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Horse and Jockey, Chorlton: review

Jonathan Schofield on a necessary task that remains unfinished because of a space time dimensional problem

Written by . Published on August 3rd 2009.


Horse and Jockey, Chorlton: review

Sometimes in the restaurant reviewing game you screw up your face, make fists of your hands and wish – really fervently wish – for a place to be good.

It was like the kitchen was in a parallel universe, 20 per cent out of sync with ours: a place with two suns and three moons where tastebuds had developed differently. It was all so very nearly, nearly there.

Several reasons for this. It may be that you like the people who run the business or that you've put some money in or even that the idea is just so good.

The Horse and Jockey (the Jockey) on Chorlton Green has been an under-exploited place for years: a big dark room of Stella and Blue Wicked drinkers who’ve not managed to make it to the Rotten Joke (aka Royal Oak) up on the main Barlow Moor Road drag.

All the Jockey has had going for it recently has been the fake black and white facade from 1907, and the Green outside for getting drunk in the sun. Thus when the lease came up it was simply a matter of time before that most unpleasant of hyphenated words, the gastro-pub, was whispered. After all, given the population profile of Chorlton, a killing was to be made for the right operator.

The coup d’etat has been delivered by Peter Dalton, a man well known on the Manchester dining scene for being uncannily skinny and for having John Dalton Street named after his dad. Well, being uncannily skinny, anyway. But also for largely delivering the Village as we know it now. It was he, and the effervescent (or something like that) Carol Ainscough, who created Manto in 1991. This, with its plate glass windows was the first out and proud place on the LBGT strip and began bar-mania on Canal Street.

Physically Dalton and team have done a good job in the Jockey. The main room has been lightened and made more comfy and the undeveloped area to one side has been converted into a dedicated restaurant.

All very good. The menu reads well, hearty British inspired fare, with sturdy vegetarian options.

I started with a half pint of prawns (£6.95) which came with garlic and lemon mayonnaise, which I ignored, and was just fine - but then the kitchen hadn’t had to work too hard with it. We also had a starter of asparagus and poached egg (£5.25) which was ok – just - but had been assaulted with hollandaise.

A child’s main of bangers and mash (£3.75) was excellent: big, not too solid mash, chunky, rugged, robust bangers. With a swirl of gravy over the ensemble, everything was just dandy.

Shame though, that a child’s menu choice should be the best of the mains.

A slow roasted boned breast of lamb (£10.95) came stuffed with rosemary, garlic, thyme and golden sultanas – apparently. It was served with fennel and wine gravy and my dining partner chose the creamed leeks as a side.

The lamb was overwhelmed by the stuffing. It was clumsy, it was over-cooked and it was unpleasant to taste. This was a mix and match that mis-matched. But the failings were better displayed by the side.

Creamed leeks? Rather a dish of lumpy, thick sliced, vegetable matter partially cooked and then left to drown in a whitish mess of semi-liquid. They were – well, yuck. School dinner fare from 1978 and simply inedible.

My main of poussin had a failing too, a typical one. Get the timing wrong and it’ll be dry on the inside and over-cooked on the outside, or it’ll be under-cooked on the inside and look right on the outside. When I opened the flesh on the bird, it was option A. The rocket and tomatoes that came with the poussin were limp, needing a dash of oil to liven them up. But hey, the carrots were great. Hallelujah.

For pudding the treacle tart (all desserts £4.25) was sullen and listless, not rip your fillings out aggressive, not massive with heavy sweetness, which is what it needed to be. The sherry trifle was better and worth the effort.

We went over the meal: prawns, carrots, sherry trifle, the children’s main, fine. The rest just wrong.

Yet – and here was the frustration – not madly, irredeemably wrong. Not as though there was a blind man in the kitchen wielding a pair of scissors and randomly cutting the tops off the Iceland frozen food section and slamming them into microwaves as you seem to get in many pubs. There was a plan, it was just mis-aligned.

It was like the kitchen was in a parallel universe, 20 per cent out of sync with ours: a place with two suns and three moons where tastebuds had developed differently. It was all so very nearly, nearly there.

The kitchen has to concentrate on two things: getting its cooking timings right and introducing some element of subtlety. Just piling it up and getting it out isn’t good enough, not if the menu hints at better things.

