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The Blue Pig Revisited

3 Apr

Favourite restaurants, like old friends, are a joy to visit. No sooner than having stepped over the threshold, you slip back into your old ways, entering into an instant rapport that only the familiar faces of front of house favourites and an intimate atmosphere can bring. Soon forgotten are the thrills and spills (in my exceptionally graceless case) of chasing down new gastronomic experiences or uncovering the latest food trend. You’ve arrived back at your third place, wallowing in the safe and easy comfort that whiling away a few hours there easily affords.

The Blue Pig

The Blue Pig

Uncle Sam’s Chop House does it for me, every time. The Mark Addy too, before it finally shut up shop, its musty halls and man-sized portions sadly never to be overcome again. Rich, hearty foods, generous of portion and dripping in Northern tradition call to me when I tire of hearing about another effing barbecue joint coming to “save our city”, or the ceaseless wave of chain burger bars capitalising on an already realised trend, clogging up arteries and available restaurant space that could be put to far more worthy calorific causes. Sigh.

Meat and gravy ensconced in suet will do it pretty much every time for me, though a monolithic platter of meat and cheese, washed down with a fruity bottle of red never fails to have me feeling right at home. Hence why The Blue Pig always remained a firm favourite, since an early doors review following its August opening last year. A comprehensive deli board and conspicuously continental menu – all around their unique ‘333’ concept entailing three options of three set courses for just £20 – this Parisian inspired space provided an ideal place in which to shrink away as NQ life rushed by.

The Blue Pig Deli Board

The Blue Pig Deli Board

Seemingly the three courses idea didn’t catch on, as early this year, they dropped the concept and pared back to a selection of crowd-pleasing dishes. Classic ploughman’s, steaks and salad dishes now feature, not to mention the ever ubiquitous burger, of which The Blue Pig has its own take, naturellement. Sadly, alongside the demise of 333, the once bright lights of the deli counter have faded too, with only a few select dips, meat and cheese choices available to make up a miserly board, though thankfully the bread selection is pretty decent, still.

Duck Salad

Duck Salad

Despite the turnabout face, the most admirable of The Blue Pig’s qualities is its commitment to buying local. Meat is sourced from the ever present W H Frosts of Chorlton, and the deli board is a roll call of legendary British dairy, including the blue cheese behemoth that is Cropwell Bishop. The ingredients used can’t be faulted, nor the cooking. An Asian-inspired noodle salad, complete with tender fall apart duck breast on a bed of umami rich greens was soon devoured, as was the Wagyu beef burger, complete with a well-balanced slick of wasabi mayo, thankfully all impeccably cooked.

Wagyu Beef Burger

Wagyu Beef Burger

Most disappointing, however, is the homogenisation of the new menu. When the rest of Manchester’s hospitality industry is stepping up its game and differentiating, why step back and serve up sexed up pub classics, when the venue and concept lends itself beautifully to a Parisian bistro that Manchester could (and would) make great use of. The renewed emphasis on the back bar has weighed heavily on the uninspiring menu, and turned this once conspiratorial environment into just another convivial NQ drinking den.

With more ‘me too’ venues popping up around Manchester to mirror those leading the way, combined with a city wide trend for eclectic menu compositions – essentially stealing the best of each culture’s cuisine – in attempting to stand for everything, these unimaginative establishments in the long run will appeal to no one. As new and unique movers and shakers make a name for themselves and the well-loved old establishments continue to pull in their loyal patrons, the middle ground is no place to be. Shame on The Blue Pig. They can do much better.

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Solita Brunch

9 Feb

Brunch [bruhnch]
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Manchester House

22 Sep

I’m a recent convert to the religion of fine dining, and like most new believers, have found myself quite happy to sign over a tithe of my salary in the name of finely paired wines and silver service. I was baptised at Northcote Manor, and attended full mass (see: the ten course taster menu) at The French in Manchester shortly after it re-opened, but being freshly versed in the ways of the cheese trolley and formal attire, felt too inexperienced to share the epiphanies I experienced. I simply held the joy of dining under two very talented Michelin star chefs close to my heart.

