Abel’s Dining Room, Manchester
Fed up of dirty burgers? A spruced up addition to the Northern Quarter offers a relaxed alternative
Since its opening in December 2014, the Abel Heywood Pub has garnered a quiet appreciation among NQ dwellers. An impressive bar menu, a more-than-fine selection of craft beers and niche quiz nights (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, anyone?) has ensured a steady flow of feet, but it’s the latest venture that has this writer’s attention.
Abel’s Dining Room aims to take the venue’s food offering literally to the next level. One floor up, and headed by Abode alumnus Jamie Dargie, the new concept is a celebration of modern British fare. In a Manchester food scene that's thriving, but dominated by the Dirty Food crowd and polished fine-dining, Abel’s is a welcome addition that sits somewhere nicely in the middle. Think the relaxed vibe of your local with the added bonus of clever, thought-out food that you eat with an actual knife and fork.
Not to simplify what's on offer here; the menu boasts an impressive variety of local ingredients, cooked in ways you don't often see in these parts. They make things easier for you by offering choices from a fixed menu – four starters, six mains (including two fish and a veggie option), and four desserts. On this particular night, we’re given the chance to sample a bit of everything (#blessed), and steel ourselves for the inevitable loosening of top buttons.
Pan-seared scallops arrive alongside homemade bacon frazzles – a match made in umami heaven, though a little on the cold side. Traditionalists will enjoy the Jerusalem artichoke soup, with its perfect consistency and charming little pesto crostini, but it’s the braised pig cheeks that shine here; juicy, rich and melt-in-the-mouth delicious. Babe beware, this chef knows his pork.
Onward, then, to mains. My companion had been eyeing up the bone-in pork loin from the offset, and is pleasantly surprised with the apple brandy purée and a baby toffee apple that come with. The roasted chicken will no doubt be a crowd-pleaser, served with smoked bacon, nicely caramelised shallots and a slurry of red wine, but let's take a moment to remember the braised short-rib of beef. Marinated in beef liquor and cooked with the same magical touch as those pig cheeks, they disappear in no time at all. A special shout out to my girl, the confit of salmon, who definitely held her own among the carnivore heavyweights thanks to a hot tartare sauce and buttery braised potatoes.
The jeans are tightening at this point, but dessert is the best part of any meal (these hips don’t lie), and we soldier on to the next course with a bravery that is frankly admirable. 'The Manchester Plate' is a miniature tribute to the city’s food dynasty, with a Vimto pavlova, Manchester tart and Eccles cake that bring massive smiles to our faces. They're all easily swallowed in one mouthful (by this mouth, anyway) so are a great option if you can't face anything too heavy.
A spiced apple crumble with a disappointing granola topping might upset some, but fear not, butter lovers: the iced peanut butter parfait is here for you. And for those not big on desserts, the three of you can enjoy a local cheese board, complete with jellied quince and water biscuits.
It's not often you can eat out for less than £50 these days, but that's the beauty of a fixed menu – two courses for £18.95 or three for £22.95 and you're winning. The focus here, like all good eateries, is on seasonal produce, so you can expect a regular rotation of dishes, all alongside a cask ale and your victory prize for outstanding Buffy knowledge.
If you liked Abel's Dining Room, try:
Mr Thomas's Chop House, Manchester
The Monro, Liverpool
The Abel Heywood, 38 Turner St, Manchester, M4 1DZ