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57 Thomas Street, Marble Bar, review

Jonathan Schofield admires very very much a new tiny tot with a big heart

Written by . Published on May 12th 2010.

57 Thomas Street, Marble Bar, review

You can't help be charmed as soon as you walk in. There's a big food blackboard on the right, a florid design on the wall to the left, a cracking central table and the piece de resistance four barrels of the good stuff on the bar.

The cheeses were good too, with a way more adventurous range than any to be found in any other foodie bar. We had smoked Northumberland, organic Stilton, Pyrenean goats cheese and one of the kings of cheese, Epoisse. I loved this lot so much I forgot to take a picture and massacred them – hence the sad photo.

I confess I was worried for this place when it was proposed. I thought it might be a bit half arsed, a bit can't be bothered. The problem with the eponymous 57 Thomas Street, offspring of The Marble Arch pub on Rochdale Road, was scale. After all Love Saves the Day never worked there because, in part, it simply couldn't turn over enough business. But this time, following a slight expansion of the space, it feels right. After an hour of cracking bar food and excellent beers I was totally won over.

Massacred cheese plate

I drank No14 beer (£2.70) which at 4.3% and straight from the barrel was a tough, almost brutish ale with just enough sweetness to take off the edge. Brilliant. After the food, I had a meeting in 57 Thomas Street, talking about Lloyd Grossman's imminent appearance in Manchester playing lead guitar in a punk band – I kid you not. During the discussion I sampled the loose leaf Assam tea. Oh Lloyd, sing a song for mellowness and flavour would ye, to the tune of Ever Fallen in Love perhaps?

For food I had the tabouleh and lemon chicken (£7.50) and the potted rabbit with bread and salad (£5.95). For afters I had four cheeses for £5.95. My guest had the ham, cheese, tomato and wholegrain mustard sandwich (£4.95).

It was all good. Ken Calder the chef was in. After I'd finished I asked him about the food. He was passionate, he was expansive. Suns set, days passed, 2010 raced into 2011. Thanks I said.

Actually I'm exaggerating. Ken knows his stuff and loves his job. “In the tabouleh we've got tomato flesh (that's what he said), bulgar wheat, mint, parsley, spring onion, red onion, nutmeg, pancetta, balsamic, chicken of course.....” And so on. All this added up to conflation of splendidly fresh, zingy, zesty grub which if I were to be super critical just needed to be a third bigger.

The rabbit was even better. Ken told me how it had been poached and then cooked for twelve hours, how it had been mixed in a bowl over a pot of steaming water, how the flesh had fallen away, how the stock had been reduced. It was mesmeric listening to the man. Cooking is alchemy, turning base ingredients into food gold. This was the best potted rabbit I can remember having.

Barrels of goodnessBig sandwich

The sandwich was simpler, exactly as described. Go for the non-sandwiches if you want the better flavours. But as with everything here from smoked haddock to smoked ham, from crab to Assam, from bread to beer the ingredients are all well chosen and little stars in their own right. The bread really was standout.

Wall design copied from the Decadence stout bottle

The cheeses were too, with way more adventurous range than any to be found in any other foodie bar. We had smoked Northumberland, organic Stilton, Pyrenean goats cheese and one of the kings of cheese, Epoisse. I loved this lot so much I forgot to take a picture and massacred them – hence the sad photo. The organic Stilton was as good as the Epoisse by the way.

Two things to remember amongst my unbridled enthusiasm. Most of the dishes are small and light and cold, prepared round the corner at the Marble Arch pub. So don't expect a rib-eye steak or such. Second thing is, and I told them off for this, there are no proper desserts apart from bought-in flapjacks and pain au chocolates. This could be a good thing though, because it might force you onto the exquisite cheeseboard.

These points aside the whole experience is so honest and genuine that it wins big plus points. The design is sharp as a pin too. A sweet idea is take the pattern from one of the labels on the Marble's bottled products, Decadence, and then tilt it at the angle of the famous dipping floor in the parent pub, the Marble Arch. Even the branding does a job. I've always loved the simplicity of the Marble branding. Outside the bar on a A-board people are enticed in with the simple message Beer, Food, Food, Beer.

