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Mark Addy review

Emma Unsworth swans down to the river for a re-invented pub with sturdy British cooking

Published on November 12th 2009.


Mark Addy review

Raw passion, like raw anything, isn’t to everyone’s taste. For a start, there are the messy side effects. Blood, sweat, tears. I like these things because I veer towards the dramatic, given half the chance. That’s maybe why I’m a fan of Robert Owen Brown.

ROB had, of course, shot the pheasant himself, and it was like Christmas come early – salty greens stashed between pieces of soft meat, and then the rush of an uplifting sugary sauce. I was caught out by a whole clove at one point, but it was a small price to pay.

ROB – a man blessed with initials that spell out his nickname – is also a chef who you might be forgiven for calling a bit of a curse. Previous endeavours over the past five years – The Bridge, The Greyhound, The Angel – have seen his trademark gung-ho approach to cooking – reviving naff junk food, shooting his own game – greeted with applause from all angles. Then, as each venue saw a swift and certain demise, speculation ensued about number-crunching and the like – the dull, daily grinding cogs necessary in any industry.

But whatever might be the case, one thing’s for sure: ROB is as distinctive as they come. I promised myself I’d write this review without using the word ‘maverick’, but when it comes risky business, ROB’s responsible for a good deal of local foodie folklore. There was the time last Christmas when the oven broke at the Angel and, instead of sending customers home, ROB dragged a filing cabinet into the car park, lit a fire in the bottom, and roasted a turkey in one of the drawers. Who else could be so ingenious – no, so absolutely bloody bonkers – apart from maybe an urban version of Ray Mears? But that’s what ROB is. Brilliant. Fearless. Outrageous. A nightmare. And I tell you what, if the apocalypse arrived tomorrow, I know which chef I’d dive in a bunker with. Not someone who can do intricate things with spun sugar. But someone who isn’t afraid to be bold, inventive and hands-on (er...steady on Emma).

Apart from the fact that I always make time for gingers, ROB won me and my entire family over back at the Bridge in around 2004, with a plateful of crisp, nostalgic, hilarious Spam fritters. The Unsworths instantly became chef groupies, dining at the Bridge for almost every special occasion, and then later stalking him at the Angel, where two of us carried my 80-year-old nanna up the stairs to the top room for my 30th birthday meal. So there was no small amount of excitement in the fold when news hit about ROB taking the reins in the kitchen of the Mark Addy pub off Bridge Street.

The Mark Addy is an odd-looking fish by the River Irwell – something about it reminds me of the house in The Amityville Horror. Maybe it’s the shape of the coloured canopies on the top porch. They need to clean the damp dog carpets, but it’s good news for girls that the Ladies’ is now at the bottom rather than the top of the stairs. Down the stairs, the creepiness ends, as the pub opens up into a spacious, curvaceous area, with windows down one side offering romantic views of the river. There’s a good-sized alfresco seating area too, great for summer, complete with attendant swans and flotillas of ducks. It was dark when we arrived, and the interior was lit with candles, the dark water slinking by outside. We chose a booth at the back and settled down with the menu – could ROB save the pub from being bog standard, just as its namesake Mr Mark Addy saved folk from drowning in the river, all those years ago?

I’d taken along my friend Rachel – a girl so Mancunian, she emerged from the womb wearing a parka, with a copy of ‘Blue Monday’ in her hand. More relevantly, Rachel knows her meat – and as this is ROB’s speciality, I thought she’d be a good judge of his latest venture. Service was instantly charming – we were informed of four specials; two starters, two mains – and were sipping a mellow Bordeaux in no time. One thing that did strike us was the need for music, even just a little (maybe a gentle live act? They’ve got the room, and the view…) – it was too quiet, and felt like closing time at 8pm. If truth be told, the general evening menu was at first glance a little disappointing. Strike off the fish and chips and get some more interesting things on there. Lunch looked more exciting, and I’ll be heading back soon to try the Blacksticks Blue Cheese Bhajis (£6.50) and Lancashire Hotpot (£8.50). The famous Mark Addy Pate and Cheeseboard (£6.95) remains, with notable bar snack additions in the Homemade Pork Scratchings (£2) and Hand Raised Pork Pie (£4.75).

To start, I went for a ROB staple: Black Pudding Potato Cake with a Soft Poached Hen’s Egg and Tarragon Sauce (£6). The egg spilled dreamily onto the rich meaty potato cake, epitomising the best things about ROB’s cooking: warm, Northern, gutsy and generously portioned.

Rachel tried the Baked Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese and Creamed Leek Tart (£6). The leeks were so beautifully seasoned, it was shame that the filling was slightly too runny and the pastry too hard. We were expecting a baked tart to be more set, so although the flavours were perfect, the texture sadly was not. But that’s ROB all over – he’s doesn’t do molecular gastronomy, but for sheer unbridled enthusiasm, he’s the bomb.

The mains were major. Rachel ordered Fillet Steak with Duckfat Chips, Field Mushrooms, Roast Tomato and Bearnaise sauce (17.50). The steak was on the rare side of medium, tender and melting. I plumped for a special: Pheasant, Baby Spinach and Fondant Potato (£11.95), sweetened with a cinnamon and sultana jus. ROB had, of course, shot the pheasant himself, and it was like Christmas come early – salty greens stashed between pieces of soft meat, and then the rush of an uplifting sugary sauce. I was caught out by a whole clove at one point, but it was a small price to pay.

The Selection of Regional Cheeses with all the Tracklements (£6.50) provoked the exclamation ‘Sweet Cheesus!’ from Rachel, it was so good. Huge hunks of several cheeses – crumbly Cheshire, goat, blue, and the outstanding Tipperary Camembert were a long, long way from the Mark Addy’s usual dairy wares. Served up with celery and flat leaf parsley in a shot glass, and a plonk of caramelised onion marmalade, we swilled them down with a bulbous mini-glass of sherry-like Krohn Colheika 1978 Port (£4.95) – as old as us, and just as smoky.

For proper pudding, we shared a Dark Chocolate Terrine with Vanilla Roasted Apricots (£5.50) – a non-negotiable chocolate dessert that aptly provided a full-on finish. Was the meal perfect? No. But the highs were rocket-powered. Robert Owen Brown, it’s good to have you back in town. No one else understands the meaning of having fire in your belly quite like you do.

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

AnonymousNovember 12th 2009.

If the interior doesn't complement the food being served...forget it people will not dine there.

TomNovember 12th 2009.

Emma, from the way you're going on about the chap I wouldn't be surprised if he was able to walk on top of the river. The food does sound good though.

hrmmmmNovember 12th 2009.

My housemate (a frequenter of the Mark Addy for years) just got back from there; after reading this review she decided to venture back to see if ROB had sorted the food out. Complaints; decor terrible, smells of damp, mismatched furniture, wires sticking out of wall, kitchen could be seen warming plates on a TOASTER. She says the food is good, but certainly no better than say, the Met in Dids. But it was at a similar price point so fair enough. Summary; it's okay.

easyladNovember 12th 2009.

not been on this site for months and months but nothin seems to have changed. is aptly like fittin back into coronation street. all the comments regardin new talent are correct. and its always the same names makin the same boring comments. it really is time to move on.

AnonymousNovember 12th 2009.

The Angel met a swift demise because he did a runner! Allegedly.

Eat SoupNovember 12th 2009.

Eat Meat - Leeds has the wonderful Antonys plus a host of other much better restaurants, Birmingham has a clutch of Michelin starred eateries, as does Bristol, London is about to be revitalised by the reopening of The Savoy and Heston Blumenthal's new gaffe, and virtually every city in Britain can boast at least one Michelin starred restaurant - oh, except Liverpool, but they have the wonderful Da Piero. As for Valencia and other foreign cities, come on. The standard of cuisine over there knocks spots of some of the stuff you get served up in Manchester. You can get better fish from the beach shacks in Majorca than somewhere like San Carlos, which sums up everything about Manchester and food ie the people of Manchester know very little about it. This city is primarily a drinking city, hence everyone hits the pubs and wine bars on a Saturday afternoon, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Right, I'm off for an old fashioned.