I’m told the Jockey has been rammed since it opened. This proves the necessity for change away from the hole it was previously, but if the food remains sub-standard then those numbers will falter, the drinking side will re-assert itself, and then Peter and his partners will have to watch out.

Let’s finish on several positives.

The wine-list is adorable. We had a lovely Albarino at £21.75 and a good little dessert Moscatel for £4 a glass. Some good bin-ends there as well with an interesting red: the San Simon Cabernet Franc which I would have liked to have tried. Food prices are a steal (if the food was as good as it reads on the menu). The Jockey also includes a side with the price of the mains which needs a round of applause. The toilets look as though they are used by twenty-first century humans rather than early cave dwellers. The kids food seems top notch and even the website shows the care this lot feel for their business.

If the kitchen can stop wandering round the outer edges of the galaxy (or 'dicking about' as another acquaintance said) then South Manchester would have a destination place.

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

AnonymousAugust 3rd 2009.

Having spent more time in the Jockey than I care to admit, I think the rants about security are grossly exaggerated. I've found the door staff completely courteous, and are often seen assisting people with babies and push chairs and just generally keeping the peaceful environment we have now come to enjoy at the Jockey. Those who say this type of enforcement is not needed in Chorlton need to take a look down the street at the Beech.

DaveFoxAugust 3rd 2009.

Re Bouncers at the H&J - you sometimes forget that the H&J was primarily a drug dealing den in its latter days of previous ownership and a regrettably necessity of changing the feel is to let the scallies know that things have changed. Also very sadly it is not a matter of if the H&J will get raided by a group of baseball carrying tw*ts, but when. I witnessed the robbery of the Trevor at 3pm in the afternoon (remember they only made away with 20p in the end). Those that complain about the bouncers, would you volunteer to be the last to lock up on a Sat night. Finally if you had just sunk £330k of your hard earned cash/borrowed to the hilt, the last you would want to do is annoy the neighbours to get your licence revoked. As for the food - fair review - it will come good in the end - if there just weren't so many damned drinkers distracing them!! - Nice problem to have in the broader picture of the demise of the British pub scene.

FoodisGoodAugust 3rd 2009.

The best place to eat in Chorlton is the new chippy, Atlantic something or other :-)

ChippyLoverAugust 3rd 2009.

@ FoodisGoodCan you be a bit more specific please? There is a real dearth of good chippies in that area so will defo check it out.

donny_osmondAugust 3rd 2009.

excellent review. the problem with building up your use of local ingredients and making the most of what's good locally is that you smother it in sauce or underwhelming combinations and no-one cares. local produce is admirable but if it tastes s**t you ain't coming back. also agree that a family establishment with 2 (not just one) but 2 bouncers on the door is off-putting and contradictory. we've tried once but will wait for the next visit.

RICHARD NASHAugust 3rd 2009.

a long wait for a very average bangers n mash ,,, yawn lets hope there beers from there new micro brewery planned are a little more exciting !

wiliAugust 3rd 2009.

all you smug south manchester chippy lovers should pop over to Wrexham, i know a first class take away that currently is offering some specialities.

Mr.HydeAugust 3rd 2009.

quite agree, the food is sub par, also the menu is really confused and clumsy, the afternoon menu should have a basic range and focus, instead there are options for meals as starters or mains, small dishes against heavy dishes you’d expect on the evening menu… why not a range of sandwiches and soup for instance? …and no consistent pricing, its quite annoying. I went there for a steak sandwich and had to pay an additional 3 quid for a side of chips, (none as standard…) bringing the total to a 10er, that’s not on, what a rip, where as when I had the prawns it came with some bread, which is not apparent on the picture above… My suggestion is go to the ***infinitely*** superior Ostara restaurant (owned by the excellent dulcimer) I’ve been there 4 times over the past 2 months, their menu and chef are brilliant, the starters, mains and puddings are to die for, and the food there is the same price as the lame effort the ‘ponce on the green’ pitches at. They could learn allot from them. And perhaps have me return as a customer, I don’t even go there for beer anymore.

CatAugust 3rd 2009.

