Last week Manchester Confidential invited me to try the new menu at The Albert Square Chop House. I have been to Mr Thomas' Chop House lots of times, and last winter had learned they had another string to the chop house bow. However, I presumed that this new recruit would be very similar to Thomas and Sam's; rich hearty food that goes well with brown sauce. Wrong.
The Albert Square Chop House is a much more refined affair without being stuffy. The front of house staff welcome you as if you were entering their own home. You are led downstairs to a little dining haven away from the hustle and bustle of the busy bar above.
The decor has kept its historical roots, but has been modernised with the odd replacement beam, shiny new enamel lights, a brightly lit open kitchen and hundreds of wines encased in beautiful glass cabinets. It's the personal touches that make the Albert Square Chop House feel a little different to other city centre restaurants.
First came Bernie, a little Irish sweetie pie who was smartly dressed with a tidy black apron. She gave us our menus and settled us in. Next Mike informed us that he had some bread baking for us, which he would bring over as soon as it was ready - about two minutes. Then came Carlos, the softly spoken Sommelier whose knowledge and enthusiasm for wine even won me over (I am a lifelong wine hater...)
We had 'the vibes' before we took a bite or sip. The service is formal enough to be special, yet friendly enough to be confortable. It reminded me a little of Coi in San Francisco, modern decor in an old district, complete with confortable booths, soft lights and excellent service. We had high hopes.
Our warm bread arrived in a little basket. We were offered one, two or as many as we liked! We both had one of each - white and granary. They broke open with ease and were soft and fluffy. The butter was also a perfect spreading temperature - I have had many a shredded roll because of unecessarily cold butter!
I was brave and had the pate. I fear pate because it contains liver - another mortal enemy. After trying the Bells of Peover offering, I have rescinded. I am so glad I went for this. It was more of a bacon wrapped terrine; chunky meat with a generous amount of pepper, served with tart pickles. No sign of grey slop here. I'm converted. That's twice in one night!
Still high on starter euphoria, we were offered the wine which accompanied our mains. I had the Etchart (Malbec) and Paddy had the Moon River (Pinot Noir). Please bear in mind I am a total wine novice, only having liked it for 30 minutes at this point. This wine genuinely smelled of hearty beef stew. It had a sweetness of roasted vegetables but a warmth like a waft from a slow cooked casserole. When tasting it with my steak, some of this disappeared and I was left with a mellow, fruity taste. I loved it! Such a great suggestion.3TwentyOne (with the exception of the cut of steak). Although that was good, I have to say that this won hands down. It was a beautifully cooked piece of meat, served medium rare as requested. The chips were crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside, and the pepper sauce was smooth with a nice kick. The chicken was moist with a crisp skin and had 'really good gravy' - quote.
Pudding, pudding... often the forgotten cousin of the starter and main, and so frequently a huge disappointment. Oh they were a dream... We ordered a treacle tart and a custard tart. Mike had recommended the raspberry soufflé (which he described as 'quite sensual'), but my heart already lay in custard.
I'm not sure how to describe these desserts without coming over as a bit of a nutter. They were amazing. The edge of my custard tart 'wibbled' as it landed, and came with the best poached gooseberries I have ever tasted. Christ on a bike. Go just for this. The treacle tart was equally wonderful; light yet reassuringly gooey. Total Goldilocks effect - just right.
I could kiss those lovely folk at Manchester Confidential. We had the most unexpectedly wonderful meal - on a school night too! I have already recommended The Albert Square Chop House to several friends, and sent that wibbly custard tart picture to many more. The proof is in the pudding, literally. Go.
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Disclaimer: I was invited to sample the menu at the Albert Square Chop House by Manchester Confidential. I was under no obligation to give a good review, and all views are my own.