[Manchester, city centre] Northern Quarter Restaurant

It’s one of those comparatively rare places that just gets it right. Well, almost right. We’ve never had a duff dish there. And tonight was no exception. Kitchen was a bit slow in getting things out though. But, other than that, it was very much “game on”.
There’s a short menu of Modern Brit dishes which play to local ingredients and spot-on seasonality. So, expect any suckling pig dish to come from Pugh’s Piglets in Garstang. And a cheese dish is likely to involve Shorrocks Lancashire Bomb. And when I mention seasonality, they were actually in advance of what you’d expect. English asparagus and Jersey Royals? In early March? That’s the chef taking full advantage of what is a particularly early crop this year.

Bread is a chargeable item. We ordered it. It didn’t arrive. We said it hadn’t arrived. He asked if we still wanted it (with the starters). We said no. He said he’d delete it from the bill (which he did). We both chose the same starter a wild garlic and Shorrocks Bomb soufflé. Now that’s a surefire win on both the seasonality and local ingredient count. And it was a technically well made soufflé, and well balanced with neither of the main ingredients being dominant.

For mains, one of us had sea bass – two fillets, perfectly cooked. Alongside, a tomato & red pepper “compote” (not thin enough to be a sauce, not chunky enough to be vegetables), a crisp Jersey Royal galette and a scattering of crispy capers. To coin a phrase, it looked good enough to eat. There was pork belly on the other plate. Absolutely, bloody delicious pork belly. Tasty meat, meltingly soft sweet fat and crisp skin. It was the perfect pork belly. And then there’s a couple of chunks of fillet, still moist and only cooked to medium. And black pudding – a couple of “bon bons” of the pud. It comes from Bury, of course. There’s Chantenay carrots and griddled spring onion and a cider jus. We shared a side order of Jersey Royals.

We passed on dessert – nothing appealed. Coffee was OK. Then we got the bill. I called him back as we hadn’t been charged for the coffee. He said it was on the house as he’d forgotten the bread. It’s that sort of customer service that keeps us coming back.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold