Albert’s Square Chop House

21 May

To my mind, it seems each and every one of us has a style of dining establishment towards which we lean. Some prefer the silver fork shininess and artistically constructed dishes of fine dining for their socially aspirational sins, whilst for others, the queue handling and heady chip fat aroma of the local chipper brings them somewhat closer to their own personal foodie nirvana.

My own particular preference sees me lean towards the modern British Gastropub, preferably with a hint of the old man’s watering hole about it. Lacquered wooden surfaces, dog-eared beer mats and pies with a crust as thick as your heel,  I relax right into my surroundings, eat and drink myself a week’s worth of calories and find that contented state we all yearn for once in a while.

Albert's Square Chop House, Manchester

Albert’s Square Chop House, Manchester

The eponymously named Albert’s Square Chop House isn’t quite that. Invited to review by Manchester Confidential, I was most excited, as going by the traditional chophouse dogma of hearty, often suet based dishes and intriguing residences brimming with architectural intrigue, I thought myself to be in for a night of fabulous fodder with one of my favourite people; my lovely brother Dan.

The exterior has something of the historic come hither about it. Gothic arches, thick wooden doors and stone steps to scale, the entrance of the Memorial Hall gives way to an intimate yet ultimately posh pub chain style décor – light wood furnishings, roughly exposed brick and soft brown leather banquettes – losing a little of the promise made on the cobbled approach over Albert’s Square. So far, so-so.

The soft leather banquettes were a little hard to squeeze into, though very comfy once in.

The soft leather banquettes were a little hard to squeeze into, though very comfy once in.

The à la carte reads a whole deal more refined than the group’s customary offering, which generally is no bad thing. With a nod to the seasonal and a healthy smattering of locally sourced ingredients – the delights of corn fed Goosnargh chicken and a Homity pie made wonderful with Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese – the stellar line up of dishes made better the far less exciting interior.

Though the menu for the most part read beautifully, the delivered dishes weren’t always successful. My starter of poached salmon, though delicately smoked had been left too long to soak, losing ALL the fishy potency desired. Further doused in vinegar-logged artichoke, the dish was a wash-out which no carefully balanced salad of samphire and pickled radish could save. Shame.

Salmon and Pickled Artichoke Starter - sadly a serious wash out

Salmon

A chocolate soup, recommended by our incredibly sweet and attentive waiter, had the consistency of three day old semolina, but the accompanying milk sorbet was a thing of wonder, and the Thai basil garnish – which I originally suspected to be mint – worked surprisingly well. Despite these few digestive hiccups, the rest was perfection, with clever Dan striking gold with all three dishes.

A lad of simple pleasures, he plumped for a bumper portion of pate, teetering on the terrine side of things and flecked through with the sweet tang of pickled capers to balance the sheer force of all that pork. Followed by the most perfectly pink, elegantly chargrilled sirloin with fat chips, I had serious food envy throughout, though my Mettrick’s sourced Spring lamb was pretty otherworldly itself.

Spring Lamb - perfectly pink perfection

Spring Lamb

Cooked just the right side of pink, served with wild garlic mash and spinach, for me it was the menu’s most redeeming feature, though Dan’s surprising dessert choice of raspberry soufflé served with vanilla bean ice cream and lemon balm sauce proved to be another highlight. Perfectly light, pink and collapsing upon touch, understandably, big sister rules meant he had to share.

Raspberry Souffle

Raspberry Souffle

Over and above the food, the real success of the evening was the fabulous wine cellar. As with Tom’s and Sam’s Chophouse, the wine list reads like a Shakespeare classic; impossible to decipher at first glance but eventually yielding up some serious gems to wrap your mouth around. Having a sommelier on hand, however, makes the translation a whole lot easier. Carlos was incredible, making the whole evening a real treat.

Friendly, willing to answer inane questions (me) and explain why the food pairings work (Dan), my usually non-boozing brother decided to give each recommendation a go, and proved to have an exceptional nose for flavours, identifying a rhubarb note in the 2012 Colombard Sauvignon to accompany the salmon. The 20 year old Sandeman Tawny Port paired with my dessert – like burnt toffee – is also worth a mention, and made me one seriously happy lady.

2010 Colombard Sauvignon Blanc

2010 Colombard Sauvignon Blanc

The drink offering alone puts Albert’s Square a step ahead of your usual gastropub – it blows my usual foodie boozer out of the water – and when executed well, the food here can be wonderful. They won’t be winning awards for originality anytime soon, though their support of local and seasonality is applaudable, and for the most part, I massively enjoyed it.

Albert’s Square Chop House has a little something for everyone it seems. Just follow your nose on the food and the sommelier’s nose on the wine, and you’ll be guaranteed to have a good time.

Albert Square Chop House on Urbanspoon

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2 Responses to “Albert’s Square Chop House”

  1. laurencoulman May 22, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

    I prefer the original two. More character and the menu makes use of regional dishes (corned beef hash, suet pudding, etc) rather than just the regional ingredients. They have a good thing going at Albert’s though. Just personal preference for the type of establishment and a few dud dishes delivered. It has a nice atmopshere though and would still recommend it.

  2. Holly May 22, 2013 at 11:51 am #

    How do you find it compares to Sam or Tom’s??

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