Only an invitation from Living Ventures, to break bread with the latest fine dining disciple on the Manchester food scene, has encouraged me to sing out.* Thanks be to God (and Aiden Byrne) that it was good.

Having experienced so little, and nothing beyond the cloistered confines of the North West, I have a limited base for comparison, though to be fair, so does the rest of Manchester. Until April this year, Abode and the Old Testament version of The French (see: white tablecloths, full drama cloche service) were the only fine dining wafers available for nibbling. Then word was out. Both Simon Rogan, of L’Enclume fame, and Aiden Byrne, youngest chef ever to be awarded a star were coming to Manchester to convert the poorly palated (not a word but it works) masses.

To what exactly – back in March before our city rose again for a new foodie beginning – I wasn’t sure. With molecular gastronomy having made a name for itself through the efforts of El Bulli and Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck, then Noma, with its naturalistic view of dish development being awarded Best Restaurant in the World three years running, I was aware of the major trends; but, unable to afford international indulgences or cite chef’s names like saints, had no real idea what to expect.

From famine to feast, it seems, here in our most irreverent city, with Rogan preaching the bounteous beauty of foraging and Byrne turning water into wine with his scientific take on things. Whereas The French offers delicate textures and intricately built up floral and herbaceous flavours, all in the majesty of The Midland Hotel, the newly opened Manchester House restaurant – just £3m in the making – is a far more eclectic affair.

Manchester House Kitchen

Manchester House Kitchen

Manchester menu classics of the likes of Boddingtons steak and ale pie and Manchester tart sit seemingly uncomfortably against frogs legs kiev on first reading, and the unbecoming 1960’s business block gives way to a laid-back, comfortably glamorous and (not too blingy bar) with some of the best views out over Manchester, followed by an understated dining room inspired by Manchester’s textile and industrial heritage.

Clever really, playing up to us sentimental, slightly sensitive Mancs, who sing Smiths and Stone Roses songs like they’re psalms, and never tire of drinking in the blood of pig through the unholy medium that is black pudding. Tim Bacon, CEO of Living Ventures has paid testament to the need to meet Manchester on its own terms, and the latest venture is making sure it contains a small sermon on everything we know and love, even if the pricing is enough to convert you back to pasty and peas. Flattery will get you everywhere, especially with an increasingly moneyed Manchester crowd.

Tim Bacon and Aiden Byrne

Tim Bacon and Aiden Byrne

Having spent lunch sat with Mr Bacon, and half an hour in Q&A with Mr Byrne, we learn the menu has been pulled together through each dish’s playfulness, and a commitment to convoluted techniques that intensify and juxtapose flavours, served with a soupcon of the miraculous about them, (as opposed to Rogan’s more seasonally rooted, breathtakingly pared-down presentation, I guess). Despite initially being a doubting Thomas, it all works wonderfully, and the food, atmosphere and service from the knowledgeable, warm and polished staff is worth paying homage to.

Oxtail Consomme and Beetroot Oyster

Oxtail Consomme and Beetroot Oyster

Oxtail Donut (of dreams)

Oxtail Donut (of dreams)

Sampling across the al a carte menu, an oxtail consommé, fragrant with anise and rich with slithers of oxtail meat offset a light, moreish oxtail donut, revealing the best of the beefy, pulled meat within – not to mention a tantalising taster in the form a beetroot steeped oysters – was a firm favourite, despite being served on a slightly showy tray of liquid nitrogen infused with smells of the sea. Far less showy, but no less successful was the intensely flavoured bacon and onion brioche with pea butter (essentially pea matter when whizzed round a centrifuge) and the ultra-fresh remaining pea juice. ^

Squab Pigeon and Cherry

Squab Pigeon and Cherry

The star of the show was undoubtedly the cherrywood smoked squab pigeon, liberally sprinkled with toasted almonds and pistachio and served with two cherries, one which surprisingly revealed itself as an artfully disguised slick of foie gras, achieved through equal parts liquid nitrogen and miracle, it seems. The freeze dried cherry powder wasn’t necessary, however, overpowering the pink and tender meat with its sharp tang, simply adding a bright splash of colour to an already pretty dish.

