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The Blue Pig Restaurant And Bar Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield appreciates a good grunt in the afternoon

Written by . Published on October 15th 2012.

The Blue Pig Restaurant And Bar Reviewed

THE BLUE PIG is easy-going. You can lose an afternoon or evening in there.

Let's separate the ways of the comforting mood it creates: dark wood contrasted with matt red seating, fancy fandangles hanging from the ceiling, a generous bar packed with enticing bottles, a deli counter bowing out from one wall, and double-height windows to watch the Northern Quarter swing by.

Deli counterDeli counter

The building is a nineteenth century warehouse and showroom. It's a beauty of brick, iron and stone. One of those perfect street enhancing Manchester structures that doesn't shout out 'look-at-me' but feels just right. 

The Blue Pig and a Red CarThe Blue Pig and a Red Car

As for food, The Blue Pig idea is for a short seasonal menu called 333 (featuring three starters, three mains and three puddings). There's also, according to proprietor, Cleo Farman, "Continental breakfasts, stuffed croissants and homemade breads and an in-house deli featuring pâté, terrines, pickles, chutneys and dips all made by ourselves with meats and cheeses from the best suppliers both locally and on the Continent".

The 333 menu costs £20. You can buy each course individually as well, and that's the price in brackets you'll see after the dish title. 

Of the starters, the Goose liver pâté (£6.95) with grape, chilli jam and toasted walnut bread was much better than the Sicilian style mussels (£5.95) even though the latter looked ten times better. 

Thin brothThin broth

The mussels were tiny. I needed a magnifying glass to find most of the molluscs in the shell. The bits and pieces with them, the tomatoes, garlic, parsley and so forth were fine, but the broth itself was as thin as an Ethiopian long-distance runner.

Half fill the bowl with broth dear Blue Pig please, let me spoon it up after the mussels have been devoured. Let me lift the bowl to my lips and glug like a Victorian workhouse child after an afternoon unpicking dead men's shrouds.

The pâté looked like clay and was rugged and genuine, with a good jam that delivered nice edge, and was complemented by a grainy, textured rustic bread. Good dish that one. Exactly what I wanted The Blue Pig to deliver. There's something very earthy about pâté, the clay colour was fine, the flavour spot on.

Clever p%26#226%3Bt%26#233%3BClever pate

We both had gilt head bream (£12.95) as a main because that's what tickled our fancy on the menu and we weren't willing to compromise with each other. This is the problem with the 333 menu - sometimes the choice isn't there for the punter, neither the lamb nor the risotto wooed us.

Fortunately the gilt head bream was fine, a skin-on tidy pair of fillets, full of exuberant fishiness, potatoes cooked properly and with - ooh baby - samphire. I'm a sucker for samphire. I could eat a bag of the stuff and then keel over salt poisoned.

On fire with samphireOn fire with samphire

Samphire is one of those coastal plants when in just one bite you're suddenly transported to some wild strand with breakers smashing against the rocks.

The pudding of blueberry panna cotta (£4.95) was nice. It was sweet and smooth and livened by the berries, but it's a bit hard to remember now. It was sort of functionally elegant but lacking in character, like a minor actor in a Downton Abbey scene. There was something of that about the food as a whole.

Panna cottaPanna cotta

The Blue Pig is a real charmer. A warm, friendly bar/restaurant that feels a bit like a Dutch 'brown cafe'.

The food is interesting enough if you're passing and you want an easy-going place in which to relax and chat. But it doesn't stand out from most of mid-range Manchester dining - although the pâté showed potential. Yet why should it have to stand out? There's a virtue to simplicity. Every kitchen and every chef trying to shout 'we're the best' and failing gives me a migraine. 

The 333 idea is limited though.

There needs to be more choice for guests. 444 maybe. Even better 666, then everybody can make a Beast of themselves. That could be a devilishly clever menu, a revelation. 

Certainly (and seriously), an upping of the range would offer more options for customers and allow more freedom in the kitchen.

Back to our visit. Sometimes dining out is about incidents.

Two Italian ladies came in as we were dining and sat down next to us. Turned out they'd brought a party of kids over from Naples to learn English in Manchester. They'd been surprised that the English spoken here wasn't exactly the same as the Cambridge Educational Language series they'd been listening to in the classroom back home. 

"That 'u' in 'bus' and 'must' is so deep here," said one. 

But they'd loved Manchester, even though they'd stayed in the Britannia Hotel. True, some of the kids had been reduced to tears when they'd gone to a City match and seen Balotelli, but for once at a City game they were tears of joy not frustration. 

