Manchester continues to be a foodie magnet. It seems a new eatery opens every few weeks (up north is an exciting space to be right now). The plethora of new restaurant openings can only be a good thing; not only does it diversify a wonderful melting pot, but keeps the old guard on its toes.
I have dined at the Albert Square Chop House before, and having been a few years, decided it was time to discover if I was missing any new tricks. It felt as if I was returning home; the earnest familiarity, the big welcoming smiles from Front of House Chris Prosser and team, made for a warm welcome indeed.
We went on a Friday night and bypassing the busy ground floor bar (it looked cosy and inviting), headed downstairs to the restaurant. Décor remains the same, dark woods emanating a warm, convivial vibe, a friendly buzz that is comforting and exciting in equal measure. We were seated in a booth, which was deliciously comfortable and squishy and took a looksee at the menus. Albert Square specialise in traditional British food. If a menu could give you a hug, this would be it.
I kicked off with a starter of Scallops drizzled in garlic herb oil on a bed of creamy vegetable puree. The scallops were perfection; sweet, tender and melt in your mouth. Within seconds of finishing this stunning dish, I was craving more of this heavenly concoction.
My dining partner had Chicken Liver Paté (warm toasted bread, sweet pear chutney), which she loved, saying the subtle meaty taste went well with the sweet, zingy chutney. I dunked a corner of the slightly nutty bread into the chutney and thought it tasty too (I’m not a fan of paté but trust her advanced palate, being a fellow food blogger).
There was one standout dish on the menu that caught my eye, which was the Vegetarian Homity Pie (Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese, potato & caramelised onion pie, cauliflower purée, seasonal leaves). The pie looked substantial and chock-full with filling (exactly how pies should be). The filling was cheesy, gooey and glorious. I wasn’t keen on the pastry, which seemed to be made of crisped up baked cheese. The restaurant has billed itself as serving British food with a twist – which is exactly what this Homity Pie was. I’m a traditionalist – I love my pies with proper pastry, either short-crust, rough puff or raised hot water crust. I just don’t think the baked cheese pastry worked in this case, rendering the whole pie a little too cheesy for my palate. The filling, I could not fault and resorted to scooping out and eating with the salad (yes it was that delicious that I couldn’t bear to waste it).
I have to show you the generous amount of gorgeous filling by cutting the pie in half. Here is the gorgeous beast of a pie, sliced asunder.
My dining partner had the 28 day aged Rib Eye Steak, which she liked very much. The meat was cooked perfectly to her taste (medium rare), with the accompanying sauces packing a fierce punch in the flavour stakes.
The peppercorn sauce (Tom Thumb punchy kick), Béarnaise sauce (creamy, luxe, moreish), and Café du Paris butter (striking pink and with beautiful sea salt aftertaste) were delectable. The side of Hand-Cut Chips were lovely too, chunky, crisp on the outside and fluffy inside.
We were also lucky to try desserts that the chef had been trialling out (yet to be featured on the menu). The Chocolate Cheesecake Ice-cream with Honeycomb was the star of the show. There was an even dispersion of gooey cheesecake chunks throughout the ice-cream, whilst the neutral biscuit base was the perfect partner to honeycomb chunks.
The Rhubarb Cheesecake was beautifully airy, the rhubarb jelly being taken to a whole new level with the delicate vanilla flecks in the light whipped mousse middle. Both desserts were served with matched wine, which is innovative and trendy (I have only seen two restaurants to date do that).
Albert Square Chop House is a restaurant which delivers deliciously traditional British food with a modern twist (that chocolate cheesecake ice-cream was divine). By pushing boundaries yet remaining true to comfort food, it keeps loyal diners happy whilst intriguing new diners open to a cool dining experience.
I have no hesitation in recommending this cosy, warm restaurant. Manchester is all the better for it.
Star Rating 1-10 (1: “I’d rather eat my own shoe, I hated it that much” – 10: “I’d pillage for a meal here”.)
Value for money: 9
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Tel: 0161 834 1866