Prawn Cocktail

Prawn Cocktail

Two dishes from Aiden’s foray on Great British Menu made an appearance too. The prawn cocktail dish, complete with chilli and shellfish powder atop a mess of golden and ruby beetroot was completely dominated by the showy and tartly flavoured passionfruit orb, which once tapped, dissolved onto the dish, and again overwhelmed the delicate flavours below.

Er, Meat?

Er, Meat?

The beef dish, however was a much more pared down affair, even though the presentation was pure machismo. Pink welsh beef, mouth-watering nuggets of hickory braised oxtail, bizarre clay potatoes and weathered (charred) salsify, and who can argue with a rich, light truffle jus served in its very own horn of plenty? Playful, deep punchy flavours and theatrical presentation, the dish summed up everything Aiden is trying to achieve with various menus available, from the fixed price lunch at £27.50 to the twelve course taster at £95 per head, allowing you to sample as much or as little as you like.

Without doubt, Manchester House will be a success. For a city little exposed to such polished hospitality and fine flavours, along with The French, it’s a massively welcome addition, especially for those of us who suffer the cardinal sin of gluttony. For those who make regular food pilgrimages, or travel the long, dusty road out of London up North, doubtless it will have all been seen before, and the tricks plated up alongside the painstakingly designed dishes may seem a little tired to some.

For a city that prides itself on its individualism and creativity, such endeavours tell the gospel truth, showing the majority of our food inspiration comes from beyond the M60, (see: Almost Famous and Solita). Here’s hoping any such judgement sees beyond our capacity for enlightened thinking, and is solely reserved for the class of the cooking and non-pretentious, Northern hospitality for which we’re renowned. After such a goddam long wait, Aiden Byrne and Simon Rogan are finally helping turn us into the food heaven we have yearned so long to be.

So, here’s praying one of them earns a Michelin star, even if just to give us something new to sermonise about. We can’t wang on about Oasis and the industrial revolution forever.

*Though mostly, it’s part of the oath you take when you’re invited to eat for free, or if you will, a chosen one, (albeit who will do your preaching for free).

^ Or pea wet, depending on just how Northern you are.

Manchester House on Urbanspoon

Rosylee Tea Rooms

8 Sep

The thing I adore most about living in a city is the smorgasbord of entertainment it offers up, and should you happen to live in a particularly good city, the variety of tastes it appeals to and adequately caters for. Each and every bite of a different piece of the city offers up its own unique flavour, shaped by the bars, restaurants and shops that set out their stall and the unique set of people it subsequently attracts.

As recent press coverage has testified, Manchester is a particularly tasty city, and as regular readers well know, I like to wrap my chops around it regularly. As a food blogger, my particular poison is food, and love knowing that heading down to Spinningfields for an evening will offer me all the spit, polish and slicked back hair I need for an evening of classy cocktails, or that King Street will see me rub shoulders with an overpaid footballer and my head over an overpriced Italian meat platter.

My favourite piece of the Manchester pie has been always been the Northern Quarter. Sure, it’s overrun with hipsters, but it’s always a joy to see the latest trend in facial hair, and I love the creative, visually louche attitude of its inhabitants and the indie bars and restaurants the population supports. These red brick walkways support many a mean tea shop (see North Tea Power) and real ale havens (see Port Street Beer House), and there’s not a month goes by that sees itself without a pop up cocktail bar or new street food concept being trialled

Changes are afoot though, people. With many southern businesses moving north to take advantage of the talent in and around Manchester, and its bold new face as the north’s media hub bringing an influx of new professionals looking for fine experiences to spend on, the city’s offering is naturally changing with it. The mushrooming of fine dining establishments pays testament to that. Both Simon Rogan’s The French and Aiden Byrne’s soon to open Manchester House are prime examples of food businesses ripe to take advantage of a more monied and cultured clientele.

Living slap bang in the centre of the Northern Quarter, the change has been marked. No chain restaurants as yet, but now in-the-know party goers from Manchester’s surrounding area have marked the land west of Great Ancoats Street as their playground, and the too cool-for-school drinking dens and never-say die-burger joints (come back, Almost Famous) proves an irresistible pull for young professionals. Only on a weeknight does the alternative soul of the Northern Quarter live on, but with more concepts opening and appealing to the masses than the traditional niche, for how long?

Rosylee Dining Room

Rosylee Dining Room

Case in point, Rosylee Tea Rooms. For months, I’ve watched with interest the development of the vast space above Hula, wondering how in the face of Sugar Junction and Home Sweet Home, it would carve itself a place in the heart of the city’s twee café culture. Going upmarket, is the answer. The décor is breath taking. A slick monochrome and red brick colour scheme, with soft lighting and garlands hanging from the walls – not to mention the largest outdoor seating space in the area – the summer soft launch has already proved it to be an irresistible draw.

Rosylee Bar

Rosylee Bar

I paid a short visit after a long holiday in Cornwall, and though I couldn’t quite bring myself to tackle afternoon tea after two weeks of inhaling every cream tea I came across, I did manage a cocktail and a couple of ‘light bites’. One week into opening, the service was a little shonky, taking over twenty minutes to place my order, but the girls in pearls (as seems to be dress code) were lovely, and very passionate about the new venture. Passing here on my way home from work every night, the service appears to have settled in. Well, the punters always seem happily fed and watered, anyway.

Goat's Cheese Bon Bons

Goat’s Cheese Bon Bons

Twice Cooked Chips

Twice Cooked Chips

The food was faultless. Goat’s cheese bon bons lightly seasoned with black pepper and made moreish with lemon zest were perfectly bread crumbed, and the accompanying twice-cooked chips (forgive me, I’m northern) were fat, crisp and golden. It’s enough to tempt me back, and having read other decent reviews, will be returning soon. The iced tea cocktail was less successful, on account of a heavy hand with the sugar syrup, obliterating the exciting breakfast tea, rhubarb and lemon juice flavours promised, but the feedback was taken on board, which is always a good sign.

Breakfast Tea Cocktail

Breakfast Tea Cocktail

In the name of pulling the restaurant theme together, the menus are a little overly conceptualised. Wordy introductions and mellifluous naming conventions jar a little, but with a fairly standard but well put together food offering – niçoise salad and steak crostini – and some interesting cocktail flavour introductions – kaffir lime and plum – for an establishment that wouldn’t look out of place on King Street, it should continue to do well, and should they sort the cocktail issues out, perhaps draw in some of the old school NQ crowd? I’ve yet to spot a bearded wonder, but there’s time.

So have you been to Rosylee Tea Rooms? What did you think of the food and drink? Are establishments like this a welcome addition to the Northern Quarter or simply contributing to its gentrification? All comments welcome.

Rosylee Tea Rooms on Urbanspoon

Gastroclub at The Mark Addy

23 Jun

Gastroclub has given me a lot to be thankful for. My first foray into feasting on vermin for one; the squirrel served in a fetching filo pastry case on that first legendary night at The Mark Addy was a surprise success. An unexpectedly crunchy plate of jelly fish and a gnarly dish of fried chicken feet on our second outing at Sweet Mandarin, not so much.

Sure, there have been some non-starters along the way. A puddle of panna cotta at The Market Street Restaurant was quite the damp squib, and a zealously pan-fried piece of liver when The French was rocking its old livery was NOT the thing, but regardless of imagination or execution, the very least that can be said about Gastroclub is that it’s always an adventure (and fine office conversation fodder the following day).

The utmost compliment I can pay to Gastroclub, is that it has brought me together with the finest group of food lovers Manchester has to offer. Almost three years and many a digestive impasse later, I rocked up to my favourite rough-around-the-edges establishment down by the Irwell alone, happily able to name check at least half the room and call a good few of them friends.

