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Manchester Shed Canal

Flic Everett finds Albert’s Shed is nothing like its name

Published on June 21st 2007.


Manchester Shed Canal

Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance, as Paul Simon once pointed out. So Albert’s Shed, feet away from the rail bridge that bisects Castlefield, is already off to a good start. Sitting outside on a warm night feels positively filmic, with cosmopolitan city types drinking beer at Dukes next door and the cool people in the garden of the lock-keepers’ cottage across the canal enjoying venison-and-ostrich-kebabs (probably) under a giant beaded parasol that I saw in a Sunday supplement last week.

Simon’s duck and port pate, again, was pleasant- but we agreed the port was more Southampton than Cannes.

So despite the thunkingly parochial name, Albert’s Shed has the easy-Summer-living vibe all sorted. In fact, the name has one of those slightly too cute stories attached to it; something about an old lock-keeper who’d only sign over the rights to his land if they promised to name the restaurant after him. I can’t help thinking that if he’d been called Malcolm, it would lack the whimsical Victorian touch, and that for “grumpy old Albert,” we should read, “savvy young marketing executive.”

Thankfully, the restaurant eschews the irritating tweeness, decorated as it is in muted aubergine, with the practical chairs you get in modern church halls, and a giant rendition of the nearby canal bridge on the wall. This was all just a hazy impression, though, as a lovely Irish waitress whisked us outside, where we bagged a prime spot for playing the “Looky-Likey” game with Dukes customers. I spotted Keith Richards- who was actually an old woman in a powder-blue suit, but there was something about her wild hair and wrap-around sunglasses that convinced Simon, my weary husband, that I had a point.

By now, we’d ordered a bottle of Chablis, the sun was still attempting a weak glow, and the service had been exemplary. We were primed for complete enjoyment, in a way that seldom happens outdoors north of Barcelona, so I abandoned all caution and ordered courgette fritti as a starter, with wild mushroom risotto to follow. Normally I’m nervous of risotto, as most chefs aren’t patient enough, and whip it off the stove before the rice has deliquesced into melting nodules. But the waiters had the trustworthy air you’d hope for in the fellow passengers of a free-falling 707, which was presumably why Simon also relinquished the controls and ordered Steak Diane, done rare, because he likes to think he’s a bit French.

My courgette in tempura batter wasn’t disappointing, exactly- it was just slightly greasy, in a way that made me wish the chef had waited till the oil was dangerously volcanic, then fried the vegetables to a gaspingly dry crisp. In reality, I suspect the fat used would only have given him a mild blister. Simon’s duck and port pate, again, was pleasant- but we agreed the port was more Southampton than Cannes.

A suitable pause occurred before the mains; a rare relief, when most waiters are poised like a Swat team to race in with replacements the minute you down your fork. We filled it by discussing our friends’ love lives and our favourite hymns from school. Simon went so far as humming To Be A Pilgrim, which earned us a few odd looks from diners presumably convinced we were on a Mormon away-day.

So, the mains were a useful distraction. The risotto almost achieved the required texture - but there was a distant hint of crunchiness, like the memory of a disturbing dream lingering on a sunny morning. Still, the mushrooms were beefily fungal without being hallucinogenic, and Simon was rampaging through his Steak Diane like a 70s playboy on a promise. “It’s very pleasant” he said, “Actually, it’s lovely.”

I didn’t really need pudding- my stomach was already awash with disparate ingredients, and I wanted the waiters to respect me, not marvel at my astonishing greed. But for the sake of a fair overview, I had Albert’s Sundae (as opposed to Albert’s Sunday, which probably involved tinkering with a barge engine, and arranging nails in order of size.) It was very similar to a knickerbocker glory, without the weird tinned fruit, which was in no way a bad thing. Simon decided to be innovative, and chose toffee and chocolate spring rolls, which came with vanilla ice cream. In fact, they tasted like something from a fairground stall- they had that hint of burnt sugar and deep-fat-frying which conjured up a Proustian memory of the waltzers and a tinny rendition of Push It by Salt’n’Pepa.

It was getting cold, but magically, a series of little outdoor heaters sprang to life. If the chefs worked as hard as the waiters, Albert’s Shed would be legendary. As it is, it’s a very pleasant way to spend a Summer evening, singing hymns.