Elijah, Do you work at ATLANTIC CHIPPY by any chance? The way you put ATLANTIC CHIPPY in capitals every time you write it leads me to think that either you have a random fetish with block capitals, or a desire for free advertising via ManCon? Hmmm it's a puzzle!

mark mAugust 3rd 2009.

JS, yes, I have been to rhythm n rice. Very good indeed. Jerk chicken rice and peas is to die for. The jerk is cooked in a drum BBQ outside, sending wafts of spicy goodness up the road. If Leroy has his spicy chicken and dumpling soup on then you must try some.

ELAugust 3rd 2009.

Southside, Windy Harbour on Yew Tree/Mauldeth is wicked. Also the dingy-looking one on Burton Road by TOH@H is surprisingly good. NEVER go in the one on Yew Tree in Rusholme, it's rank. Battered Cod in Withington is predictably "a bit better than acceptable". I actually can't picture a chippy in Dids Village, is there one?

maclyAugust 3rd 2009.

I ate there on saturday night and everything was spot on - i'm really surprised by this review. the lamb mentioned above was gorgeous and the haddock-potato bake is really good. the people i went with said their steaks were the nicest they'd had in ages. added to this the staff are lovely. i'll definitely be back, best thing that's happened to the beech road area for ages.

Jo LeeAugust 3rd 2009.

So I went to the Atlantic fish bar on Friday because of all the comments here. The chips were tasteless and greasy and the fish (cod) was admitedly huge but very very dry and smothered in thick batter. Sorry this just isn't a good chippy in terms of food and certainly didn't warrant the enthusiasm shown on here.

Get rid of the stupid bouncersAugust 3rd 2009.

Bpuncers...HA HA HA HASome poor sod is really missing a trick all those thousands spent and a new image wasted because of this pathetic infactuation. When I went they actually got in the way of getting in the place and thereafter hassled me every 10 mins, 'can you not stand there', 'last orders' and at 1 minute past 11 on a lovely evening 'can you take your drinks inside'. Very annoying. Whoever is in charge needs their head seeing too and I shall not be returning until those morons are removed!

ADAugust 3rd 2009.

I think one of the problems is they serve the food to the entire pub and the outside seets and its a big place, the kitchen just doesnt look big enough to cope and maybe thats showing in the food?

AnonymousAugust 3rd 2009.

I totally agree with the review and most of the comments put on here. I too was overjoyed to see the H&J refurbished. I too agree it is very hit and miss and I also think that certain items are over priced. So in the hope that it may be rescued I thought I would have my grumble too. (I hope you are reading Peter?) I have been twice now for food, and both times I was disappointed. Why? well.....The first time there was a table of 6 girls all hungry and looking forward to a girlie natter and a few glasses of vino! But we really struggled to find anything that we fancied for a pre-boozy sunny day catch up. We are not fussy eaters and have eaten in most of the restaurants and bars in Chorlton with great success. As for the size of the kitchen have you seen the size of Jam streets? And they do wicked food. Second time we went, we had friends kids with us. The kids sandwich was a nice fancy door step wedge of bread. Any of us adults would have been over the moon, but try explaining that to a 4 year old. He wasn't impressed :(Other problems. I had problems using my card to buy wine without ordering food. Do they know how far it is to the nearest cash point? Do they realise girls don't like carrying big wads of cash? Well, it makes me nervous! So I tried to open a tab but I was told that they didn't do them. I was cashless wanting to buy wine to sit down with to study the menu. The bar girl came to the rescue (THANK YOU) But she was worried that Peter - the skinny guy would find out. We ended up having numerous bottles of wine / jugs of pims/ 6 x main meals etc etc I don't know the total spent. But surely a business should be more than willing to take your cash.I also thought the wine was a little over priced and the descriptions a little poor. Positives Door staff - I agree with someone's comment above They have always been very polite and helpful. Although I was put off when I saw them there the first time? Beech road is not exactly the city centre!Location it has one of the best spots for outside drinking. Tables that are in the sun for most of the day. Very important when we don't get as much sun as the rest of the country lolThe decor and lightened up room is much better.Over all it just does lack that little something. Very hit and miss. I'm off to Rhythm and Rice - It has got a lot of people talking!

AnonymousAugust 3rd 2009.