Oi oi boycie!November 12th 2009.

Sounds ****ing pukka!- what's wrong with you miserable bunch of tools? Robs knocking out the kind of grub that most of Manchester is hankering after. Have to say I was dissapointed in the angel- my meal there was average- maybe a bit better - but the atmosphere was sheizer- dead gray dusty and gritty.-the mark addy looks like it should be bolted on to a 70s esque fawlty towers- or a 2nd division football stadium- but I quite like it for this- it has character it has charm- and in the summer you're hard pushed to find a better spot in town on a hot Sunday arvo for a few pints and a cheeseboard! Not been down in years but indeed ahoy- I'll be there with bells on to give the fillet steak one a roll- lads Christmas do- who's in? - home made scratchings and copious pints of lager poured down our festive necks... **** yeah- see you soon addy

PlanetmanNovember 12th 2009.

Starman well said. The Brum restaurants are all in the suburbs. Manchester has a great range in central areas. You forgot the delightfully rude Lounge Ten

Rich@the oxNovember 12th 2009.

Cheers foodie

AnonymousNovember 12th 2009.

The Angel is not closed Ancoats, but ROB did a runner, it's still a pub serving pub food but without the ROB plaudits which maybe a good thing

Tyson the BeerhoundNovember 12th 2009.

All the talk in town is how long it will last...

ADNovember 12th 2009.

Eat soup - Da piero isnt in liverpool its in Irby which is further from liverpool than oxton where fraiche is - so either liverpool does have a star - fraiche or it doesnt have " the exelent da piero" - you cant have it both ways and I think your making all this stuff up!

BabyNovember 12th 2009.

This gaff has been open less than two weeks - why have you 'reviewed' it so soon?

boredNovember 12th 2009.

why all the personal attacks, just go eat there and see......

just wondering...November 12th 2009.

why the Mark Addy refurbishment has ground to a halt half way through?

johnthebriefNovember 12th 2009.

When he's on his game ROB is a brilliant cook. I for one will be getting down to the Mark Addy pronto to sample his fare. The cynic in me says though that you should get your visit in early before it falls off or he falls away....

lucky-chrisNovember 12th 2009.

You like the chef. We get it. Can't help but notice you've basically said though, "The tart was crap, but it doesn't matter because I love ROB"... C'mon, Emma.

AncoatsNovember 12th 2009.

Had a great meal at the angel tonight 19/11 - blues band and coal fire on the go- so don't know why everyone keeps posting that it is closed - now better than ever.

manchesterfoodieNovember 12th 2009.

Anonymous - somehow i don't think Rob did a runner - if he did i don't thiink it would be that hard to find him as he is always in the press. Give the guy a break, he may have had a few establishments recently but u dont actually no what goes on behind closed doors i.e. the backers. Good luck is what i say. Oh, and Rich @ the ox, keep up the good work, crackin food!!!

StarmanNovember 12th 2009.

Eatsoup, Leeds does indeed have the wonderful Anthony's but after that serious fine dining places are in short supply in the city (care to name any? Many such as Rascasse are long gone and although No 3 is still great it's now operates at brasserie standard). And "virtually every city in Britain can boast at least one Michelin starred restaurant" Really, are you sure? Proper CBD restaurants, not places marooned in far flung suburbs or satellite towns that have little to do with the city proper like Juniper (RIP), Sat Baines or Fraiche? Well London is a global, tourist-fuelled law unto itself that's true, and hats off to Brum and Edinburgh for their current Michelin haul (though most of the latter's are actually out in Leith) but Glasgow? Newcastle? Liverpool? Leeds? Sheffield? Leicester? Derby? Nottingham? Bristol? Portsmouth? Southampton? Brighton? Not one bona fide city centre Michelin star between them. Makes the Mancunian options for serious dining seem quite good: Abode, City Inn, Obsidian, The French, The Modern, Harvey Nichols, Opus, The River Restaurant etc. No stars admittedly, but certainly something to appreciate for all tastes.

