Sometimes, you need something familiar. Somewhere you know, somewhere with no nasty surprises and somewhere that delivers consistently good food. For my first few years in Manchester this was The Northern Quarter Restaurant - a light and airy space overlooking the historic fishmarket, the restaurant taking it's name from Manchester's independent and bohemian area just off the city centre.
The Northern Quarter Restaurant - with thanks to touchvipcard.com
My first meal here was exquisite - starting out on my foodie quest, having just learnt to cook imaginatively for myself, I relished the modern British cuisine and their quirky take on traditional dishes, coupled with understated presentation and graceful service.
Over the years I have returned regularly, greeted by familiar faces and familiar dishes on the menu- however a couple of years back this cosy, special relationship began to sour. Staffing because sloppy and waiting for everything became a regular frustration. Dishes came out cold, under seasoned, small - the list of misgivings became endless. Like a dying relationship I kept trying, blaming myself; but countless friends noticed the difference and it looked like The Northern Quarter and I were no more. (read about it here).
With trepidation I returned the other day on the insistence of a family member who, even through the bad days has stuck close to The Northern Quarter Restaurant like a true and faithful friend. I am happy to report, things look like they're turning the corner.
Smoked haddock scotch egg
Mussels with wheat beer were soft and well cooked, the portion size pretty generous- prices aren't cheap here, so a large plate of food is a bonus. Chicken livers on brioche with grapes was a warm hug of a dish, the soft livers pink and faintly metallic with a thick sauce soaked into the brioche. A smoked haddock and egg dish came out beautifully presented as a scotch egg, grown-up nursery food at it's quirky best. Pigeon salad was a little lack lustre, I expected a lot of pigeon for £6.25, but it seemed like one small breast sliced and it was pretty dry to boot.
Chicken livers on brioche
Main of sea bream was just cooked to perfection and hinted of spring to come with top notes of lemon and dill sauce softening the spiky saltiness of the added olives. Roasted suckling pork loin with blackpudding croquettes was fragrant, sweet and warming; paired with sharp apples and sage it was a classic porky pairing that hit all the right notes. Again there were a few off dishes, the most notably the venison casserole which was great, thick, warming and with a wonderful smoked garlic mash. But at £19.95 the portion was small, the meat a little dry and I can't remember the last time I've ever been asked for 20 quid for a casserole.
The Northern Quarter Restaurant won't blow your socks off, but you will normally get a plate of mainly great, unsurprising food and it seems the service problems have been ironed out. It's good to see The Northern Quarter on the way back up to it's old, familiar standards; a few extra tweaks and I'll be back every week.
Price for four starters and four mains: £98.65
Food - 7/10
Atmosphere - 8/10
Service - 8/10
Value for money - 6/10
Total - 29/40
Go again - Yes, it's a familiar friend but it does have it's flaws. Some of the dishes weren't up to par and the prices are a little high, even for the city centre.
The Northern Quarter Restaurant, 108 High Street, Manchester M4 1HQ - 0161 832 7115 - facebook - twitter