"What do think of this place?" I asked the ladies about The Blue Pig. 

"It is so lovely, so very comfortable," the lady on the right below had said. "Nice place to spend time and take a coffee."

Italian visitorsItalian visitors, with the best smiles in Manchester this year

We went for the wine - there's a good range of spirits, cocktails and beers too.

The Picpoul de Pinet at £8.10 a big glass, or £24 a bottle, was a clear-headed, full-of-itself darling, that was perfect with the fish.

It'd be nice one dark afternoon to take a bottle of Picpoul into one of those booths by the window and compose bad poetry with a leather bound notebook and an elegant fountain pen.

The Blue Pig feels that sort of place. It exudes comfort, even self-indulgence - the churros on the blackboards hint at that and I must have some next time. Gernerally though, the food is part of the experience, no more.

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield


The Blue Pig, 69 High Street, Northern Quarter, City       

Rating: 13/20 

Food: 6/10
Service: 3/5
Ambience: 4/5

PLEASE NOTE: Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away.

The Blue Pig itself

The Blue Pig itself

The menu - annotatedThe menu - annotated

The bar


The bar

Some specialsSome specials

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27 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousOctober 15th 2012.

I still don't get this place. It's too small and has too many tables to be comfortable. 2 glasses of wine and 2 croissants will cost you just shy of £30 here too. And a fiver for toast and jam?. Seriously now, how/where is that justified?.

Jeremy SmithOctober 15th 2012.

Anonymous, the size and number of tables gives it an atmosphere, something which I'm sure the writer would agree on. As for your £30, I assume you mean two large glasses of a good wine plus the Smoked Haddock & Egg Crossiants ? Pricing is on a par with the rest of the NQ, after all you can pay £8 for an (albeit very nice) Earl Grey & piece of cake in Teacup.

PS It's £2.95 for Toast & Jam, good value as the bread is all baked in house.

Dan O'tooleOctober 15th 2012.

I have to agree and disagree Jeremy. Whether or not the writer agrees or not, a good point is made re the cost of things here which are essentially bread, eggs and fish. If they are locally sourced then great, but maybe the savings should be passed on to the customer rather than charging a premium for basics, regardless of how they are presented.

StephOctober 15th 2012.

Glad somebody else thinks that the 333 menu is too limited. I've been in The Blue Pig for drinks a few times and want to try the food but I'm yet to find three courses that I'd actually like to eat.
I think that they may need to continue down the deli board route like Bakerie to become as popular as a restaurant as it is as a bar.

food for thoughtOctober 15th 2012.

The pate is hidden under a piece of peashoot

the Whalley RangerOctober 15th 2012.

And here we have a Nobel prize worthy economics blog, where the consumer finally grasps that continued QE will follow thru' as inflation.

pollolocoOctober 16th 2012.

I'm still reeling from the fact that they stayed at the Brittania!!!

ChrisOctober 16th 2012.

The issue I have with this place is £5 for a bottle of Brooklyn beer, you will struggle to find a more expensive beer in town, £4 for a pint of Brooklyn over the road at Trof, under £4 a bottle at Southern 11, saw it for under £4 at another bar in the NQ over the weekend. It's not like Brooklyn is a hard beer to source these days, loads of places sell it at reasonable prices. BrewDog don't charge those prices for their bottles and they openly say you pay extra for their beer because of the way it's made, quality etc.

I'd also say the manager of the place is a bit of a idiot, a guy was drinking there one afternoon, minding his own business, then took his wine glass to the bar and as he was leaving asked what time they shut, as he was leaving the manager/owner said "thank you don't come again" under his breath, with that type of attitude you can't really wish the place to do well.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousOctober 17th 2012.

Absolutely agree. I saw the £5 Brooklyn and assumed it would be an oversized bottle or something and couldn't believe it when the regular size arrived. Haphazard service and an OK deli board. Won't be going back.

LegolocksOctober 16th 2012.

I was very disappointed at this place, without even getting as far as the food. I booked a table for an evening meal with friends. Turned up and waited to be greeted and shown to my table. Promptly ignored for 5 minutes by the 2 waiting staff in an almost empty restaurant. Walked out and went elsewhere as I could only imagine how the service would continue.

JustinOctober 16th 2012.

I've eaten at The Blue Pig a few times and have always enjoyed it. Great decor and atmosphere.
The service can sometimes be a bit too laid back for me - but if you're in no rush then it's fine.
If the 333 menu is too limiting for me, then I tend to mix & match with the other food on the menu's. Wine & cocktails are lush - my favourite is the Charlie Chaplin - sloe gin based yumminess! :)
I would definitely recommend it!

