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Mr Thomas’s Chop House review

Gordo and Sleuth go for a quick lunch and crawl away from Tom’s new menu five hours later

Written by . Published on March 19th 2009.


Mr Thomas’s Chop House review

Gordo and Sleuth went walkabout, tongues lolling, looking for food and determined to get some good guzzle down their necks as well.

Gordo said, “Let’s try Tom’s Chop House, that picture of the chicken livers and black pudding Schofield put on the round-up last week was so good looking I wanted to have sex with it.”

Sleuth vomited into a handy King Street bin but nodded in agreement.

It was late afternoon and the be-tiled splendour of Thomas’s still had a few diners in for lunch. Sleuth and Gordo sat down. Roger Ward, boss of the Chop Houses operation saw them and decided to join in. Derek, the Thomas’s manager, came along for the ride. Georges Bergier, Manchester’s best sommelier, heard about it and came over from Sam’s with about seventeen bottles of wine. A passing New Zealand wine supplier, Ants Rickson, ended up at the table as well. John Jones, rugby playing chef with a broken shoulder blade, was up for the party too.

“’Kin’ hell,” said Sleuth. “Is there anybody left running the bar?”

It got even more complicated.

The new chef David Bright heard about the gathering above, got excited and cooked the whole of the new menu, out next Tuesday.

For starters we got an extraordinary supercharged prawn cocktail (£6.65) revved up with crab and crayfish and with a sharp, spiced mayonnaise that added welcome heat and variety. There was excellent 'posh cheese on toast'(£5.25) with chopped chives the secret to the lift in flavour it carried.

For Sleuth there were two real lovelies. The mushrooms on toast (£5.95) was ludicrous, the size of France, with crispy Cheshire bacon and big fat duck’s egg on top, the sage in the mushroom mix balancing off with the shallots and garlic like a dream. The other was the chicken livers and black pudding (£5.25), this time with the black pudding as a hash, in other words deconstructed pig's blood reconstituted to spectacular effect with spuds.

“I’ve never seen anybody do that with a black pudding,” said Gordo, in the tone of a policeman who’s discovered a farmer up to no good on the moors above Bacup.

Then we all got into an argument.

Gordo thought the black pudding hash should be presented with the Madeira, shallots and cream sauce, but without the livers. That it was a star in its own right and with the livers there was too much going on. Sleuth thought the dish was everything that Tom’s should be, a grand gesture of florid taste to match the decor and optimism of a pub built at the apex of Imperial Britain.

“You effing what?” said Gordo. "No wonder I try to avoid dining with you."

Sleuth had to then totter off on his investigations so missed the mains. Gordo takes over the reportage here.

It’s particularly good to see one of Manchester’s better chefs get such a great gig as Thomas’s. Gordo felt it was starting to get a little unloved of late with some decidedly ordinary stuff being plated up, so when he heard that the Mighty Bright was in position he was interested to see what was going on. Sleuth had sloped off so this was Gordo’s pick of the mains.

Aromatic pork vindaloo (£14.75). This is David’s signature dish and is absolutely nothing like the curry mile. This is a dish started with a few chopped onions gently frying, then building up layers of flavour ingredient by ingredient. A mixture of Portuguese influences and the British Raj, it’s outstanding and unusual. Gordo wants to see it done with lobster, something which David is very aware of.

Home-made chicken and mushroom pie (£11.70). A pastry lid that Michel Roux would be proud of, your knife snaps through layer after truly wafer thin layer of buttery-crisp pastry into a thick stew of chicken and tarragon, as tasty as a day spent with the organic farmer’s daughter. Lush. Crisply lush.

Pan fried sea bass (£13.95). Good size, farmed but firm of flesh and having been perfectly boned. Looks nice and crispy on the outside, Gordo is never terribly sure about eating fish skin. The flesh though, brushed with a nut brown butter sauce is simple and delicious, a word banned in the ManCon food vocabulary along with ‘tasty’ and ‘plumped for’, but right in this context.

