[Manchester, city centre] Sam's Chop House
As you walk down the few steps from the street into Sam’s you’re met by a warmth that has you looking round for the coal fire that would have been here in Victorian times. You’ve entered into the pub bit which honours a past famous customer – L S Lowry – with a life-sized bronze of him sitting at the bar. The restaurant bit is at the back with the decoration very reminiscent of what you might expect a Victorian pub dining room to look like – all dark brown tiles on the walls and elaborate cornice work. The latter certainly looks genuine period, although I’d be much less sure of the tiles.
The menu reflects classic British cooking but made for the 21st century. And we caught them just after new dishes had been introduced, so the serving staff were interested in how we found them. For instance, a game pie was very much as you’d expect a pork pie to be. Hand raised hot water pastry, encasing the meat which was let down by a lack of seasoning and which would be improved by having the filling more in small chunks than the big blob of meat you get in a pork one. It comes with some pickled mushrooms and thinly sliced shallot. The other starter was a plate of well known combinations – lightly cooked scallops (perhaps just a tad too lightly), excellent black pudding, cauliflower puree. And a couple of shards of pickled cauliflower just to perk things up.
For mains, I went with the one dish that’s always been on the menu whenever I’ve been here – corned beef hash. They say it’s a total of ten days in the making. I’ve no idea what processes are gone through in that time but, once on the plate, it’s a very savoury mound of meat, which sits on sauté potatoes and creamed onions. On top of that, rashers of crisp bacon and a poached egg. It’s a delight – with nothing poncy about it. Equally un-poncy, was a Lancashire cheese and onion pie. They own up to the fact this is bought in (supplied by the Great North Pie Co – which is just up the road from me in posh Bramhall). It’s a belter – all butter pastry, Dewlay’s Tasty Lancashire, sweet caramelised onion. And it gets better – it comes with chips – proper chip sized chips, perfectly fried to that sort of slightly floppy stage that you want from a chip. And homemade baked beans.
Now, by this time, we were no longer hungry. But do we want dessert? Oh, yes, we do. That’ll be rice pudding & berry jam – whisking Mrs H back to memories of childhood – although much better made than her mother’s efforts. And, a new one for me – parsnip cake. Think a steamed carrot cake and you’ll get the idea of texture. And, as with carrot cake, the parsnip is contributing more by way of background flavour and moistness. Comes with custard, of course. Coconut infused custard. I’m not sure I was dead keen on this but it wasn’t offensive.
Good espresso to finish.
By the by, there’s a good wine list and, being a pub, a good range of beers – the smell of which hits you as you walk in around the time you feel the warmth. There’s their own brew – Sam’s Bitter and a couple of other bitters/IPA from Holts – the brewery within easy walking distance of the pub.
There's now three options in the city:
The original Sam's.
The more pubby Mr Thomas' Chop House, across the road on Cross Street.
And the new Albert Square Chop House on, erm, Albert Square.
Similar menus. I'm not too keen on the Albert Square one - it seems more "generic Modern Brit" than the others - although that's the one that gets in the Good Food Guide