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Allotment, Northern Quarter, Reviewed

Charming buckets but please smash the bartender's iPod, says David Blake

Written by . Published on September 11th 2014.

Allotment, Northern Quarter, Reviewed

BARTENDERs should absolutely, unequivocally, never, ever, ever be allowed anywhere near the playlist.


One of the most satisfying aspects of going out for a meal is that you're forced to sit down, speak, listen, laugh, share life. I'm also fond of the sound of my own voice and get pretty narky when I can't hear it.

If you’ve ever studied the bartender, not so much the inbetween-jobs or student bartender (although most start this way and become hooked on a luring cocktail of good tips, bad drugs and easy inter-bar sex) but the lasters and the lifers, you’ll know that most are as odd as dolphin’s slippers.

Twisted by terrible working hours, even worse diets and a fairly regular stream of abuse from Joe Public, bartenders forge insular tribes, fascinated by lime shavings, obscure Japanese bourbons and copying each other's funny haircuts (the first three people I knew with that Samurai top-knot were bartenders).

Hello handsomeHello handsome

Ungoverned by daylight hours and nine-to-five humdrummery, their judgements become distorted, and such, their personal tastes are never, ever to be trusted. Particularly when it comes to the music played on a restaurant playlist.

Manchester's most successful former 80s TGI Friday bartender, Tim Bacon (CEO and Co-Founder of all-conquering Manchester-based restaurant and bar group Living Ventures), knew better than anyone, as a former bartender, that the tastes of bartenders are not to be trusted.

So he created a remedy - It's called the LITMUS test (Lighting, Temperature, Music) - a strict guide to venue ambience enforced under pain of death across all his units.

And you can 100% guarantee that should Allotment have maintained a similar order, I wouldn't have had to listen to some tit from Linkin Park scream 'NUMMMMMMB' down my lughole for almost all of my pheasant course. This was Spinal Tap volume eleven. Even after they turned it down. Twice.


The thing is I want to like Allotment. I really do.

This latest in a stream of Northern Quarter openings is a start-up by two young entrepreneurial chaps who've worked their arses off in Vodka Revolution over the past five years in order to pool enough dough to go it alone. Good on 'em. That's what the Northern Quarter should be about (sadly less so now); youthful aspiration.

I even enjoy the bold interior, of that recent Botanist/Lawn Club vein, like Alan Titchmarsh has been forced on to some bastardized version of 60 Minute Makeover using only stuff gathered from his shedBuckets for light fittings, astroturfed corners, potted plants and white picket walls. Shamelessly twee fun and anything other than the city's default distressed NY warehouse fit-out is now refreshing.

But bugger me the racket. Whether it's the bartender's iPod, or Spotify, or whatever, kill it. One of the most satisfying aspects of going out for a meal is that you're forced to sit down, speak, listen, laugh, share life. I'm also fond of the sound of my own voice and get pretty narky when I can't hear it.

Olive plant potOlive plant pot

Soggy bottom goujonsSoggy bottom goujons

So when the food came - which it did promptly and delivered each time with charm and patience - it may as well have been perfectly seared Unicorn steak. I couldn't give it my full attention.

But I remember bits.

The bread and olive plant pot (£3.50) was a little treasure. Juicy olives, sun dried tomoatoes, cornichons and caperberries. A pot bursting with flavour which probably made them next to sod all in profit. A nice touch.

The following haddock goujons (£5.50) were less enjoyable, thick batter downplayed good fish and gave them soggy bottoms. The tartar was also suspiciously uniform, unchunky and probably bought in. C'mon chaps, homemade tartar takes ten minutes. The creamy garlic garden mushrooms (£5) were tasty but needlessly lost in a sea of soup.

A companion's courgette, feta and mint salad main (£7.50, main image) was sharp and fresh with beautiful ingredients but one-dimensional. It needed another flavour. The pheasant breast braised in cider with caramelised onion and smoked bacon (£13.95) was unremarkable, the dryness of the bacon had bullied much of the game bird's succulence. It looked a bit sad sat there on grannie's plate, like a bunch of grumpy kids forced to play together.

