By Rachael Foster
We love a bank holiday, it allows us to schedule in a whole extra day of weekend meal times. A big weekend called for a big lunch, and so we went to The Albert Square Chop House.
Located inside the historic Memorial Hall, a listed building that was constructed in 1866. It is now home to the juiciest cuts of meat in Manchester.
We were invited to sample their Spring/ Summer menu and were warmly welcomed by the front of house and offered a selection of places to take our seats for the feast. It was a glorious, sunny afternoon and the outside terrace was buzzing. The bar area is the first space you enter, and with huge windows and rustic charm, we were tempted. The FOH suggested we take a look downstairs. A nod to the past with industrial-chic decor, the basement was laid out with open kitchen overlooking a row of secluded booths.
We picked a booth directly opposite the kitchen and in sight of the sprawling wine racks. It was a beautiful view. Looking back at us on the wall were familiar faces of the Manchester elite, who had been photographed by Paul Wolfgang Webster.
Our waiter, Matteo, talked us through the menu and recommended dishes to try. We ordered the Stilton Croquettes and the Bacon and Haddock Chowder. Croquettes can easily be taken for granted, until you try to make them at home. A home-made croquette is a labour of love that involves a lot of mashing, mixing, crumbing and praying for a miracle. It is only once you have mashed potato smeared on your cheeks, breadcrumbs nestled in your eyebrows and still no dinner, that you can truly appreciate the humble croquette. And I bloody love stilton, so I couldn’t wait to get stuck in.
Crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside. Served with pickled walnuts, candied & golden beetroot. What was a surprise, was the Stilton. It didn’t taste like your usual Stilton. It was still rich and tangy, but also smooth and velvety. Matteo informed us that it was award-winning Blue Stilton from the Cropwell Bishop Creamery which has been run by the Skailes family in the village of the same name in Nottinghamshire for three generations. I was clearly born into the wrong family.
The Bacon and Haddock Chowder was a classic creamy dish, with a generous serving of smoked bacon and smoked haddock. Topped with 3 large mussels and sprinkled with cream crackers created an interesting combination of textures.
The menu offers a selection of classic British cuisine and cuts, including the popular dishes of Mussels & Chips, The Famous Steak & Kidney Pudding and Beef Short Rib. We ordered Chicken on Toast and the 12oz Barnsley Chop. I love chicken and I love toast. I also love that you shouldn’t judge this dish on its name.
The chicken is not just any chicken, it’s half a corn-fed Goosnargh chicken from Johnson & Swarbrick’s legendary Swainson House Farm near Preston. The bread is not just any bread, it’s sour dough. The dish is dressed with mustard & pan-fried in the cooking juices, served with peppery watercress & a jug of creamy chicken sauce cut with sherry vinegar. The sour dough becomes the perfect sponge for the creamy chicken sauce. It’s a generous portion of delicious flavours.
The 12oz Barnsley Chop should be made into a bronze statue in the centre of Barnsley. The traditional butterfly lamb chop was served pink on a bed of roasted onions with watercress and a moreish mint sauce infused jus. The meat was so tender, flavoursome and beautifully presented. A real show stopper. We ordered a side of Peas & Bacon. Fresh peas mixed with big chunks of smoked bacon, it was a winning combination.
Matteo returns and tells us that we must try the Sticky Toffee Pudding. We don’t refuse and a sweet and sticky date pudding arrives, smothered in a buttery toffee sauce and accompanied with vanilla pod ice cream. It is another generous portion, that we both happily share.
It was an incredible lunch of traditional food described as ‘A Gastronomic Voyage Around The British Isles’. Although we were invited to sample their new menu, I will return under my own admissions with friends in tow. This is a place worthy of high praise.
We went to Albert’s Square Chop House as their guests but as always, the review and opinions are our own and unbiased.