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Mango Rays review

Jonathan Schofield finds a lovely ploughman's lunch so big he fails to plough through it

Written by . Published on May 24th 2010.

Mango Rays review

In the sunshine of a perfect day I promenaded down King Street like the King of Manchester. Life was good: it was feeling easy and slow.

Half way down the street, there was a cabin called Mango Rays, which made my belly rumble. Or rather the two ladies with babies and matching prams did. That sounds wrong. It was their food which made me realise I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. The ladies each appeared to be eating half a loaf with cheese, other attractive edibles and glasses of lemonade.

I entered through the picket fence and said to the man behind the counter: “I’ll have what they’re having.”

“Wholemeal bread, hummus, and Wensleydale with cranberries? £6 – plus all the pickles and chutneys from the counter which you can fit on the platter,” he said.

I must have pulled face.

“Oh dear, have I said something wrong?” he asked.

It was time to make a speech, the sun may have got to me.

“Cheese with fruit is among the alcopops of food,” I declaimed. “So are cottage cheese and chive crisps from Marks and Spencer. They are foods for people who are afraid of rugged, real flavour, whose tastebuds haven't grown up.”

“Well,” said the man looking at me oddly, and perhaps dialling 999 on his phone under the counter, “we also have about sixteen other cheeses including Lancashire, Farmhouse Chedder, Roquefort, Edam, Brie...oh and pates as well. The Roquefort is quite splendid, I’ve tasted the stuff in the town of Roquefort itself and this is just as good as the best there.”

But I’d seen the pies, and he’d already lost me.

The pies are from Orchard Pigs and I’ve loved ‘em for a while. So we settled on a pork, apple and cider pie with half a loaf with butter and some chickpea, pepper and sundried tomato pate, pickled onions, gherkins, a tomato salsa, half an apple and greens. For £6.50. Hold the cheese.

Plus a glass of homemade lemonade at £2.

Look at the pictures on this plate, the version of a ploughman’s lunch, sans cheese, I ended up with was magnificent. In the sunshine it seemed to shine itself, the sun glinting off the apple and the pickles. It was a landscape of simple ingredients, with that big hunk of bread providing the bulk and the excellent salsa and pate a bit of finesse.

The pie was the star though, with a great pastry topping and a full filling of chunky pig that was distinctively apple-y and had that almost astringent bite of cider.

We tried a load of Orchard Pig pies in the office at Christmas – the company that produces them also have a stall at Manchester Markets – and Gordo, our resident food-taster, liked them lots but would have preferred more gelatine. This wasn’t a problem for me, let pies have their own character I say.

The pie-man is Rob Didier, who, as his website says, ‘trained under Raymond Blanc (and) moved to Bwlchgwyn, near Wrexham, in 2003 after his London restaurant was compulsorily bought for a new railway line. He bought Nant y ffrith forest, a 250 acre mixed woodland, and managed it with a herd of Oxford sandy and black pigs’. If you have pigs you might as well make pies.

As I munched on the pie I mused on how life leads you places you don’t expect. The railway comes like something from a plotline in a Dickens’ novel and you find yourself a swineherd in Wales like a character in a Brother Cadfael yarn. It must have seemed that time was regressing. Not that Didier hasn’t been busy. He not only enjoys the company of pigs but has branched out with mutton, beef and game pies.

Back in the sunshine the lemonade was good, but could have done with extra zesty-ness to measure up to my mother’s finest lemonade moments. The sangria on the stall, mind you, has been praised by Andalucians so must be decent. There are also pumps of micro-brewery ale from Bury, by the modestly named Outstanding Brewery Company, a choice of seven red and white wines and even a port.

All in all Mango Rays is a well-thought out, honest-to-goodness casual dining venue that pumps energy into King Street. To mix genders, King Street might have been the Queen of Manchester retail, but its crown has slipped, let down by absentee landlords who really don’t give a damn about other people’s cities except as investment centres – click here for our King Street article.

I know that Cityco, the city centre management team, has King Street and its woes in their sights, but simple, good quality, operations such as Mango Rays (and for that matter the plant sellers here) are, for the moment, just the ticket. Sitting outside and dining, watching the world go by, studying the interesting shopfronts above ground level, was lovely.

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Rating: 15/20
Breakdown: 7/10 food
4/5 service
4/5 ambience (on a sunny day)
Address: Mango Rays
King Street

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

Click here to find out more about the Spring Markets.

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

Ben BMay 25th 2010.

That looks good. Very good. Loaf love.

Tyson ThebeerhoundMay 25th 2010.

Thanks for the tip and I will definitely be trying a Ploughmans here, but come on now. Talk about misleading. The headline says "a lovely ploughman's lunch so big he fails to plough through it." But it wasn't a Ploughman's, was it?

It was a pie. A pie with pate etc. However, good it was, by no stretch of the imagination could it be described as a "Ploughman's Lunch." I'm shocked by MC's casual use of the term.

A shocked, pedantic, Ploughman's fan...

Jonathan Schofield - editorMay 25th 2010.

Tyson - I agree. It was lazy journalism, but get some cheese with it and then we'd have a ploughman's. The good news is that there were loads of ploughmen enjoying the food as I arrived.

NicMay 25th 2010.

Whose idea was it to use who's? Sloppy editing as well.

Jonathan Schofield - editorMay 25th 2010.

Nic, we should employ you. The sub-editor was off - who's has now gone possessive as should be the case. Soz. It was a lovely hunk of bread as well.

NortherngeezerMay 25th 2010.

Is there an 'X' in bollox??.

NortherngeezerMay 25th 2010.

£6.50 for a pie and sum cold stuff..........Tesco Express have got Hollands on offer for 50p.

Harry the FirstMay 25th 2010.

Schofield's sweeping statement of the week: “Cheese with fruit is among the alcopops of food. So are cottage cheese and chive crisps from Marks and Spencer. They are foods for people who are afraid of rugged, real flavour, whose tastebuds haven't grown up.” Bless him.

SunshineMay 25th 2010.

Sounds fantastic. Could have been worth exploring why on earth Mr Didier's called it 'Mango Rays'

NeedtoknowbasisMay 25th 2010.

Didier and Mango Rays are separate folks, the former fella just produces the pies.

Mahinda KularatneMay 25th 2010.

Cheese with fruit? Alcopop? ABSO-BLOODY-LUTELY!

I like cheese. I like fruit. I like 'em on the same plate. There's something almost poetic about the popping of a grape in amongst a mouthful of Brie, the crunch of a fresh green apple against the smooth tang of a mature Cheddar...

But I digress. That's no reason to put fruit INTO YOUR CHEESE. I mean, I like sausages and I like toast, but that doesn't mean I want meaty sausage bread.

Good on you, Jonathan, and more power to your cheese knife!

King Of TomorrowMay 25th 2010.

Meaty sausage bread is exactly what I want.

user90245May 26th 2010.

Thankyou very much Jonathan,although i must try harder as your last reveiw from you gave 5 stars. My former business was Zest Coffee/Juice bar on Piccadilly approach.
Regards Penny Bailey

Scott NeilMay 26th 2010.

dear Penny,

Zest was awesome, and much missed.

all the best!
someone who fondly remembers Zest.

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