The pheasant breast braised in cider with caramelised onion and smoked baconThe pheasant breast braised in cider with caramelised onion and smoked bacon

Jarrah Wood ShirazJarrah Wood Shiraz

A reasonable £15 bottle of big-hitting Jarrah Wood Shiraz fought off apathy throughout. Sadly, desserts were passed before the cochlea had to uncoil itself and dive down the throat for some peace and quiet.

Allotment could be more. Perhaps it should decide whether it's more bar than restaurant or vice versa.

The chaps have grafted like navvies to turn this knackered old Nickleby's pub into something very handsome indeed but the specifics need knocking into shape. It's easy to get bogged down in menus and overlook the importance of ambience but you really don't need some Nu Metal nuisance blasting the bird off the end of your fork.

Follow @David8Blake on twitter.


Allotment, 24 Dale Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester M1 1FY.

0161 222 0580

Rating: 10/20
Food: 4/10 Unremarkable
Service: 4/5 Charming and attentive
Ambience: 2/5 Handsome but my ears have left the building
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, 18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away


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

AnonymousSeptember 11th 2014.

BARTENDERs should absolutely, unequivocally, never, ever, ever have been given an apostrophe.

1 Response: Reply To This...
EditorialSeptember 11th 2014.

Good spot eagle-eyed reader. Changed.

Helen TaylorSeptember 11th 2014.

How are they getting fresh pheasant in September????

1 Response: Reply To This...
MGSSeptember 11th 2014.

farmed in Iceland

Nick SpraggSeptember 11th 2014.

Been a few times already, a little hit and miss but hoping it's teething issues. I know the bar's small but when there's only one guy serving and three others either helping themselves to drinks, doing calligraphy on the promo board or generally just hipstering around it's a bit frustrating. Ales are good though. Will keep trying.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
Richard HJSeptember 11th 2014.

hipstering around. made me laugh. thanks.

MGSSeptember 11th 2014.

That's what you're paying for

Ghostly TomSeptember 15th 2014.

Can you explain. 'hipstering around', I really want to try it next time I'm out. What exactly do I have to do? I have skinny jeans and I can force out a beard if given a few days notice. What else?

Kath McCannSeptember 11th 2014.

I was there last night. Great atmosphere, great drinks, good banter with staff and I LOVED the music. Great new addition to the NQ

AnonymousSeptember 11th 2014.

This review makes me laugh! Why are people on this site so keen to moan! I was in there Friday night the place was heaving the music was fantastic & even in the hustle and bustle of such a busy night the food was still spot on! These guys have just opened and appear to be doing remarkably well. We ought to show support rather than knocking people down over negatives that can be resolved so easily!

6 Responses: Reply To This...
Simon TurnerSeptember 11th 2014.

Critics aren't in the business of "supporting" or "knocking", they report and assess. I thought the review was fair.

AnonymousSeptember 11th 2014.

Anon - so what you're saying is that reviewers should be saying that the food is good, even if it isn't?

Paul LintonSeptember 11th 2014.

I guess they mean that the writer suffers from poor writing skills! Things like the music can be turned down at a simple request to management?!? I'm sure David didn't ask for this to happen and if he did, he certainly doesn't mention this! I haven't been to a bar that refuses to turn it down at the customers request!

AnonymousSeptember 11th 2014.

QUOTE FROM ARTICLE: "I wouldn't have had to listen to some tit from Linkin Park scream 'NUMMMMMMB' down my lughole for almost all of my pheasant course. This was Spinal Tap volume eleven. Even after they turned it down. Twice." Good one Paul...

GimboidSeptember 11th 2014.

A diner should not need to point out that loud Linkin Park is not appropriate

Henry VSeptember 12th 2014.

Love it when friends and family/pr people jump on one of their own's stories. If you want to look real, forget the !exclamation! marks guys, it's the real show of a PR girlie.