Chop House sausage and mash (£12.95). You know how sausages always disappoint? These don’t, having been made by the world’s tightest butcher especially for David, they are top drawer. One of the fat, fresh juicy buggers was made with marmalade. Howzabout that then? Frank Murphy at Axons Butchers in Didsbury has done David proud, they are exclusive. The spring onion mash and red onion confit doesn’t let the side down either.

Little Dave’s big mixed grill (£16.95). It only took Roger, Chop House owner, two and a half years to pay heed to Gordo’s plea for a ‘proper’ mixed grill somewhere in the city. Lamb chop, kidneys, gammon, slow roasted (very silky stuff) tomatoes, rump steak, one of the aforementioned shifty Frank’s cracked black pepper sausages, a juicy field mushroom and runny fried egg. The only thing that could make this better is a second runny fried egg.

Gordo is lovin’ it.

Sleuth returned for the desserts. The puddings stretched as far as the eye could see over the table. In fact they stretched as far as the dunes of the Sahara desert or even dessert.

There was a rice pudding terrine, baked egg custard, hot doughnuts, banana and custard brulee, Granny Smiths apple tart (all £4.85), cheeses (£8.75).

Most of these were hanging out of the corners of Gordo’s mouth in bits. But the egg custard was perfect, just like Sleuth’s mother used to make, firm, tight consistency, bags of flavour with a good nutmeg cream to show it off. The doughnuts were clever, like big sweet cumulonimbus clouds in brown with dipping sauces of vanilla custard, chocolate and jam.

This was a long afternoon, that became the early evening. It provided stimulating company with earnest food and drink folk. It was a ball. But Sleuth and Gordo were impressed. David Bright has taken some of the Eastern elements he likes to flirt with and introduced them to Mr Thomas’s menu in just the right way.

He’s been clever with giving the menu some extra nuances of flavour it didn't previously have. But he's retained the big, robust, labour intensive British classics which so perfectly match the full-on UK character of the place. Try the menu yourself from Tuesday.

Gordo and Sleuth have vowed not to slip out together to somewhere they're known for at least a month. Things get out of hand. Tough life.

Follow Gordo on twitter GordoManchester

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

EditorialMarch 19th 2009.

Note to Red Ken, we don't remove rants unless they are offensive. Let me know which one was removed please on jonathans@planetconfidential.co.uk

M30March 19th 2009.

This had been a place which I was looking forward to eating in, until I had the misfortune to mistake it for a pub last summer. It really seems to insist upon itself. One very quiet lunchtime I went to Mr Thomas's with some friends, and sat outside. Our order was taken, and from that, it was obvious that not everyone was eating. As I was having my drink I was told that I could not outside as I was not eating (!). After this humiliation, I decided never top bother with this establishment ever again if the rudness of their staff is anything to go by.

JennMarch 19th 2009.

Ha ha, I have never been blonde and sitting on a customer's knee for tips is hugely unprofessional-I relied on being a good, fair waiter. I was simply trying to highlight that after the changes regulars stayed away (I was replying to the person that said that no one drank there and that it was a tourist trap) in addition at that time turnover did dwindle. I stand by my comment that it isn't what is used to be after a drink there this weekend, if that's good thing or bad thing is up for the individual to decide!

AvoMarch 19th 2009.

Sarcasm doesn't travel to well in rants does it?

GordoMarch 19th 2009.

Oh yea of little faith! It is true that this visit maybe shouldn't have turned into a review and it wasn't meant to. But, like Michelin with Angela Hartnett, there are some chefs we absolutely trust and David is one. I have to tell you, the prrof of thepudding is where Gordo books in for 'civilian' dinners, he is taking an old pal there tonight and the family for Sunday lunch. Finally, we are pretty sure that you lot will tear us to shreds if we have it wrong, and so will my mum.

beefy stewMarch 19th 2009.

Like what last one Red Ken?

ralph bMarch 19th 2009.

So can you just have a drink at Tom's outside ?

len mMarch 19th 2009.

You can sit outside Tom's for a drink , I walked past earlier on and there wad loads of people just drinking . Didn't look like you had to just eat

esquiloMarch 19th 2009.

all sounds fabulous and they'll be getting a bit more of my coin - but does a junket in which our beloved Sleauth and Gordo are hosted by a number of people attached to the chophouses group really qualify as a review?