Pattern on the wall leans the same was as the Marble Arch pub

The only place in which the owners have become boring is in the title of their new baby, 57 Thomas Street. Using the address as the name is so last century. They should follow their own A-board and called the place 'Beer and Food'.

Opening hours are vague from ten am up until midnight depending on business. They're seeing how the land lies. If you get chance aim somewhere in the middle of these hours and get down there.

Potted Rabbit
Rating: 16/20
Breakdown: 4.5/5 food
4/5 drinks
4/5 service
3.5/5 ambience
Address: 57 Thomas Street
Northern Quarter
0161 832 0521

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: Gordo gets carried away

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

Scott NeilMay 12th 2010.

sounds great. the city centre DEFINITELY needs more bars/pubs pouring straight from the barrel.

in fact would this be the first one, certainly first regular one?

regardless, bravo Marble.

IanMay 13th 2010.

Gravity fed ale! At last! Whoop!

RegMay 13th 2010.

went to the new Marble last week and the ale was AWFUL it was flat and looked like dishwater. I'm sticking to the old Marble until they sort it out

AgricolaMay 13th 2010.

Reg. That's gravity fed for you.

FrancisWMay 13th 2010.

3 of us walked in there last night, 2 excited as we live close by & wanted to try the new place, 1 as she is an ale fan. About 5 seconds later we walked back out very smartly as the place smelled awful!

ElisabethMay 13th 2010.

Went last Friday, lovely atmosphere, great staff and our pints of Pint went down well. No bad smells that day... However, I was not impressed with the platter quantity for £12.95 (4 cheeses & 4 meats.) I do appreciate they were good quality and a bit dearer, but the four smidges of cheese brought to us on an enormous plate felt like a bit of an insult. Seriously, one of them was about one bite's worth. We were only brought four little slices of bread and a tiny pot of butter too. Sorry to say, but it was stingy. I will go back for drinks, but I'll spend my food money elsewhere.

BoultonMay 13th 2010.

They were small pieces of cheese because they are exquisite example of the cheese craft (not Kraft). The beer is craftsman quality, the food ingredients too - this is why they cost the price they do. You're not expected to fill up on the cheese just savour it. Love it.

AnonymousMay 13th 2010.

It's way too bright ... please tone down the lighting.

Gareth NorrisMay 13th 2010.

Proper pumps for teh beer wouldnt be too much to ask for. As for the table in the middle, this results in you only being able to get about 12 people in the place at any one time. Great in the summer cos you can stand outside, but what happens in winter, if you cant go in, people fight their way in. Closed by November without a rethink

Paul MastersMay 13th 2010.

"poached and then cooked for twelve hours"do the dingles off Emerdale do his poaching or dose he get up early and do the thieving himself

Mark MottramMay 13th 2010.

I love ken's food. I love Marble beer. nuff said

elisabethMay 14th 2010.

Boulton, well done... as soon as someone dares to talk about value for money, you always get someone stepping in here to chide the poster and make a dig which implies their gastronomic experience is limited to Greggs. Nice one.

BoultonMay 14th 2010.

Elisabeth do you love Greggs? I do. But I also love exquisite food.

Captain aleMay 15th 2010.

I'll be going along

elisabethMay 21st 2010.

Not clear what your point is Boulton. I love good food, but as I have a limited amount of money I can spend on eating out, I also have to choose carefully. Anyhow - we decided to give the cheese another go. This time we were served a decent portion - two to three bites' worth of each cheese and just enough bread and biscuits to go along with them. I was a happy customer. Just hope that staff will be trained to offer consistent portion sizes as this may have been the issue.

czechplzMay 22nd 2010.

I'm just wondering whether it matters that the place isn't officially called Beer and Food, as all of my friends seemed to think it was called that anyway!

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