It’s helped that these people pop up at every food and drink event the city has to offer, a good portion of which have appeared since Gastroclub brought the supper club experience home to Manchester. Kerstin Roger’s London Underground Restaurant was only just starting to make waves, and other than Monica Sawhney’s (still going strong) Spice Club, our fair city had little to offer in terms of new and unique gastronomic experiences.

Now knee deep in creative chow, Manchester is ruined for events that feed both belly and brain. From the carnivorous educational feast that is Meat Club Manchester to the grass roots, worldwide inspired street food offering that is Guerrilla Eats, it’s becoming as easy to roll out of the city as it is to roll in. Yet, despite being spoilt for choice, Gastroclub’s short break from the food scene had little impact on its popularity if the welcome back hubbub on Twitter is anything to go by.

Robert Owen Brown addresses the room

Robert Owen Brown addresses the room

Gluttons for food and punishment all, the only predictable part of the evening was the wash of familiar faces found around the packed out restaurant tables, back at The Mark Addy where it all began, kicking off with Robert Owen Brown’s rousing speech on the gustatory joys ahead of us, and a round of applause for the club’s brainchild, Katie Brunt, out of sheer gratitude for bringing back Manchester’s most loyally attended food gathering.

Hollandaise Glazed Truffle Pheasant Egg

Hollandaise Glazed Truffle Pheasant Egg

The hollandaise glazed and truffled pheasants eggs were a mini mouth orgasm – delicate, powerfully earthy and easily snarfed, as was the pastry-encased shank of sea robin (read gurnard – big flapping fins apparently) on an unctuous and meaty chorizo and heritage tomato sauce. Moreish and richly flavoured, again, it all too quickly disappeared.

Sea Robin and Chorizo

Sea Robin and Chorizo

Wild Salmon Carpaccio

Wild Salmon Carpaccio

The fragrant, vibrantly hued slicks of wild salmon, elegantly dressed in a splash of lemon oil and smattering of chive kicked the evening off beautifully, but the four (controversially baby only) beast roast of goat kid, piglet, rose veal and salt marsh lamb halted proceedings considerably, requiring too long a wait on account of the (restaurant admitted) underestimated cooking time.

Four Baby Beast Roast

Four Baby Beast Roast

Hard to tell between the various cuts, and served to the table on platters alongside crisp, mustard dressed salads and simply presented root veg, the scrabble to get a decent cut was often uncomfortable, though delicious and filling nonetheless. The onset of the meat sweats was also a bit of a downer, having me bow out after two shamefully sparse dishes, but thankfully recovered in time for dessert.

Childhood Desserts

Childhood Desserts

A smorgasbord of childhood memories and northern favourites to boot, the Vimto jelly was a great success, as was the delectable cream soda mousse. Never a fan of a coke float, this sad looking shot glass went to waste, but seeing Dr Pepper put to good use in a cheesecake, complete with ginger biscuit base and popping candy covering, naturally, I laid it to waste. Small bites, strong memories and great fun. All in all a pretty successful dinner, and a stonking return for Gastroclub.

Rosso

16 Jun

I’m not one for change. Bizarre really, given the shit I do in the name of feeding this blog (and my ever growing butt), but if I could eat at dirty old gastropubs, day in day out, I would. Vats of red wine, haunches of meat and a thickly wedged cheese board to boot would see me right to the end of my days. Nothing outstanding in terms of innovation, but here be my heart’s desire, and though I hate to consider myself judgemental – being a girl of simple pleasures and all – anything other than hearty, flavoursome food in a rough-around-the-edges package tends to send me running for the chippy.

This inverted snobbery of mine has led to me shunning many a ‘fine dining’ styled restaurant in my time. Trussed up service, polished cutlery and overcomplicated menus all give me the willies, and having been invited to review Rosso Manchester – paean to all things slick and celebrity in our fine city – I managed to postpone accepting the opportunity for months, in fear of loathing the whole experience and having to write a mean-spirited review. Manchester, how foolish I have been.