ChrisSeptember 11th 2014.

Mojos seem to do ok with their bartenders in charge of the playlist... Anyway, still keen to try this place out.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 24th 2014.

I agree, best music in town from the bartenders

AnonymousSeptember 11th 2014.

Agree with this review. Great what they have done with the place. We went in for a drink the week it opened and the music and volume was fine. We returned again to have a meal but we decided not to eat and left because of the racket. It has put us off returning since.

Paul LintonSeptember 11th 2014.

This is such a wasted review! Take away the over descriptive crap David Blake uses to bulk up his reviews and they have no real content! It would be nice of Manchester Confidential to send someone with real credentials to the place! As I haven't been yet, I want to read a real review with meaningful content not just jibber jabber!

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 11th 2014.

!!!! !!!! ! !! ! !!!

SteveSeptember 11th 2014.

Barman on Dale Street by any chance Paul?

AnonymousSeptember 12th 2014.

I believe Jibber Jabber are one of ManCon's major sponsors.

Vicky AinsdaleSeptember 11th 2014.

I've been at this bar most weekends since it's opened and the bar is getting busier and busier later and later. It started off quite quiet after about 10pm when the food trade had all disappeared and now a month later it's still busy up til midnight and then weekends are packed all night long and I actually witnessed people dancing there last weekend! I really don't think this is happening because the music choice is wrong or too loud. Remember each to their own, this bar would find it very difficult to please the people who want a quiet drink and the people who want good atmosphere and something to dance to! Keep up the good work and we're loving the cool old school 90's music, although never heard 'Linkin Park' in there! Hahaha.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 12th 2014.

If your serving pheasant at £14 a pop you should be pleasing the food customers who are shelling out and not pumping out music for the drinkers.

AnonymousSeptember 11th 2014.

Pretty on the money this. I had the phesant and was disappointed. For £15 needed more to it. It was also very loud when we went. Like it says atthe end prob needs to work out when its a restaurant and when its a bar.

AnonymousSeptember 11th 2014.

Jarrah Wood is the sort of wine the supermarkets knock out for £6...

2 Responses: Reply To This...
MaggieSeptember 11th 2014.

Yeah, but supermarkets don't knock out ambience, good food and freshly made cocktails......just saying!

AnonymousSeptember 11th 2014.

@Maggie Zzzzzzz!

AnonymousSeptember 11th 2014.

I was in last night at around 6 and found the bar tenders to be somewhat rude typical NQ too cool for school mentality (you work in a bar get over yourself) - both were miserable and couldn't of seemed less interested. That said the food we ordered was lovely and came in good time and the ambience of the bar was spot on. Only comment, my mate had the salmon and said it had too much hollandaise sauce on it. I'd go again for sure

JimSeptember 11th 2014.

I've been there a few times. Great for drinks and you get a nice crowd there. I was however very disappointed with the food. I had the gammon and it was very disappointing. The quality of the meat was good but they were the worse 2 fried eggs I have ever seen and I was not at all impressed with the chips! Hopefully it will get better soon!

4 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 11th 2014.

Chips are 100% homemade Jim, how can you grumble at that?!?!? Good old English chunky chips unlike the skiiny American crap fries everywhere else! If the eggs and the way they are fried are the only thing you have a problem with then sounds like they are doing a pretty good job. How do you like your eggs???

SAZKSeptember 11th 2014.

Just because it's homemade doesn't mean it's good...

JimSeptember 12th 2014.

The chips were very greasy and there was only about 8. The eggs were over cooked and looked like they had been left under a heat lamp for at least 10 minutes as they were very congealed. When you order gammon, egg and chips and 2 of the 3 parts of the dish are disappointing then it's not a good dish.

Henry VSeptember 12th 2014.

Anon, see previous not on !exclamation! marks, you will be able to astroturf your comments a bit better ;-)

Mike ChannonSeptember 11th 2014.

