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Gordo and the Market Restaurant

The Market Restaurant is one of Manchester’s longest serving restaurants. Should it be put out to grass?

Published on September 14th 2006.


Gordo and the Market Restaurant

Drew Smith, ex-editor of The Good Food Guide and Gordo’s pal, once asked him back in 1999 what he thought of the Market Restaurant. “Dunno”, replied Gordo. “It’s in the middle of a shit hole called the Northern Quarter”. Drew was amazed. “But it has to be one of the best restaurants in the North West.”

Drew and Gordo were demolishing a Plateau de Fruits de Mere and a bottle of Le Montrachet at the time in The Bluebird Café. (An impressive Conran restaurant on King’s Road in London). Some cheeky cow had told a flabbergasted Gordo that he would have to wait half an hour for his table for two. Just as Gordo was about to give her a blaster Drew ran up the stairs apologising for being late; the cheeky cow’s face went pale putty. “Ooh, I am sorry, I have just realised I was looking at the wrong booking sheet. Of course your table is ready, in fact I will put you on one for four, I am sure you would appreciate the space”. Hmm.

Six years later and Gordo finally decides to eat at The Market Restaurant, to see what all the fuss is about. Gordo had met Peter O’Grady, one of the owners a couple of times over the past eighteen or so months. A delightfully eccentric bloke who has seen the area, over twenty–odd years disintegrate then re-invent itself as a very groovy place to eat, drink and live (well away from the visiting hordes from Wigan, who prefer, thank God, Deansgate Locks and Peter Street).

The restaurant from the outside looks like it has been dumped in the middle of High Street having been beamed up from a village in Normandy back in 1943 by a spaceship looking for loonies. The interior can be described as eclectic ‘Allo Allo’. It has the most amazing collection of Belgian Beer. Why? Gordo hasn’t a clue. But it does. You sit down at pretty small tables, most of which used to be knitting machine tables, probably reflecting the rag trade which was in full flow when Peter arrived a few decades before. Lets move on from those is my advice Peter.

Interestingly, Peter and the bunch have been surviving on being a destination restaurant which always gets honourable mentions in the various guides - and you can tell. On Gordo’s visit there were several tables of delightful old buffers who wouldn’t be nipping into the numerous trendy bars later on dropping half a tab to sweeten themselves up. The rest were the new people, locals who were getting to know the place.

“Guess what Gordo”, says Peter with a big smile on his face. “We had two walk ins last night!”. Bear in mind that most restaurants depend on a few walk ins to boost takings every night to survive. Peter hasn’t had one for twenty six years.

Peter’s wife Ann is on hand to help every night. She has a ‘proper’ job during the day by all accounts. She is an absolute delight, the perfect foil for Peter who gets excited sniffing Belgian Beer and Setubal. Gordo reckons Anne gets excited sniffing life; she would be welcome at Gordo’s table anytime.

These two make a perfect front of house team. Their partner, Mary-Rose Edgecomb, is in the kitchen. How does she fare? Mind blowing is how she fares. One of Manchester’s great cooks as it happens.

The menu looks deceptively simple at first glance. For example, the cold Vichyssoise Soup. It was bloody fantastic, just right, chilled, on a boiling hot evening. The flavour was all there, the texture, yes, silky. Cor blimey. A main course of Lamb Fillet, rolled in Filo Pastry having been smothered in a sexy, tangy tomato paste was outstanding. Starters are £4 up to £7, mains £13 up to £17.

The current menu offers a few choice pieces; Caldo Verdi, a Portugeuse soup of potato and shredded kale. Crab Rissoles, (deep fried pastries with Romesco sauce) and a Chicken Liver Pate with Gherkins and crunchy French bread. ( best paté in town). Breast of Barbary Duck with Szechuan Pepper and Plum Sauce (oooh, just imagine it..) and Fillet of Salmon wrapped in Filo Pastry with a Lime Butter sauce. Puddings are mind blowing, the gang do a pudding evening apparently; a light main course followed by no less than five puddings. Tickets for that are £25, they do the evening on an infrequent basis.

You can’t really put this cuisine into a slot. It’s whatever pops into the gang’s minds, heavily influenced from their travels. You can tell, for example, that they went to Portugal earlier in the year for their hols.

It goes without saying that the ingredients are well chosen by a team who are married to a philosophy which dictates only the best and only at the right time. You won’t find summer pudding on the menu here in late Autumn, I can bet.

The wine list, although short, is brilliantly chosen with mainly ‘old world’ wines. The house wine is a St. Emilion Claret, Ch. Roc de Peruchon, at £18.95 for a bottle, £9.95 for a half bottle. Gordo chose a Rioja, Gran Reserva Major, the dearest red on the list as it happens. £27.95. A belter, 1995, had the right age on it. Well done for not buying all this bottled plum jam from the ‘new world’ Peter.

The Market Restaurant is an absolute must visit. It won the Food and Drink Festival Restaurant of the Year last year. Very well deserved.

16/20

A Gordo Go

Gordo.
Click here to email him if you've nothing better to do.

Market Restaurant
104 High Street
Northern Quarter
Manchester

0161 834 3743
www.market-restaurant.com (make sure you are wearing your glasses)

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