SamuelMarch 19th 2009.

The good old days at mr toms as outlined by the rose tinted glasses worn by Jemm .I wonder if this is the blonde waitress who used to sit on the old customers knees to get bigger tips , ignoring the rest of us . Make us wait whilst her " favs " march straight in and at the end of her shift prop up the bar , get roaring drunk and loudly bay like some demented modern day nell gwyn . While I'm warming to the theme , as for the barstaff , those " brilliant characters " who would blank anybody who they knew they could not extract a " an one for you " . The good old days , now are the GOOD DAYS .Great service with no smart arse comments . clean interior , really well restored . Food at night , no smoking as a bonus . NO , NO , its a great place right now .

SleuthMarch 19th 2009.

You're right folks, this isn't a review in the classic sense of the word. Since we were surrounded by the locals how could it be? But tell you what, the dishes we picked out were bloody lovely and thus the write-up is accurate. Of course the ambience and the service were bound to be boosted when people kept presenting us with attractive grub and a charming and sophisticated Polish gentleman was plying us with fine wines. So sorry for the confusion but we think the write-up stands up otherwise.

old fan of the chophouseMarch 19th 2009.

Not been here in a while and wow was i disaponted!!!! I think the place has had its day and lost its charm the food isnt chophouse anymore boooooo!!! far better food on offer in manchester these days

tel boyMarch 19th 2009.

So Jenn the Mr Thomas 's waitress sat on a customers knee and got a big tip.... I bet she did . How very droll indeed , indeed !

cleoMarch 19th 2009.

i have to agree with esquilo. sorry boys...

ricardoMarch 19th 2009.

Hey M30 , I didn't know at mr toms that outside is only for food . Over the years I have seen loads of people outside just drinking . Perhaps they have just changed the policy . Bit daft in todays current climate to alienate any customers . They used to be legendary about customer service . I am sure someone over stepped their responsibility, try again and let us know cause I was going to go next weekend. However rude staff is never a good thing

Red KenMarch 19th 2009.

I agree with Cleo , I am willing to bet a tenner that this rant disappears like the last one.... there you go!!!!!!!!!Let's see shall we ?

mrs. trellisMarch 19th 2009.

JS - why aren't you 100st? what's your secret?

esquiloMarch 19th 2009.

Ken, I think you dropped this: *whoosh* ;-)

Terry ThomasMarch 19th 2009.

Red Ken is referring to the Mr Toms blog featuring Steve Pilling which was removed recently from Man Con . It seems the great readers of the after mentioned Man Con expressed comments that in some way displeased the higher levels of Man Com . Having read through the above quite fawning article I now understand why they did it and in my opinion if I was in their shoes I would do the same .I am very loyal to my friends as well

GordoMarch 19th 2009.

Went to Mr. Toms last night again with David Partridge. The ambience and service scores are right, three of the four courses hit the marks, the odd one out was the mussels, i would mark it down a half point simply on the basis they are a bit boring. Nothing wrong with them, just a bit boring. Apart from that i think the boy and Gordo got it right.

AnonymousMarch 19th 2009.

Hear, hear. This place is still trading on its old reputation - head to Damson and avoid Tom's, it's pants

peter koMarch 19th 2009.

It dos'nt matter to me if its a review or a chat . The food looks and sounds exciting . We should be supporting local pubs and restaurants . These are gems which we need to polish otherwise they dull . Frankly I don't care if Raymond Blanc leaves town bit I would if mr tom's did a runner . The past has gone , I am looking forward to excellent meals in the future

Stan the ManMarch 19th 2009.

I much preferred it when it was a cozy boozer , all snug and warm . I could go in there on a cold , miserable ,wet manchester day . Draw up on my favourite seat , get my fags out .Shout for a pint of Timothy Taylor and contemplate life whilst looking out of the windows heavily streaked with contensation . Realizing the blonde one would wilt before my wit and sit on my knee to get the big tip . With a heavy heart , I struggled to my feet , opened the door and made my way through the driving rain ..ahh the good old days

NedMarch 19th 2009.

