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Jan 10, 2008 01:00 PM

Sam's Chop House, Manchester - review

Almost a Manchester institution - although not as much so as its more pubby cousin across the road (Mr Thomas' Chophouse) which has genuinely been there since Victorian times.

However, Sam's is a city centre gastropub, although they're not keen on the description, decorated in a Victorian style and done quite well. It's in the basement of the building and you come across the pub bit first. Good selection of beer including the local J W Lees and , of course, Sam (Smith's).

Food is served in a separate restaurant section at the back. The menu is best described as classic British food and service is excellent. We hadnt been for a couple of years and Mrs H wanted to check it out as a possible venue for a forthcoming dinner with her various European counterparts.

OK, so to food and drink. Their signature dish is corned beef hash - served either as a starter or main - with poached egg. Impossible for me to resist as a starter, particularly as it comes with HP sauce. For a main, there was much that tempted me on this winter's night. Steak and kidney pudding, with jug of gravy; Faggots (or "savoury ducks" as we call them round here); pheasant, rare breed pork chop, etc. But I settled on haunch of venison which came with root veg and spuds. It was advertised as being cooked medium rare but was past that when it arrived. Still very nice. Sauce was a very flavoursome red wine reduction with a hint of chocolate. It worked.

Herself started with an open tart of butternut squash and Yorkshire feta. She wasnt that keen on the feta. I picked at it and thought it fine. Her main was a classic fish, chips, mushy peas, tartare sauce. Good fish; crispy batter; lovely big thick chips.

We were too full for dessert but had coffee. Bill, including a 10% service charge, came to £78 - not too bad considering that £20 was Mrs H's half bottle of chablis.

We think herself's colleagues are going to love it.


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  1. John

    Thanks for this. It seems very similar to my own experience at Mr Tom's a little under a year ago

    I love the idea of Yorkshire "feta" Made out of whippet milk, perhaps?

    Service was very good when we were there, but the food was very hit & miss

    Where else at this kind of level would you recommend in Manchester? I have to come up again at some point later in the year.


    15 Replies
    1. re: Simon Majumdar


      In terms of gastropub, the Ox on Liverpool Road is usually worthwhile. Other than Sam & Tom's there isnt much else in the centre.

      I'm the first to accept that we are are in real need of some top-flight restauants, but we still have some very good mid-range stuff. However, most of my regular haunts are to the south of the centre and my trips to the bright lights tend to be to Chinatown.

      Is there anything that takes your fancy? If so, I'll have a more detailed think.


      1. re: Simon Majumdar

        An overnight thought is "Choice", like the Ox also around Castlefield. It is still on my "must go" list but it comes highly recommended by folk whose judgement I would normally trust.

        You'll see below that the menu is packed with local/free range meat. Somewhere that pays this much attention to its shopping can't mess up the cooking too much. Surely?

        I also see they are having a winter sale which brings the price of, say, the Herdwick lamb rump down from £18.95 to a bargain £12.50.


        1. re: Harters

          I have had good meals at Sam's - it's where I take American visitors who want to try traditional british food. I have to say, though, that I think it's sorely overpriced for what it is. I would definitely not describe it as "mid-range". We could use a lot more genuinely mid-range places in manchester.

          1. re: Yankunian

            My current "value for money" rave is the Bay Tree in Cheadle. Three courses will set you back about £25.

            And I can walk home afterwards.

            1. re: Harters

              The Cedar Tree in the Northern Quarter is a great deal too - and the food is lovely though the service is barking.

              1. re: Yankunian

                I love the Cedar Tree too - when I went there, they couldn't have been more welcoming, and the owner (I think) showed us his photos of the Lebanon - but there have been quite a few times when I've wanted to eat there at lunch time and they have been closed, even though they are normally open. I think they are just a bit chaotic ...

                1. re: Theresa

                  Definately another vote for the Cedar Tree for Lebanese if, as Theresa says, it's open. I've rather given up on them for lunch and, if I'm in that part of town, I make for one of the Asian caffs. "Rice & three" for under four quid can't be bad.