Rosso, Manchester

Rosso, Manchester

Rosso, without a shadow of a doubt, is smooth. Fancy pants building (grandiose, grade II listed and built in 1887), fanciable waiting staff and fantastic service, the guys and gals here know how to put on a good show.

The service as I experienced it was second to none.* Amiable men and women all, largely seen but not heard, taking care never to interrupt mid-conversation and enabling wine glasses to magically materialise a near constant level of white wine.  Given the rough and tumble of my usual type of gaffe, being wined and dined at a spiffy Italian restaurant was both a revelation and a real treat.

There were a few unnecessary flourishes. The silver tongs used to spoon ice into my water glass gave rise to a wry smile, and the purposefully papped pictures of football players adorning the walls shaved off two shades of class, but otherwise, it was a wonderful. My friend Aoife and I relaxed right into our surroundings – the watermark of any good dining experience – though completely forgetting where we were was near impossible with a live singer roving the restaurant.

Wall of Fame

Wall of Fame

Sashaying his rump round, crooning rat pack favourites and classic Italian tunes, the evening’s entertainment was a surprise success. What on first appearances seemed to be a shed load of parmesan, piled on top of an otherwise beautifully presented evening, turned out to be the umami rich mouthful of entertainment the evening needed. Usually disdainful of any unnecessary distraction from conversation, (or masticating for that matter), it was a welcome break in between the carefully timed courses to aid our digestion of the mountainous plates of food dished up.

Sweet Pepper, Mushroom and Tomato & Basil Bruschetta

Sweet Pepper, Mushroom and Tomato & Basil Bruschetta

Now, about that food. Slow cooked pig cheeks in Parma ham were divine. Meaty, moreish and oozing a bitter sweet black treacle jus, it took mere minutes to demolish, though Aoife’s antipasto board – a meal unto itself of artisan cheeses, pickled artichokes and a basket of bread – required a doggy bag and whole extra day to finish. Having already troughed a perfectly pitched sweet red pepper bruschetta in waiting for our starters, we were comfortably full whilst only half way through.

Antipasto

Antipasto

Naturally, I had ordered a plate full of pasta – chilli garlic taglierini topped with half a roasted lobster to be exact – just to keep things breezy, you know. A lip (and face) smackingly fresh dish of pasta ribbons, complete with fiddly fork to fish out every last morsel of the delicate, perfectly pink and aromatic lobster, I was simultaneously in heaven and hell as I sunk the whole dish. The shame! Resultantly, all I could stretch to was a couple of scoops of decent (though sadly not naturally flavoured) pistachio gelato despite the presence of an appetising looking tiramisu.

Lobster Taglierini

Lobster Taglierini

The menu is slightly overwhelming, with over 40 mains in the offing and with each dish handsomely priced, it’s a dear do, but to my mind, understandably so. Working such quality ingredients and classic service, not to mention portion sizes that are purely Northern, it works out as excellent value for money. It’s enough to tempt me back anyhow, if only to double kiss my waiter on the cheek again out of sheer gratitude and my best attempt at a belly-bursting grace. Colour me classy, ladies and gentleman. I’m a changed woman.

* Given I was on a review, a little showboating was to be expected. Naturally, all is forgiven.

Rosso Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

3TwentyOne

2 Jun

I always used to wonder why food writers were such curmudgeons. More often than not dripping with disdain for the chef’s / front of house’s / interior decorator’s efforts and whip-smart snarks following on from some lengthy prose about anything but the food.* How could you make a misery out of something so inherently joyful in a review? Then, I started a food blog.

My passion for eating out turned into a twice a week habit which, after nine months of scoffing and scribing, turns out to be just enough time to make you gag each time you gorge on the latest food trend. Having a healthier base for comparison raises your expectations beyond measure, and in the name of having something interesting to say, forage endlessly for innovative ingredients and fresh food concepts to write about. The more you indulge, the harder it becomes to find satisfaction, and after a while, it all sort of blends into one. It seems gluttony quickly runs to ingratitude.

