A great meal is not usually preceded by “Ergh, you’re not going there are you?!” Which was the comment we received from the boy’s boss in the pub just before I popped down to The Mark Addy on the Salford/Manchester boarder.
Thankfully it’s been a few years since the boss has been there and in that time Robert Owen Brown has taken over as Head Chef and brought the menu bang up to date in line with the modern homage to various bits of animals that used to be detained for poor northern tables, locally sourced produce and sustainable fish.
I’m not going to wax lyrical about how Robert Owen Brown and Fergus Henderson (of St Johns fame) are best buddies as a) it’s pretty apparent in the menu and b) Jay Rayner did such an excellent job of explaining it in his blog that you can read it there and I’ll save on word count.
We’d booked an 8pm table at the Mark Addy and were shown to a large circle table in the middle of the restaurant, unfortunately we weren’t next to the window overlooking the canal, but we could still see the murky waters swirling past.
The restaurant is very 1970s (not much they can do to change it – see referenced JR blog); but has lovely exposed vaulted ceilings, the aforementioned broody views of the waters and an open fronted kitchen to have a look at Robert Owen Brown doing his thing.
Unfortunately when we visited his ‘thing’ seemed to be very slow and a little off kilter, which was further hampered by very slow waiting staff (although they were very lovely to be fair).
To start we ordered half a dozen natives on the half shell. Seeing as we had only ordered oysters it took a full 40 minutes from the order taking until the dish came out. If I hadn’t been involved in a long overdue catch up with old friends and the fact that, try as I might, I couldn’t catch a member of staff’s eye, I would have said something. It may have take a long time to come out, but the dish of oysters were so spanking fresh it was almost worth it.
The Mark Addy’s menu has some unusual items and it was two of these dishes that were the stars of the starters (after a further 25 min wait after the oysters). A simple dish of Leagram’s day old curd on crumpet looked simple – almost too much cheese on a crumpet with a little balsamic drizzle. However simplicity, in this case, was genius – the sharp, creamy curd softened by the buttery crumpet and offset brilliantly by the sweet and sticky drizzle. The crumpet expertly toasted to be slightly crunchy, contrasting with the soft curd and adding texture to what could have been a boring or overly soft dish.
Another simple but genius dish was the daily special of razor clams. The clams arrived in the shell, simply cooked with garlic, butter and a little parsley. The clams were well cooked and not chewy at all, unlike clams I’ve had elsewhere. The garlic butter was simplicity itself, but set off the sweet flesh and let the freshness of the produce shine through.
After a long wait (again) the mains came out from the kitchen and looked great. Whilst everyone else was served I was left without a meal. In time a member of staff arrived to explain that chef had ‘inadvertantly’ sent my rabbit to another table and ‘unfortunately’ it was the last rabbit in the house and would I please choose something else?
I chose bone marrow – none left, pork belly – none left, whiff – none left etc etc. I was left in a quandary – I didn’t want something heavy, I don’t like suet or batter and I wanted something a bit lighter. In the end I had to choose the monkfish cheeks off the specials. Seeing as most of the dishes I was asking for as replacement were off the mains menu, I was surprised that The Mark Addy was so understocked and had run out of staple dishes so easily.
Surprising the cheeks managed to be on my table in about five minutes flat from ordering – I’m guessing that my fluffed dish was put on the priority list. The monkfish was good, but unfortunately in the rush to get it out the cheeks were a little undercooked and chewy and the sauce it came with was slightly under seasoned, but the mussels that came out with it were soft, fresh and delicious so there was a saving grace.
(Plus we did get a bottle of wine for free – I did ask if we could have the dish for free instead as I wasn’t drinking, this was agreed, but it was the wine that was taken off the bill at the end – it had been such a long meal that I really didn’t have the strength to complain).
The other mains were of good quality, the steak had been well hung and was well cooked – an intense beefy flavour shining through and the hoggert was intensely rich with soft and salty root veg to compliment. The posh scouser had managed to get the last portion of sea bass off the specials, which was a lovely dish – the fish succulent and again expertly cooked, displaying the skill that the kitchen possesses when it puts its mind to it.
Puddings were ordered and once again we were left waiting – also they didn’t reach the pinnacles of the mains/starters. The main highlight was a dark chocolate cup with a divine lavender cream – made off site a waitress informed us. The choux buns made with this season’s rhubarb were slightly chewy and a bit lacklustre: on top of this puddings start at £5.25 and I’m against this excessive pudding charging that seems to be going on across gastro pubs and other establishments lately.
In all the Mark Addy has the chemistry to be a really great place. The setting is moody and slightly retro, which marries well with the homage to the now fashionable unfashionable cuts of animals and the broody dark waters sloshing past the windows. To be really great the kitchen needs to get it’s timings right and needs to employ more dynamic staff – our waiting staff were lovely, but we could never catch their eyes and anything we asked for took an age to arrive or be acted upon.
The food is good and has the potential to be great, it’s not expensive (apart from pudding) and the commitment to local, seasonal and quality produce is a approach and is there to see. Robert Owen Brown has a great cooking style and hopefully with a few more tweaks The Mark Addy will put Salford (and Manchester) on the culinary map.
Ps – try the homemade pork scratchings – divine!
Pps – check out the website as they often have events on such as a foraged food night or a tasting menu.
Price for one nibble, six starters, five mains, three puddings and drinks (and a free bottle of wine) – £114.75
Food – 8/10
Atmosphere – 7/10
Service – 6/10
Value for money – 8/10
Total – 29/40
The Mark Addy, Stanley Street, Salford, Manchester M3 5EJ – 0161 832 4080 – firstname.lastname@example.org