Rating: 16/20
Breakdown: 6/10 Food
5/5 Service
5/5 Ambience outside (3/5 inside)
Cost £66 for two.
Address: Albert’s Shed
20 Castle Street Castlefield
Manchester
M3 4LZ
0161 839 9818

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

LP29June 21st 2007.

I usually love anything written by Flic but this was a bit of a disappointment. It's a food review not a novel! I did actually want to find out what she thought of Albert's Shed but in order to do so I found myself picking out the bits about food and trying to ignore the rest. Rather like eating a packet of smarties, whilst watching the sun going down on a deserted beach. With haunting carousel music playing in the background. Sorry..It must be catching!

ClaireJune 21st 2007.

Jesus, lay off, would you? What would you have preferred - 'went to Albert's Shed, ate my tea, proper lovely it was, cheers'? If you want blunt, boring reviews that haven't had any thought put into them, go look up some restaurants on Sugarvine. Ignore them, Flic - how many times have you seen THEIR byline in the national glossies? Oh, I forgot - most of them are too chicken to even sign their name on Manchester Confidential.

takes the biscuitJune 21st 2007.

Well, I have read some ****e on here but this article takes the biscuit. What qualifications do the food critics have, read the ingredients on a bag of crisp?

KellyhJune 21st 2007.

well, i enjoyed it, it made me laugh out loud (in a good way) which is a rare occurence when reading reviews.

ShaJune 21st 2007.

'There was a distant hint of crunchiness, like the memory of a disturbing dream lingering on a sunny morning'. Some of this language sounds like food porn. 'slightly greasy, in a way that made me wish the chef had waited till the oil was dangerously volcanic, then fried the vegetables to a gaspingly dry crisp. In reality, I suspect the fat used would only have given him a mild blister.' I want more, my mouth is open, panting for the hot....

johnJune 21st 2007.

AMC is spot on - this is awful stuff

AnonymousJune 21st 2007.

what, anyone who's prepared to give their name, you mean?

SharonJune 21st 2007.

That Anonymous person who writes in capital letters like some child and throws exclamation marks around like a person who really, really needs to be heard is a coward of the worst order. Give your name you wimp. I don't know you Flic Everett but I hope you write many more articles for this website. With people like you, Gordo, Schofield, Lees and so on it has the best team of food writers in this city. All Anonymous comementators are total horrible - they use an open comment service to hide behind. cowards. Maybe Confidential people you have to ban anonymous postings.

AMCJune 21st 2007.

This is a terrible article. Are you writing a (bad) short story or a review of a restuarant? Nauseating.

NickJune 21st 2007.

This woman is so up her own arse I find her hilarious-dont know whether she ever reads any of her own stuff -I never used to read my essays as a student.God knows what ****e I in"flic"ted on the lecturers.Apologies if its any thing like this article-obviously freelance-dont pay more than £50 an article

AnonymousJune 21st 2007.

I have to say I disagree with the service comments. I have had the opposite experience on atleast 6 occasions at Albert's Shed. They take ages to come to your table, I've had my side orders 10 mins after my main has come out, and they take ages coming over with the bill. I am under the impression they obviously knew who you were and therefore you received exceptional service. I love the restaurant and where it's located, but Service has always been there downfall. They are friendly enough, but disorganised and not "on the ball".

AnonymousJune 21st 2007.

WORST WRITTEN REVIEW EVER!!!! SELF IMPORTANT PRAT!!!!

GordoJune 21st 2007.

Flic, tell 'em all to **** off, loved that crunchie moment.

JBHJune 21st 2007.

"there was a distant hint of crunchiness, like the memory of a disturbing dream lingering on a sunny morning". What on earth is she talking about? What absolute nonsense.

DrawohJune 21st 2007.

Whoah AMC! Nauseating, badly written??? What do you recommend, Jeffrey Archer? Can I, with as much respect as I can muster, suggest that you don't know your arse from your elbow?

Mr AnonymousJune 21st 2007.

anyone mailed this sh*te off to pseuds corner in Private eye yet?

Garry EstablishmentJune 21st 2007.

Excellent review really well written, absolute quality. That style of food reviewing and writing can only be for the best and made up a clearly quality journalist has put their head to the subject. Lets have some more!!!!

brainyJune 21st 2007.

i have looked deliquesced up in the dictionary, it means "to become liquid by absorbing moisture". Hope this helps people reading this without a phd.

AnyaJune 21st 2007.