A TrotterNovember 12th 2009.

How come EA didn't mention the fact there's REAL ALE on @ M ADDY too, though i take it she's a white-wine and soda chick!!!I and some friends went last sat:(6th nov:) around 9.30pm and sampled a few pints of Baa Baa BEER, that's BLACK SHEEP BY THE WAY !!!. There were a few diners (6 at most), and me and my friends supped the last of the Baa Baa ale, leaving our late arrivals the option of drinking Tetleys.When i first started working near the M ADDY 10 yrs ago it was a regular stop- off for me after work , and in the Summer you could watch the Rowers going up/down the IRWELL. Oh happy , summer days sat by the waterside.

AnonymousNovember 12th 2009.

Nice to see Manchester pierre White is back in town

Gordan Ramsey lookalikeNovember 12th 2009.

Give the Mark Addy a chance and concentrate on the food...let he who casts the first stone etc etc

Editorial Calculating DepartmentNovember 12th 2009.

This is what we currently offer on Manchester Confidential. Let's take mid-September to mid-October this year, we had: 33 Food and Drink stories, 30 News and Comment stories, 30 Health, Beauty and Shop stories (Body Confidential), 19 Art, architecture and culture stories, 12 Property stories (Property Confidential), 10 Entertainment stories, 7 Events and Listings stories, 5 Satirical stories and 5 Sports stories. Total: 151 stories plus 35 competitions and offers. Everything from winning free office space and Wii's to United tickets and, of course, the best in food and drink offers. That's 186 separate inclusions.

Eat SoupNovember 12th 2009.

Sorry, but Robert Owen Brown is a very ordinary chef in a very un-foodie city - hence the lack of decent high-end restaurants in the place. His food is average, if that. In any other city he'd barely register on the radar. If you want to try good cooking, with chefs who know how to make tarts properly then go to Ramsons, and if that's full try Sanmini across the road. Sorry but Robert Owen Brown is no great shakes and does not deserve this idolation.

easyladNovember 12th 2009.

hey tre. no probs with the reponse. understand the community thing (but what restaurant does 'chick' run??? lol. she's like the old drunk in the pub) but was heartened by the next post by foodie....richie is a top lad. always has been. has a passion 4 food to follow his passion 4 beer and united but great to hear his name gettin knocked about a bit more. has took balls and commitment too bring the Ox back up to where it was when shrigley and rowley where bangin out 90 covers a night. time to give the kid a profile maybe man con?????

AnonymousNovember 12th 2009.

4 of us went to the Mark Addy tonight, had the man-con special, the 3 course dinner including 2 bottles of wine, was the best value around, service was good, and I will definately be going there again. This is a pub with food, good food, I hope it succeeds, for all of you who say they will try it, do.

DescartesNovember 12th 2009.

He didn't go very far though did he anon.

I know my portNovember 12th 2009.

Krohn Colheita...

Eat MeatNovember 12th 2009.

Eat soup. Er un-foodie city. I was in Birmingham recently and tried to find a Mancon equivalent. Nothing. We are a very foodie city which does the middle-market better than anyone but lets itself down in the higher ranges: although we have very good restaurants with Abode, Podium, Ithaca and others. For variety and also for skill we piss all over Leeds, Birmingham, Bristol and other cities I know, as well as Gothenburg, Valencia and others I know abroad. You can't compare unless you've been to those places.

easyladNovember 12th 2009.

oh. and by the way man con. richie may not be pretty............but neither is chewbacca over at the addy ;-). hey, love 2 u ROB

CraigNovember 12th 2009.

predictable review!

Rich@the oxNovember 12th 2009.

Regarding the one about same old food! Are these dishes not rob's signature dishes??

littlechefNovember 12th 2009.

It seems that this time round Rob has a kitchen to work with (the oven didn't break last Christmas at the Angel, there never was an oven to speak of!) So without all the excuses, will the Mark Addy be more of a success? I really hope that isn't Asda produce he's still using? I certainly won't be rushing to the Mark Addy after far too many poor meals at Rob's other ventures but like many, I will be watching with interest. ManCon love Rob and that never seems to change but if other people still regard him as a saviour of Manchester's food scene then there is no hope for Manchester!

