The Mark Addy
Stanley St, Salford



 The Mark Addy is the current home to chef Robert Owen Brown, a chef whose wanderings around Manchester eating establishments have at times been difficult to keep up with, as I found out at the start of 2010, when I found out he'd moved on from the grot-hole of the Angel in the dereliction of the area north of the northern quarter.

A cellar below a car park on the bank of the urban River Irwell isn't the most immediately attractive of settings. Neither is the rather 1970s-feeling glass canopied entrance, which could just as well be to public lavatories, an impression reinforced by the first thing you see when you go through the door being the gents' toilets.

The Mark Addy is a destination restaurant in the sense that they can't possibly have any passing trade. It has no real street presence and is on the "wrong" side of the Irwell. But I came away thinking that  it's well worth the (very short) stroll over the river from Manchester to Salford.

In decor terms, it's a brick-built vaulted cellar, though thankfully once you're down there it's not as dank and damp as that perhaps sounds. It is a bit gloomy though, at least on a grey Manchester December day. It's a long room, with a small kitchen at the far end.  Although there's a sizeable bar, it feels more restaurant than pub.  The window seats are presumably the hot tickets, but I didn't feel at all hard done by by my table on the un-windowed side of the room, not least as we had a clear view of the small kitchen with its rather incongruous pile of Warburtons loaves. Though the loaves would certainly count as local produce, as Warburtons are based down the road in Bolton.  Curiously Robert Owen Brown was in the back rattling the pans, while someone else worked the pass.

I thought the menu didn't quite live up to my expectations, or rather my hopes. Robert Owen Brown has made something of a name for himself for gutsy food, championing offal, and almost a bit of a northern Fergus Henderson. Fairly recently he was on a television programme about northern food, evangelising about tripe, an attitude that really moved the Mark Addy up my list of places I needed to go soon. But the menu doesn't feature any tripe, bulls' testicles, bone marrow or such like. The closest was a black pudding potato cake served with poached eggs and a tarragon sauce - but unfortunately that was "off" when I visited.  A Lancashire pub/restaurant without black pudding is a bit like a French bistro without frogs' legs and snails.

Instead I had to make do with a baked duck egg with Morecambe Bay shrimps. This didn't really do much to counter my suspicion that duck eggs are a useful way of bumping up a restaurant's GP. At least it's a lot cheaper here than Sat Bains' (stupendously good) duck egg dish. It came in a demitasse which seemed to contain a sparse handful of shrimps and what might have been a shrimp velouté rather than the cream you would normally add to a baked egg. All very nice and nicely cooked, but a bit on the delicate side. Alongside the demitasse came a little nest of toast soldiers and some chives. One nice touch was that the toast had been cut out in the shape of little soldiers.

My main course was braised rose veal. In contrast to the rather insubstantial egg, this was a generous heart-warming dish. The cooking of the veal was perhaps a tiny bit mixed, probably reflecting the different seam-butchered muscles that were involved. I wondered if it might have been boned-out shin, but the message came back from the kitchen that it was cushion. Making the braised veal into a dish, were some salsify (just a teeny bit underdone), nicely turned carrots, spinach, a fondant potato and a really top-notch cream sauce. The fondant potato itself was probably the best I've ever had - perfectly cooked with a really superb flavour, both of potato and its cooking medium. All in all a very creditable dish, that I greatly enjoyed.

On a cold December day, with snow on the ground outside, I was hoping for some sort of hot pudding, maybe with a bit of stodge value. But that wasn't to be. Probably the most enticing dessert was a Vimto trifle, but not really suited to the day. Instead I went for Eccles cake with Mrs Kirkham's Lancashire. This was the first and only fail on the part of the service, in that the charming and professional waitress omitted to mention that these were baked to order, leading me to have to ask if they'd had to send someone out to Eccles to get them. When they finally came (after a delay of about 15 minutes), they were jolly good. Rather than a single Eccles cake as the menu suggested, this was three small Eccles cakes, hot from the oven. It's difficult not to compare this with the very similar dish at St John in London. I thought the Mark Addy's Eccles cakes perhaps didn't have quite as good a pastry as St John's, but the filling was much, much better, with a delightful flavour, and helped texturally by, I think, a couple of sultanas alongside the currants. A contentious addition, but I thought extremely worthwhile.

A pint of Timothy Taylor's was well kept. The wait for the Eccles cakes had unfortunately delayed me too much to check out their coffee-making expertise.

I understand that the more offally ingredients make their appearance on specials menus, though there were no specials at all on my visit - possibly a concession to the Christmas season, as there were a couple of Christmas menus also available. I think the availability of specials (not necessarily just tripe and testicles) would greatly encourage return visits from me, as I think after two or three visits, I'd probably have exhausted everything I'd want from the fixed menu, which is printed and laminated, so presumably intended to be around for some time. Getting to Manchester involves a bit of effort and a fair few of the dishes I can get more conveniently locally. That said I will go again, and am looking forward to doing so.

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Last updated: 6 December 2010