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Mar 26, 2013 02:34 PM

[Manchester, city centre] Albert Square Chop House

I bet they just wanted to call it Albert’s, to tie in with their other two places – Sam’s & Tom’s, just down Cross Street. But that name has been well taken in the city centre by Albert’s Shed.

It’s in a fine building , dating to the mid 1860s, and known as the Memorial Hall (commemorating the formation of the Unitarian Church, apparently). There’s the bar on the ground floor and the restaurant in the basement. Now, I’m not a great fan of restaurants in basements. They always seem to lack a little sparkle – although Sam’s Chop House does occupy a basement and I like it there. I think the intended “Victorian” feel works there – and I reckon it probably worked even better back in the days when you could smoke in bars and restaurants. However, the Albert Square affair is very much a Modern Brit sort of thing, so I’m back to not being that keen on the room.

Food was pretty much OK, although it didn’t particularly deliver on its marketing of “Classic British cooking with a modern twist”.

I kicked off with a beetroot salad – some cooked and cooled chunks of an orange one and a normal one, dotted with blobs of Sandham’s curd cheese, matchsticks of apple and frisee. A little dressing of, erm, something indeterminate that I might have been able to identify had there been more of it. It was, as I say, pretty much OK. I’ve had the curd cheese before – it appears in a cheese & onion pie at Nigel Haworth’s pubs - and it’s very soft and mild; similar, if you will, to a mozzarella.

Potted smoked mackerel formed the better half of the other starter. That’s not to say that the fillet of cured mackerel wasn’t good. It was – just not as tasty as the pate. There was a slice of toast and some shavings of pickled cucumber which worked well.

Homity pie is a dish you aren’t going to come across too often on restaurant menus, so it was nice to have a try at it - we usually buy homity pies at Bakewell farmers market. There was good crisp pastry. And a slightly overly wet filling of Kirkham’s Lancashire, potato and onion which still had a good flavour to it. The server suggested that my partner would probably want a side order as the pie wasn’t very big and it just came with a little salad leaf as a garnish. So, that’ll be an order of chips, then, please. The server was right and the chips were good.

Another thing you’re not going to see too often on a menu is hogget. This was slices of rump of High Peak hogget, supplied by Mettrick’s of Glossop so I knew it was likely to be good stuff. And it was. Roasted just right, to my mind – hogget needs to be on its way to medium – and full of flavour. Some crushed garlic new potatoes, wilted spinach, a couple of roasted garlic cloves, a few sautéed girolles and a well made gravy completed the plate. All in all a really enjoyable plate of Sunday dinner, served midweek.

So, if I want the chophouse experience, I’ve now got three possibilities. I’m not at all sure that I’d be in a rush to come back to this one. It’s just not as much fun as Sam’s.

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  1. Harters, you've been misinformed on the Memorial Hall. It commemorates the Act of Uniformity (1662 if anyone cares) when the Presbyterian, Baptist and other churches were founded in England. It commemorates the founding of these non-conformist churches.

    Back to the review - is this new one basically a posh Sam's where you can take your relatives who don't want to go to a pub?

    2 Replies
    1. re: mr_gimlet

      Mr G

      Many thanks. I knew I should have Googled before writing :-0

      Yes. Posh Sam's is a reasonable description. Although with the bar being on the ground floor and the restaurant in the basement, you dont have the proximity of the two that you get at Sams. Have you been to Tom's (as they are now marketing Mr Thomas' Chop House)? That's defintely a pub with Sam's food.

      By the by, I was disappointed that "Al's" (as it's sure to become known as) didnt have either the corned beef hash or the steak & kidney pudding on the menu. Perhaps indicative that it's taking a more poncy stance.

      As I suggest in my final paragraph, if you like Sam's, you've really no need to try Al's.

      1. re: Harters

        Oh, I quite liked the room. Helped certainly by the fact we got seated in one of the cosy booths, despite being a two. There's some interesting (selling) art on the walls too, don;t know whether that's a regular thing.

        Starters were pickled herring/anya pots/mustard/dill/chicory and scallops/belly pork. Both jolly dee. Himself had a hefty bacon chop (I'd have gone with the Barnsley or the veal meself) which came with some rather parsimonious chips, mushroom and tomato and no saucing. I had the famous corned beef hash. Great big dollop of the stuff with a soft poached egg to stir through. My it was gorgeous! (Wo)manfully I managed to finish the lot. A little side salad of fennel/grapefruit/endive.

        We were never going to manage puddings after all that so had a nice little plate of chocs to close.

        I really liked it - but then I've not been to the other Chophouses, so am just reacting to the menu and ambience in isolation. Service was twinkly but speedy (apart from when they put vodka in my Virgin Mary!) Will definitely be back next time we're at the Palace as it worked really well as a post theatre stop.