Went in Saturday evening and DJ (hidden in the back) did a great job. Nice tunes and volume perfect. Even better the stags and hens that are flooding the original NQ haven't found Allotment Bar yet. It's getting harder and harder to stay ahead of the stag and hen wave.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 11th 2014.

Lets stay strong, unite and withstand the invasion of the stags and hens! We shall meet at Allotment Bar this weekend, discuss the eggs and form an alliance against the stags and hens! They bring evil...........

AnonymousSeptember 11th 2014.

Yes, the city needs more venues to cater for those unbearded, non-tweeded, non-fisherman jacketed, non-pioneer looking folk. Bring back 'Piccadilly 21' and Discotheque Royal.

AnonymousSeptember 11th 2014.

Beautiful little bar with amazing range of Gin and the food is brilliant for the value. We went today, got two sandwiches and a soft drink each for £10 on a deal they have on at lunchtime......I mean c'mon??? So we went back tonight to sample all the Gin and I must say the music was brilliant and the staff were actually very friendly! We'll be back Allotment Bar and we told you we would be............ :)

1 Response: Reply To This...
Henry VSeptember 12th 2014.

another PR...

AnonymousSeptember 11th 2014.

Seems to be a lot of shills in the comments on this review...

AnonymousSeptember 12th 2014.

Sounds like a good place for a drink, however if you want a scran probably better sticking to one the numerous Yet Another Fucking Italian YAFI's

2 Responses: Reply To This...
JuiceSeptember 12th 2014.

Who is this sad case who has to comment on each food story with this phrase, as if they've noticed something insightful?

AnonymousSeptember 12th 2014.

Probably the same bore who was previously doing the same thing mentioning Bill's.

September 12th 2014.

Totally agree re the music volume and randomness of the playlist Couldn't hear myself think

AnonymousSeptember 12th 2014.

There was a time back in the mid 1990s when new bar and restaurants prided themselves on being distinct and made use of the new generation of design talent in the city.Sadly Living Ventures seem to have more in common with commercial radio where supposedly different music stations resort to playing exactly the same tracks because they then know the listener cannot switch to another station for greater choice,as that will be the same also.Living Ventures offers the illusion of choice with different formats when in fact everything is really the same.Even Starbucks or McDonalds offer more real choice than this dreadful,dull company.Everything that this man has created is crap and nothing of it will have any staying power.He is the Robbie Williams of the restaurant business.

AnonymousSeptember 12th 2014.

Did you by any chance used to work for them and quit/sacked? Ha. Although, I have to agree with you! Average joe moron will chose these bars these days as they don't no any better! I hope the De Cuba/Neighborhood/Living Ventures enthusiasts stay well away from our beautiful NQ! Keep on going Allotment, you're a little gem! We're here now and it's buzzing, music just right and The Dirty Hoe (lager) is belting :)

AnonymousSeptember 12th 2014.

Bore off Henry!!!!!!!! Your stereotype attitude is unwelcome to people who actually want to be positive and not enjoy the 'rant' button on this site!!!!!!

1 Response: Reply To This...
GimboidSeptember 12th 2014.

Definitely working for the company. You are not doing your employers any favours.

AnonymousSeptember 12th 2014.

What an awful review, if you can even call it a review! It has no real content. Poor poor poor! Sort this out Confidential.......

1 Response: Reply To This...
Simon TurnerSeptember 12th 2014.

I think the review is interesting and has plenty of content, but then I'm not a friend of anyone who works there.

AnonymousSeptember 15th 2014.

Unfortunately there are serious issues with the service in this place, I don't go anymore.

AnonymousSeptember 17th 2014.

Service for drinks could be much better and staff seem like they are not interested and didnt seem very knowledgeable on the drinks, this is my observations from 3 visits. This is a problem in many bars though.

AnonymousSeptember 22nd 2014.

I went once, was ignored for nearly 10 mins while I was at the bar, also tried to catch waitresses eye to no avail, and the music was AWFUL! Side 4 of Now That's what I call music 6 or something.

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