It’s a hard life, no?

No, I don’t think so either. I can’t sympathise with anyone enjoys such privilege, myself included. I’m exceptionally lucky, not only because I can afford to eat out on a regular basis, but also because I occasionally get invited along to review restaurants for free. So, having found myself overfaced and underwhelmed of late, I’ve had to have a long hard look at myself, especially after a perfectly lovely dining experience initially left me with little to say, and the only thing left wanting was my attitude to it all.

If you keep abreast of the Manchester food scene, you may have heard something of 3TwentyOne. Just another meat mecca, I thought, albeit with its own smoker and a penchant for good liquor. An invitation to the grand opening evening for Manchester media mavens was missed on account of birthday celebrations with much loved friends, so was invited to come along at a later date when the cacophony of blogger’s gums smacking around short ribs and Singapore Slings had died down.

Sadly, they forgot I was coming, and much to mine and my friend Mal’s discomfort, asked to check my email invitation, then spent half an hour playing Chinese whispers with the waitress and owner about exactly what was included in the review. This, and the fact she harangued us until we placed our order whilst simultaneously trying to settle into our surroundings and say our hellos were the only low points of the night. The rest was just… fine and dandy.

Espresso Martini

Espresso Martini

The cocktails were a wonderful opener. My espresso martini of Kahlua, vanilla vodka and butterscotch syrup was perfectly pitched – neither overly sweet nor strong on the coffee – whilst Mal made appreciative noises over his Tommy’s Margarita. On reflection, it might be worth heading back and working my way through the cocktail menu alone, if nothing else than just to gaze on the bearded (slightly dour) hunk of a bartender, but I digress.

To its credit, the menu managed to distract me much more effectively, pared down as it was. Six starter and six dessert choices made the beginning and end of the meal fairly easy to navigate, but working your way through a list of four steaks, two types of ribs and a whole host of other hunks of meat made for a much beefier task.

Pork Ribs

Pork Ribs

The ribs weren’t bad. Both stickily coated and meaty, my barbecue pork ribs were a little fatty, though the pig happily fell off the bone and was made moreish by a boozy bourbon glaze used to jazz up the dish. Both mine and Mal’s beef short ribs were subtly smoked – a small disappointment given its billing as the main attraction – but had a decent flavour to them and were stacked high, making me grateful my eyes weren’t bigger than my belly in ordering more sides than the one that comes with – in my case crispy on the outside, fluffy within paprika-dusted fries. Perfection.

Manchester Egg

Manchester Egg

The Manchester Egg – black pudding and sausage meat wrapped round a gooey egg all deep fried in breadcrumbs – was a delight, as was the lightly smoked, tender boneless chicken wings with a creamy blue cheese sauce. Both disappeared pretty quickly (much to our waitress’ delight), though the puddings took longer to shift. A rich, fairly heady mud pie of rich chocolate ganache and Oreo biscuit base – from a fairly standard menu stretching not far beyond cheesecake – was lovely but a little too much to stomach, even with a sizeable dollop of Cheshire Farm ice cream to balance it out.

Mud Pie

Mud Pie

If I had never enjoyed the bounteous beauty of deep fried coke or eaten ribs fresh off the back of a pit barbecue, my review might have been much more evenly tempered, but for what it’s worth, 3TwentyOne is a lovely little establishment serving up simple, hearty food. Whilst the glut of Manchester food blogs reviewing the gaffe has paid testament to the shonky service, I suspect such teething problems will be soothed over time, and with soft, modern décor and an enviable location next to the Deansgate Hilton, will attract a good crowd once the blogger rush is over and done.

So, here’s hoping they get a little more heavy-handed with the smoker. That and another espresso martini is all it would take to tempt this blogger back.

* Equally guilty on the waffling front. Do forgive me. I am but human (and a gob shite).

3TwentyOne on Urbanspoon