By Jo Cooksey
New restaurant openings in Manchester seem to have slowed considerably over the last few months but last month, Drake and Morgan added The Anthologist on St Peter’s Square to its stable. They already have a branch of The Refinery in Spinningfields.
Opposite Central Library and right by the St Peter’s Square tram stop, The Anthologist has an excellent position. I arrived early and decided to make the most of the sunshine by having a drink on their outside terrace. As I made my way to the bar inside, I noticed a group of ladies having their make-up done and really enjoying themselves. One of the staff told me that for the first few Saturdays after opening they were having Beauty and the Bellini pampering session. These have finished for the moment but they do also offer cocktail making masterclasses.
I noticed on the drinks menu a cocktail containing a spirit called Ceylon Arrack. I had read about this recently whilst researching a trip to Sri Lanka and was intrigued to try it. It is distilled from the sap of the coconut flower. The sap is collected by hand, by Toddy Tappers. These guys climb from tree to tree via a series of tightropes until this have collected a clay pot full. It takes the sap of flowers from 4 to 6 trees to make one 70ml bottle of arrack. I ordered a Tapper Collins, a play on the well-known Tom Collins cocktail. This one contained arrack, lime, coconut water, angostura bitters and ginger. It was flippin’ delicious. Definitely a new favourite.
My lunch companion arrived and we were shown to our table. We were loving the décor, a mixture of teal chairs and natural wood. A bit Nordic and very easy on the eye. The restaurant was already filling up and by the time we left there was hardly a spare seat. As we looked over the menu we ordered a cocktail each. We asked the waiter for recommendations and he suggested that I try the Plenty More Fish in the G&T. A refreshing mix of gin, rosemary, samphire, pink grapefruit and tonic that is served in a plastic bag with a goldfish made of orange peel, reminiscent of the fairground fish we used to bring home as children. There was a handwritten tag attached to the bag which read, ‘Don’t mind me. I’m plastic free but drink me quick before I leak.’ The bags are totally bio-degradable so full marks for quirkiness with a conscience. We shared a portion of Padron Peppers to nibble on while we decided what else to eat.
The menu is full of dishes to whet any appetite; small plates, sharing boards, burgers, salads, mains. You are quite spoilt for choice. In the end we chose two small plates to share as starters. The Salt & Szechuan Pepper Squid with Lemon Mayonnaise was served piping hot and had a nice hit spiciness, that was tempered by the citrus of the lemon. I’m a sucker for Scotch Egg and here they do a Chorizo version with Smoked Paprika Mayo. Ooo this was good. The middle of the egg was the perfect combo of set and runny, the outside nicely crispy and the Chorizo element very moreish.
Again, when it came to our mains we had trouble making a decision. I was torn between Sugar-brined Salmon and the Roast Lamb Rump. In the end, the lamb won because it came with mash and I love a bit of mash. In fact, my mouth is watering while I type this. The meat itself was perfectly pink, juicy and tender and as well as the buttery mash there was Shallot & Current Salsa, fried cherry tomatoes, samphire and a gravy made from the meat juices. To me the salsa didn’t add anything to the dish and as such was unnecessary, but everything else was delicious. My chum had ordered off the salad menu, where you choose your salad and then, if you want, choose your protein to go with it. She requested a Fregola Salad with griddled chicken. Fregola is small, round pasta, rather like a giant couscous and incorporated with this was asparagus, Shitake mushrooms, red onion, tomatoes and walnuts. This was a lovely, fresh dish that was very filling as well.
When ordering sides at The Anthologist, the chips have a section all of their own. There are four types including Cowboy, Louisiana, Sweet Potato and the ones we went for, Roman Fries, which were sprinkled with Parmesan, truffle and rosemary. Very good they were too, served crispy and piping hot and I’m not even a chip lover. Our second side was Roasted Cauliflower with sundried tomato and seeds. I keep trying these new-fangled ways of cooking cauli but I have to say I still prefer mine simmered and smothered in cheese sauce.
Of course, it was now pudding time and you know we love a pud. We both had our eye on the same thing, Toffee-roasted Pineapple. In the end, being the good friend I am, I choose my go-to dessert of Crème Brûlée, which was actually one of the best I have had in Manchester in a very long time. However, the pineapple was to-die-for. I love this fruit and caramelizing it takes it to a whole other level. It came with a scoop of gorgeous passionfruit sorbet and it was sprinkled with nut brittle. A really simple dessert but absolutely blinding. Definitely a keeper.
In terms of food and service, The Anthologist seem to know what they are doing and everything was done to a high standard when we visited but the best thing for me the vibe of the place. It was just so relaxing. If I hadn’t had to go home to feed the dogs, my pal and I would have been quite happy to while away the whole afternoon there. We’ll certainly return for more Arrack, pineapple and a soothing ambiance.
We ate as guests of The Anthologist but as always, the review and opinions are our own and unbiased.