Kate HarrisonOctober 16th 2012.

Churros & chocolate were delicious and a reasonably priced treat. We had one between two - only because we had already had some at the Food Festival.

AnonymousOctober 16th 2012.

Liked the decor and wines a decent price. Had one of the sharing platters, quantity and quality overpriced at £12.95. We complained to the person who looked like the manager who agreed the hummous wasn't up to standard. Still ended up paying full price.

JOctober 16th 2012.

I agree that the 333 menu is limited, and also that the croissants etc seem overpriced BUT have visited quite a few times now and the deli boards are really good.

They have some combinations that they have selected themselves but there doesn't seem to be any cost saving in that so I always just make my own by choosing maybe a meat, a cheese, a pickle and a type of bread from their long list of ingredients. Everything I've had has been tasty and generous portions and has worked out generally to cost about £6 or £7 per board which I think is decent value. Perhaps they should just stick to offering the deli boards as I think they work really well.

Would agree with some comments on service though; there's a bit of confusion when you walk in on whether it is table service or not and not all staff seem the quickest on reacting to you wanting to order, pay etc.

Kylie ToftOctober 16th 2012.

I love The Blue Pig, as a real 'picker' the deli boards are perfect for me and really delicious. The white chocolate and blueberry cheesecake is to die for...I still dream about it and wake up in the early hours craving it. Lush!

Nick WestOctober 17th 2012.

Am I the only one aghast at the £0.75 for butter?

I'm assuming this is going to be no more than a knob, perhaps two if we're lucky. I think this little detail more than anything is indicative of the pricing in this place. Which would be one thing if it was wowing people in every department, yet it's clearly doing anything but.

4 Responses: Reply To This...
Dan O'tooleOctober 17th 2012.

Great shout Nick. 75p is a disgrace. Charging for condiments full stop is in my opinion, a joke.

NazcaOctober 18th 2012.

I noticed that straight away, it would certainly make me hesitate to go there.

If they feel they can charge you for butter then they really don't love their food enough.

AVOOctober 18th 2012.

Is it 75p for a knob of butter or for a butter croissant?

Nick WestOctober 18th 2012.

Avo - you tell me. Cos it looks like most of a quid for a bit of butter from where I'm standing.

You may well be butter informed.

Val MurrayOctober 17th 2012.

We recently tried the 7 course taster menu which BP had planned specially for the Food and Drink Festival. It was superb: great combinations of tastes and textures, not over facing amounts and interesting wines to accompany. Only thing I wasn't too keen on was malt whiskey with the cheese. We whiled away 3 1/2 hours over it which also says something for the service and ambience. This beat hands down all the reduced prices and single dishes other venues offered for the festival.

Dan O'tooleOctober 17th 2012.

This place is clearly not pleasing people. There are 2 threads in Mancon about this place, and both seem to mirror eachother in terms of dissapointing experiences. Not the best really.

DOctober 18th 2012.

Terrible service, poor food won't be going back.

AnonymousOctober 18th 2012.

6 of us visited this place for drinks last Friday for the first and last time. My friend drinks dry martini and as it is under 20% alcohol volume should be served as a 50 ml measure unless advised otherwise via the price list. It as being sold at 25 ml measure and when we pointed it out to the very unpleasant and aggresive manager he told us he was selling at 25 ml. When we pointed out that he did not display a price list advising this his reply was I don't have a smoke alarm or fire escape either so what! It was very short sighted of him as there was already 3 pints pulled on the bar which ofcourse we left and walked out. If you want to be insulted visit this place otherwise leave it well alone. I cannot comment on food as we only had drinks.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousOctober 20th 2012.

Another example of the I manage a bar therefore I am god phenomenon. we just dont get service in the UK.

AnonymousOctober 25th 2012.

Ate here last Saturday evening - the 333 menu. The food was very poor and the portions miniscule. Liked the atmosphere and look of the place and the staff were pleasant. Maybe it's better of being a bar. With food as tasteless and tiny as this, it will not survive long. (Tasty Tuesdays anyone?...)

AnonymousNovember 23rd 2012.

Had drinks here last Saturday with friends. The manager spoke to one of the waitresses like a dog (this isn't the first time I've witnessed this in there). I asked her whilst he was standing there why she put up with it. She later came to our table close to tears to thank us for sticking up for her. I won't be going back because of the managers attitude. I told the waitress to look on MC and read some of the comments. I am shocked that Cleo has employed a bully as a manager.

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