Albert's Shed has got one major flaw: It does not live up to the expectations it triggers the minute one sets foot in the place. The interior, for one, is impressive - the room big and airy, and just on the right side of stylish. The loos look even better.A very promising start was, however, spoiled when we were asked twice, by different waiters, whether we had chosen our drinks, despite not having had a chance to take a look at the wine menu.Over-zealous staff turned out to be the evening's red thread. It was impossible for us to answer the waiter's question whether our starters were alright, because - yes, you guessed it - we had not taken a single bite yet. The answer would have been: A little disappointing. While well-presented, my fried aubergines with feta had been drowned in oil until there was no taste left to speak of. As my mate (pan-fried King Prawns) rightly observed, given the quality of the ingredients, the kitchen should have achieved more in terms of both taste and texture.The mains were better; everything well-presented again, my chicken tasty and the veg still crunchy. My friend was not as happy (or should this be lucky?): Her pasta was, again, dying a slow and painful death choking on olive oil. To make matters worse, our waiter, now on top form, asked us no fewer than four times whether our food was alright. It would have ruined even a more outstanding culinary experience.If only everything at Albert's Shed was as good as the loos: Instead, we have a classic case of lots more style than substance. Which, incidentally and perhaps ironically, seems to be the problem with Flic's review, too.

GordoJune 21st 2007.

The chips used to be worse than my writing....

david293June 21st 2007.

I have been twice to alberts both times felt a bit underwhelmed by the experience ,the menu has too many items and the service is just ok .As a two or three times a week diner outer as opposed to a saturday night 6 pints , bottle of wine and anything will do ,i am beginning to wonder just where i Manchester gives good service and ood food,. Shimla pinks is excellent, Croma likewise although the service is a bit hit and miss, other than that i just dont know, San Rocco is parochial ,San Carlos is like a food supermarket, Stock is good but avoid saturday night,any reccomendations ?

Maggie CJune 21st 2007.

Really AMC - this is not terrible at all - simply well written and very funny!! Gordo - you need to look to your laurels as you have a very credible rival here.

johnJune 21st 2007.

SHARON, CHILDREN READ THIS SITE TOO YOU KNOW! EAT MY SHORTS!

AnonymousJune 21st 2007.

Im sorry but i find this review a little corny and rambling. Good overall view though.

andyJune 21st 2007.

"crunchiness, like the memory of a disturbing dream" ..were your eating crisps in bed?

AnonymousJune 21st 2007.

and please note, only a 'mild blister', now thats detail

AlJune 21st 2007.

Nick are you insane, this is one of the funniest things on here in ages. I've always liked Flic Everett's writing, I think you're the one who's up their own arse, comment about Albert's Shed for God's sake. And stick to the student essays as you never obviously grew up. I've always found the restaurant a little bit too ambitious with its food for its own good.

GordoJune 21st 2007.

Flic! I love you. Have yopu forgiven me for slaging off Tib Street? "deliquesced into melting nodules". I always said that food would become the new porn. You are a welcome addition. Anyone know if the chips have got better here?

FionaJune 21st 2007.

We ate here recently. The food was OK if a little mass produced (ie. nothing special). The staff were reasonably efficient but not very friendly. It was raining so we ate inside; it is November!! A little overpriced?

KTJune 21st 2007.

Flic has romanticised the subject a little too much. The comparison of food texture to memories of dreams - particulary on Sunday mornings is too much. So, she thought it was 'pleasant' that's about all I can remember, I'm not sure whether to go or not....

anonJune 21st 2007.

sharon, you dilbert, how do we know you are sharon or a hod carrier from Heckmondwike. Its all anonymous. You could be the editor's wife for all we know

sue p chorltonJune 21st 2007.

I agree, it's all a bit twee & try-hard. Food writing & porn: maybe that's why Flic's book is called "So you wanna be a Sexy B**ch"? I'd rather not be distracted thanks - Food is better than sex - just go and taste Eyck Zimmer's stuff at the Lowry and tell me you didn't come away totally satisfied!

philJune 21st 2007.

absolute drivel

FlicJune 21st 2007.

It's a few jokes. Bit of irony. Not really serious. Never mind.

anonJune 21st 2007.

it's only really bad, because it's trying to be really good. ends up being awful"the sun was still attempting a weak glow". ouch.

AnonymousJune 21st 2007.

'albert shed' is possibily the worst restaurant in Manchester.

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