I ate here recently and it was absolutely awful. So surprised as there is a fair bit of competition on their doorstep. They need to do something quick as everyone I know who has eaten there has said they wouldn't return. Shame

donny_osmondAugust 3rd 2009.

elijah is such a dedicated chorltonite that he spelt it cholton on 2 occasions. please avoid using Mancon for self-publicity. that said, thank goodness there is a alternative to another vein of grotesque self-publicity ... "beech road chippy - probably the best" ... smelly, grumpy, dirty. i don't think so.

Elena SpearAugust 3rd 2009.

The review is spot on. The food seems to be trying to be one thing but keeps - I've been twice - turning out differently. It's a shame really as the place has got potential. They should lose those doormen though. This is Chorlton not a city centre club. Has the owner had trouble?

SteAugust 3rd 2009.

Is it just me or are the majority of these rants adverts for other places? It's all a bit fishy.

CasAugust 3rd 2009.

The chippy on Liverpool Road in Castlefield is better.

lilybrownAugust 3rd 2009.

I went a few weeks ago. It was dire. Rubbish steak, concrete bread and butter pudding, totally shocking. The security at the door were very full on and intimidating, a.nd I won't be going back

AnonymousAugust 3rd 2009.

have eaten in the jockey and was not impressed with it. sunday lunch - got roast beef more fat than meat; got vege option another time and was amazed to see that it was a load of fried onions in a pastry cup..... what mind made this up? def not a great british menu venue... on the plus side, toilets sorted out for ladies and you don't have to die of thirst waiting to be served at the bar. just sort out the food!! it's not hard!!!

AnonymousAugust 3rd 2009.

The pub looks great now it's been made over, but I've yet to try the food. Just wanted to post to say I agree with Adds - The food at Argyles is brilliant. Went there a few weeks ago and their home-made falafel burger is mind-blowingly delicious!

mark mAugust 3rd 2009.

it's an advert you c0ck

snooty mcgheeAugust 3rd 2009.

at the risk of sounding like a massive snob, I'd find it hard to sit down for a meal in any place that needs door security. I used to drink in the h&j, got bored of it and moved on. Went back after the refurb, realised what the new punters were like and never went back. Hopefully they'll drift off back to the Royal Oak.I do agree though, if they don't get the food right, it will basically be like it was before. And yes, Argyles is easily the best for pub food. I've never been happier than on a Sunday afternoon in Argyles. I'd also recommend, Oddest.

Elijah ScattergoodAugust 3rd 2009.

I know this is ment to be about the H&J (I dined there on Sunday and was not impressed), But OH MY GOOD GOD ATLANTIC CHIPPY IN CHOLTON IS ACE!!! For once somewhere in Manchester that does proper fish and chips. I am from the north east and currently live in Cholton. I have never understood why nowhere in Manchester can cook good fish and chips, but now (THANK GOD!) there is a place and its right on my door step. The guys in the bath supper must be bricking it!!! Get in there ATLANTIC CHIPPY!

WayneAugust 3rd 2009.

I think Welsh crows are the best. The magpies are better in England.

Jonathan SchofieldAugust 3rd 2009.

Mark, we're going to try it out on the weekend. Have you been to Rhythm and Rice? Is it any good?

Jonathan Schofield - editorAugust 3rd 2009.

Ian (or 'ian') all scored reviews are the critical opinion of the writers. I will add that fact to subsequent food reviews to make sure people know this. Also to let you know all out art and entertainment reviews, all our news and comments are independent. But yep there is advertorial and advertisements because Manchester Confidential employs lots of people and gives freelancers work, so we need income to do this, we are not the BBC. I don't think we are unusual in this. We may well be unusual in trying our best to provide a general, opinionated, independent voice for Manchester owned by Mancunians and also for not talking down to our audience as though they are idiots or halfwits as so often happens in the Manchester media. As for you not being able to unsubscribe then I will follow this up and find out what went wrong. You will be taken off the email lists as soon as I'm in the Confidential office on Monday. Thank you for your comments.

1 Response: Reply To This...
DaftaboutfoodFebruary 14th 2013.

You must have been paid for this review. WHERE IS UR INTEGRITY. THE HORSE AND JOCKEY FOOD IS AWFUL

AnonymousAugust 3rd 2009.