                  I guess if we're trying to sort Simon out with somewhere in the city centre, we shouldnt rule out the Market Restaurant, either.

                  As above though, I live south of Manchester and rarely venture further into the city than the Didsbury/Chorlton fringes and for anyone "game on" for a 10 minute cab ride from the centre, this is where the better food is to be found, in my view.

                  I've just bought the new edition of the City Life Guide and it reminds me how many places I wanted to try in 2007 that are still on my 2008 list. Anyone been to the Brasserie at the Malmaison - another place seemingly having a committment to local produce?


                  1. re: Harters

                    Not been to the Manchester one, but have been to the Liverpool one, and I was disappointed. The cocktails are great in the bar, but the restaurant, in my opinion, is one of those places which is not as good as it thinks it is. The staff didn't know what the dishes on the menu included. I ordered a chicken dish and the meat tasted as though it had been reheated - that flavour is unmistakeable. Either that or it had been kept warm for ages under a lamp. Another really irritating thing was that I asked if any spuds came with it - she said not, so I ordered some, only to find that the dish came with mashed potato . The best bit was that, when I said that I didn't want to pay for the new potatoes I had ordered, as she had mislead me, she didn't bring them over anyway, as a gesture of good will - she left them in the kitchen. When I queried it, she said that they would probably be thrown out. I'm not one of those people who is overly fussy about service, but if they are setting themselves up as a fancy place to eat, then they need to stop being so cheap!

                    Sorry if this is more information than you need to know!

                    1. re: Theresa

                      Thanks, Theresa. I might still give it a shot - what with it saying it majors on Cheshire produce. But I can do without the sort of attitude you experienced.


                      1. re: Harters

                        Let us know what it's like. I might be tempted to give the Liverpool one another try, as the cocktails were so good ....

                        1. re: Theresa

                          the city inn over the road form the malmaison is a very pleasant environment and offers reall value.

                          the chef is david gayle who mas moved around manchester somewhat but has good pedigree including Soho House NY.

                          perhaps in light of this Malmaison have raised their game as the last visit i paid was fair to middling.

                          all the way back to the top, i think Sam's is no nonsense but hardly life chnaging and the Ox is a little below Sam's.

                          Juniper would be the king of the molecular gastronomy category in Cheshire. howvere the service and front of house is claustrophobically old school silver service french. i cant breathe.

                          1. re: pecandanish

                            "kphilbin" gives an excellent parody of a Juniper menu description on this thread:-


                            Utterly accurate. I've so had it with foams!

                            1. re: Harters

                              Sam's Chop house is fairly reliable, i've always had a decent meal there, but you don't exactly run from the place wanting to tell all friends what a fabulous evening you've had!

                              Despite this though good service and decent fare.

                              1. re: Debbie6

                                Uh oh. We are planning our first trip to Juniper for a special occasion meal next month - I am not into the foam/veloute/crumb sweeper school of restaurant generally, but we figured it's the only michelin starred resto in Manchester and we'd better try it. Hmmm.

                                1. re: Yankunian

                                  You'll enjoy Juniper (and you'll enjoy joining our whinge afterwards). To be fair, some of the flavours the man manages to get on a plate are just fab. Mrs H continues to rave about the place at any given opportunity.

                                  We went on one of the "special" nights where the price had been significantly discounted. Dunno if it effects the general quality though.


      2. Well, Mrs H entertained her European colleagues at Sam's the other night. She had reserved a table for 15 and, when she phoned, the restaurant had said that folk must order in advance as they were "a group". At which point, she said "Eh? I'll not make the reservation then". Surprise, surprise, the restaurant then relented on its "policy".

        She reports it went reasonably well. Folk liked the environment and being able to get a drink in a "British pub" before eating. A couple found the food to be a bit heavy for their tastes but the northern Europeans thought it fine (except for the lone vegetarian who didnt seem too keen on her/his meal).