AnonymousNovember 12th 2009.

Dear Anon (we are a happy band) If you read the Opening Times (copy available in the bar in Arndale Market) you will find the answer

Manchester FoodieNovember 12th 2009.

I wish Rich@theox wouldn't be so modest. His food knocks socks off what it sounds like the Mark Addy is offering. The long specials menu changes all the time and includes all kinds of things from Venison to Pigeon. Personally I don't care who caught it, just what it tastes like.

LEMNovember 12th 2009.

Super Stacking Skills!

CheeseboardNovember 12th 2009.

Simple food done well cooked well nothing wrong with it

SwissNovember 12th 2009.

Until they replace the "damp dog carpets" I won't be going. My abiding memory of the Addy is the "sticky to the foot" carpets, and if the can't see this as a problem then I'll just walk on by!! Which is a shame as Rob sounds like someone to sample at least once.

custard mad!!!November 12th 2009.

Alot of mixed coments here. I agree that there are better chefs in manchester Rich@the ox i agree that these are his signature dishes but ive walked passed a few places and seen carton custard being deliverded! whats that about?? i have no problem with it, if i was at home obut surely this "maverick" can make these basic foods! Sureluy you make your own custard ive eaten the food at the ox and its great by the way even though i have my doubts about your custard too!!

Jonny MacNovember 12th 2009.

Rachel went to my school!!!!(i like food)

TreNovember 12th 2009.

That's what you call a community easylad. The articles change though and tell you what's going in Manchester without fiddling around with the crime obsessed MEN site. I can't stand the ranters on here so I just read the articles.

AnonymousNovember 12th 2009.

Just wondering what happened to The Angel? Does ROB own The Mark Addy now or is he just the chef there?? Can any one clarify

johnthebriefNovember 12th 2009.

Hmm, I have a gig at the Civil Justice Centre this morning, I may let my barrister treat me to lunch at the Mark Addy afterwards...

Rob (the ergonomist).November 12th 2009.

Give them a fighting chance, Tyson...

Kev the knowledgeNovember 12th 2009.

ROB did not do a runner , the Mark Addy was offered and he accepted . The Angel was a business deal , he brought it back to life , it is now a thriving place JOB DONE . Now the plan is to do the same at the Mark Addy , although it has a kitchen in it which should really help . Now here is an idea , let it drop . Either go or don't.....its your choice .

littlechefNovember 12th 2009.

.....or better still, don't!

AnonymousNovember 12th 2009.

BOARING!!!!!!!! There are better chefs in town these days Rob's done the same dishes since his chop house days!!! (not that they're bad) Look at Obsidian they have Bryn Evans who can cook some serious food!!! I give him a couple of months then he will be somewhere else doing the same old thing and you will praise him for it and miss out on the other talent in manchester!

EditorialNovember 12th 2009.

Ten days after opening is our minimum review period. By that time things should have settled down. We would never review before that.

Lauren CliffordFebruary 13th 2010.

Christ 'hrmmmm' the decor is terrible?? its an underground building with a stone wall down one side. what do you want us to do? put up some wallpaper??? Grow up and stop listening to the chinese whispers. Take a look yourself and make your own opinions!!!!

MaggsMay 18th 2010.

Well,as of 15th May, the Mark Addy was still going strong. We took some friends from Windsor in there for a quick lunch and there were no complaints, in fact the starter of coddled duck egg with potted shrimps and toast soldiers was brilliant and I will be trying it myself at home - may just go back tonight after the Tunnel Tour and try dinner. The decor certainly looked to have been spruced up and there were plenty of lovely fresh flowers about.

MaggsMay 18th 2010.

Took up the Obsidian deal again last week after enjoying it so much last time and happy to say it was just as good if not better. We had a table for 7pm and by 8 the place was filling up with most people appearing to be there for the Man Con offer - more of this one please!!

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