I went on Sunday and it was a real hit and miss affair - starter was great, roast dinner main was weird (1 massively thick slice of roast beef, it was like a roast steak) and service was really not good. The waiter came over and asked if everything was ok, I said yes can I order a drink from you, he said no, go to the bar and then stormed off - everything was not ok then.... it really wasn't busy as all and he could have gone and got us a drink, we were in the middle of eating. Atlantic chippy is really really good though.

AddsAugust 3rd 2009.

At last, a review of the Jockey... and one that I think hits the nail on the head. The food has been a big let down for me and has stopped me from returning. I put it down to the bedding-in period and I hope it improves. For me, the best pub grub in Chorlton at the moment, is at Argyles.

nasty so called specialsAugust 3rd 2009.

Hi Gordo do you ever check out any of the deals you put on your site?went to Beluga on Friday 7th August for the 3 course special deal all they ever asked me while i waited 1/2 hour for the table i had booked was "are you on the Manchester Confidential deal"i smelt a rat rather than the food as the service was terrible i had to almost wave a flag to get their attention" oh you are on the Manchester Confidential" like we had swine flu.we then got what was called the wine! White one bottle, Rose one carafe i can see why they used the carafe to hide the fact that this was battery acid and the white (uug) we never drank anythe food no better than subwaynow this is a great example of trying to get bums on seats and killing your reputation if of course you have one? so please check these so called specials out otherwise your own reputation will suffer.

mark mAugust 3rd 2009.

The new takeaway in chorlton is the place to eat. Rhythm and Rice, where that aweful tapas place was near Seymour Grove. Awesome. Please review JS.

JinkiesAugust 3rd 2009.

I've always loved the Horse & Jockey, haven't eaten there as yet but I'm going to give it a look this weekend. Tis a new venture having food there, give em time to bed down and get going properly

IzzyAugust 3rd 2009.

Sorry to offend anyone, but Rhythm and Rice not for me. I say bring back the spanish place, lovely food and lovely owners.

ianAugust 3rd 2009.

I wonder if the review would be so negative if the owner chose to advertise in this sub standard news letter i've been trying to un subcribe from for years.

Fran GoddardAugust 3rd 2009.

I couldn't agree more. Really wanted it to be great, but also had the asparagus which was so overcooked it was breaking and the hollandaise which was like yellow water. Had a burned main course with bruised butternut squash and returned a month later to have a vegetarian main that was advertised with gravy, but turns out they didn't have any veggie gravy.

ADAugust 3rd 2009.

But Wili wont it be cold by the time we get it home?

AnonymousAugust 3rd 2009.

OMG that lamb and leek thing looks AWFUL! Yep I agree, go Ostara for a meal out or the awesome rythm n rice or atlantic for a takeaway.

Elijah ScattergoodAugust 3rd 2009.

Cat, I don't work in a chippy, and apart from a postcode I dont share any other connections with those guys. Fair do's the caps lock got used a bit too much but, as "ChippyLover" said a good chippy in this town is very hard to find.

ADAugust 3rd 2009.

Its next to electrik and is called the atlantic fish bar or something like that you cant miss it its a chippy and its clean inside...

AnonymousAugust 3rd 2009.

come back Marmalade. although to be fair, i've not been to the H&J since re-furb. will give it a go despite the hideous review i think.

AnonymousAugust 3rd 2009.

I have drank in the H&J for the past 6 years and yes while slightly grubby and in need of attention you always had a great night. Not now, it just isn't the same there is no atmosphere and it is always empty, the only time they seem to have a considerable number of people in is if it is sunny. Don't like it much and wouldn't recommend it anymore.

DaveAugust 3rd 2009.

Don't know about the new Jockey, haven't been yet, but the Royal Oak is very sad. Must've been amazing in it's 1920's Art Deco heyday, then the early 70's got to it with an "interior update"...

AnonymousAugust 3rd 2009.

I find it odd people promoting Argyles above H&J. Argyles has the feeling of run down weatherpersons with the charm of "The Feathers" thrown in.

AnonymousAugust 3rd 2009.

At least they managed to get food. Made a couple of attempts in the past-once they had run out and the next time they mysteriously 'had stopped serving food' long before the advertised time. Agree that the door security is extremely off putting.

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