately wrapped in a light filo pastry, perfectly delivering that crumbly, moist texture you hope for in this most popular offal dish. Drizzled with sweet chilli sauce, it was truly delicious, though such a whack of black pudding could be over facing for some. Less successful was my potted ham hock, though thankfully not on account of the meat. Currently on a piccalilli bent, the appearance of said accompaniment swayed me, but with overly large chunks of brassica and a rank bitter note, it very nearly spoiled the lightly salted and mouth-wateringly flaky hunks of ham.

Black Pudding Spring Rolls

Black Pudding Spring Rolls

Potted Ham Hock and Piccalilli

Potted Ham Hock and Piccalilli

Like the good northern girls we are, we both plumped for pie for the main event. Mum revealed herself to be something of a black pudding enthusiast, ordering a creamy chicken and leek pie with black pudding flecked through, cleverly introducing a much needed earthy note to the dish. My three cheese and onion pie – a surprising mix of creamy goats cheese, salty feta and strong mature cheddar (with the inspired addition of apple for sweetness) – made for the most moreish pie I’ve ever wrapped my mouth around, though opting for the short crust pastry rather than the recommended mash for liquid mopping was my mistake.

Chicken, Leek and Potato Pie

Three Cheese and Onion Pie

With ridiculously tasty, regionally inspired dishes and ingredients sourced from some of our best local producers, I hope this place gets the recognition it so richly deserves. Annie’s is home to traditional, unpretentious and hearty food done well, and in the light of the everlasting scramble to be the next big thing, a welcome breath of fresh air too. The affable staff work hard to create the easygoing atmosphere they so proudly promote, and when fellow diners are coming together and cracking jokes across the table, as us blessed northerners are wont (but increasingly less inclined) to do, well, you’ve hit home, haven’t you.    

Annie’s Manchester: 5 Old Bank Street, Manchester, M2 7PE

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One Response to “Annie’s Manchester”

  1. maureenblair January 20, 2013 at 3:13 pm #

    very proud of my granddaughters review will have to try Annies soon x

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