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Sunday Lunch at the Lowry

Sunday is the day when we all used to be at our Mum’s for a blinding Sunday roast; the best meal of the week.....

Published on January 7th 2005.

Sunday Lunch at the Lowry
I have a problem with Sunday Lunch in the North West. It’s the day when we all used to be at our Mum’s for a blinding Sunday roast; the best meal of the week. Yes, we all know about the French and how they know how to have a good lunch, but our Mum’s Sunday roast, especially the gravy, spuds and Yorkshire pudding could beat the pants off them.
Nowadays Sunday Lunch seems to be falling by the wayside. People are going out more. But can the restaurants cook as well as Mum? In my opinion, far too many of them seem to believe that the paying public will put up with portion control, poor ingredients and an inability to make anything like a good Yorkshire pudding. As for roast spuds, all the buggers need to do is read Delia. But they still come up with spuds that would have had Granpa divorcing Granma. They seem to think that our taste buds are controlled by a £10.95 all in price. They aren’t. And live music isn’t the answer either.
So, Gordo and his team are on a mission to find the best five Sunday lunches in Manchester. Our very own Sheelagh Connolly has reported Harvey Nichols a couple of weeks ago. Looks like its going straight in - Click here. I went to the Lowry last Sunday with my pal Lawrence Millet, Brother Chris Garner and Manchester Confidentials MD Andy Mullett and his partner, Denise.
The original chef, David Wolf has returned, and currently is writing a column in the Evening News on Saturday. His recipes look sensible. Unlike good old Paul Kitching from Juniper who seems to have been confused with his residency on the same pages and appeared to be concentrating on giving us an art class, bless ‘im. So, off I went. The Lowry is connected to the right side of the tracks by a footbridge from the Deansgate side, and I walked over that way to save me getting depressed by entering through the bomb site side along with the £7 that our Chris and Andy were charged for parking. Bit cheeky that considering it’s a bomb site.
The building looks at it’s best on my approach, it’s a cool piece of architecture. Weirdly, someone has built a block of flats to the left which look like a fifteen story grey Australian sheep shearing station. Maybe the people who did the feasablity study for it thought there was a market for flats suitable for manic depressives, having listened to too many Smiths albums. To the right, we have The Edge, which is starting to look finished and very smooth, feasibility people of a somewhat different mindset here, although we are led to believe, by their marketing, that as soon as you get the get the keys two blondes will jump into bed with you. Yeah.
I had a drink in the bar waiting for everyone. Service was first class. Good list of cocktails and other drinks. No northern beer, mind. Boo. They have a balcony running the length of the building at this level which is a real sun trap, probably the best ‘sit out’ area in town. People were eating happily from the bar meals menu out there. They looked seriously good. The restaurant was half full, not a bad count as it was one of Manchester’s quietest weekends. The strange thing was that when I booked, for twelve thirty, the girl on the phone said they were full but could fit me in at one thirty. It was only half full at twelve thirty when I arrived. I was looking for the female phone Pinnochio, but couldn’t spot her.
The restaurant is super cool, a bit too contemporary for some people’s taste (our Chris) but I think it’s great. Light and airy, comfy seats, great linen, including big napkins. Wine glasses that create micro climates inside. I started to have a warm feeling. This surely was going to be good experience.
Menu looks great. The chef has taken a brave move, and has decided not to go down market with a purely fixed price route. In fact, it was a cleverly thought out full menu, with something for everyone, including the Grandparents with ‘Roast Rib Eye of Beef on a Yorkshire Pudding'. The prices are high, not quite at dinner level. Would it be value for money? I started with hot smoked salmon on a bed of leaves from the heart of a gem lettuce. It was a thick tranche of very lightly smoked high quality salmon. Maybe a bit too lightly smoked for me, but I had smoked two Cohiba Robustos the night before. My mum would have loved it. A couple of omelletes were perfect. I think Lawrence and Andy should not have asked for the goat’s cheese to be left out, but that’s their choice. It takes a good chef to deliver a dish of this simplicity perfectly, Mr. Wolf and his team did well.
Lawrence and I shared the Coq au Vin, a dish for two. A whole bird. This is the way team, lets get back to the basics. It came in a copper pan, with steamed wild rice on the side. I ordered an extra of mashed potato. The rice was unceremoniously scraped out of its perfect little dish onto my plate. Maybe a mistake from service this, it should have been left on the side. My leg, thigh and breast (the bird’s, that is) had been placed delicately on the plate. Little button mushrooms and bacon lardons were winking at me. I was off. The raw ingredients were superb, the ‘coq’ cooked precisely to the point of moistness that I have only ever been served in Burgundy. This little bird had never seen the inside of a one cubic foot wire cage. If Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is correct in saying that livestock tastes better if it has a chilled out life, then surely we were eating some farmers wife’s spoiled pet rooster here. The rice again cooked to perfect creaminess. Sauce? Jus? Gravy? Whatever. Simply really great. If my mum had cooked this lot I would never have left home. The mash was better than mine.
And what of the rest? Roast Rib Eye of beef was declared the best ever. A Beef Wellington, sent back by my brother for being overcooked, was exchanged in minutes for one cooked to perfection. Our Chris was happy as Larry with it.
Puddings. I had cheese. A selection arrived, a little cold, but ten minutes later was eaten at the right temperature; easily a top three cheese turn out here. Two puddings, Denise actually went quiet for ten minutes while she ate hers..
The wine list is of exceptional quality. White, I chose a Starve Dog Lane ‘No Oaks’ 2003 from Oz. At £25, a good ‘un. Then the same producer, red, Shiraz, at a couple of quid. They must have been hitting the XXXX by the time they were sorting the red out down there, it wasn’t as good as the white. Went on to a Beaune Premier Cru, Dom. Caillot 1998 at £46. Excellent, warm nose, bit thin on the finish, but good at the price range.
This restaurant is easily in the top five to my mind. It may well be the best Sunday lunch in Manchester. (Or Salford). At £37 a head without the booze, in the high end price range. But, if you want that special Sunday lunch, go. Don’t bother with the £10.95 all in mallarky, stay in for the next three weeks, save up and go here. It’s well worth it. For the first time for ages in the North West, I ate a Sunday Lunch as good as my own, and this chef gets my backing.
It’s a Gordo Go.
15.5/20. I did have it down at 16, but have to drop a half point on reflection for Pinnochio, the overcooked beef Wellington and some (very slightly) confused service. I am going again and will review the score.
If some daft bird on the phone tells you its full at 1.00pm, but you can come at 1.30pm, ask her if her nose is growing.
The Lowry
Tel: 0161 8274000

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