You could , in the old days drink at the back or Mr Tom's . I remember one beautiful summers day drinking all saturday afternoon there . It was heaving , and to be truthful the staff could hardly cope . Most of us walked up that alley at the side , entered the front , got a beer and returned .If my memory serves me right , all the waitress were blonde , natural or bleached and nobody sat on my knee . There was a sign asking people not to sit on the grave .

KeithMarch 19th 2009.

what is the definition of 'homemade' in restaurant terms? I always wonder when restaurants have 'homemade' in the description on a menu if the chefs brinks that dish to work with him

mark GMarch 19th 2009.

Get the big tip PRICELESS LOL

AnonymousMarch 19th 2009.

Wow not been to manchester for over a year, whats happened?? The food here used to be great!! Now everythings changed some for the better! i think the chef needs to get a job on curry mile with all the spices such a sham i wont be coming back theres better places now R.I.P toms!!! your time is over!

richard hillMarch 19th 2009.

Jenn , of course I remember those days . But things move on . I heard that six pubs close each week . So the decision to offer food at night , open Sunday etc etc are the right choices . The table service was great but don't stay in the past , there is no future in it . What we should be saying is , well done Roger for having the confidence and belief in ensuring the success of Mr Toms . Food sounding wonderful and looked even better

johnthebriefMarch 19th 2009.

I'm looking forward to trying out Mr Bright's new menu - Tom's has been one of my favourites for 10 years but I agree that recently it's been slipping towards ordinariness. One last point though Gordo, why dont you invite me to lost afternoons like this ?

Red KenMarch 19th 2009.

Sounds like Trevor is living up to his surname . He sounds like a right merchant banker . Judging on Toms clientele he probably is !!!!

JezMarch 19th 2009.

Samuel, Terry you're right. The review here is more of a chat amongst chums, so there's loyality but the there's a degree of truth as well, as I think the food at Thomas's is very good for the price. Pictures want to make me try the new menu.

Pedro1874March 19th 2009.

"Roger Ward, boss of the Chop Houses operation saw them and decided to join in" lol

JennMarch 19th 2009.

...now I know who you meant, she was a right cow as well!

ollieMarch 19th 2009.

So can you just have a drink outside mr toms or not , its friday and if the weather holds I was going to meet the gang there at 5 tonight . I thought it is a pub , I loved the crack " its the only pub in the city centre that has a no drinkers policy

Trevor HornyMarch 19th 2009.

I am been a patron of Mr Tom's for a very long time , I quite appreciated that style of service as outlined by Samuel . As one of the " chosen few " , you could push in front of the tourists , get a table with a nod of the head . No nasty queues for the like of us , sit down and be regailed by the warm and fun banter of the afore mentioned bleached blondes . If you were lucky , as the bill was presented you got a hug and maybe , just maybe a quick sit on the knee . You see , that style is not for everyone . I like to think it's a throwback to the past ,. Imagine if you like . a traditional Georgian coaching inn run by boisterous , curvy real women with a naughty cleavage . Right there you go , thats that cleared up then

JennMarch 19th 2009.

I worked there years ago, when it only did food at lunch, the bar staff were brilliant characters, table service in the evenings and ROB. The people who drank there were a good mix of reglars (Waterstones staff, the busker with the fiddle, local businessmen and manchester legends) Now, well it just isn't what it used to be after Roger and Steve employed a general manager type without experience of this type of lovely pub!

AnonymousMarch 19th 2009.

I recently have eaten here whats going on?? the food is no longer british

AlexMarch 19th 2009.

I don't anyone who actually drinks in there, let alone dines. Not that it's not good, but expensive and something of a tourist trap.

cliff cliffordMarch 19th 2009.

A Mr Tom's review...really . Since when do you review a restaurant with half the staff on your shoulder . Great review though , Rarely have I seen a more energetic effort , such sheer enthusiasm .

kevin sutclifffeMarch 19th 2009.

I remember that waitress , I took a client and his P.A in for lunch and she took our order . He was a right stuck up Londoner , he knew that the right level of grovelling was required to get his business . She had her pen stuck in her hair and as she pulled it out , strands of bleached blonde hair floated onto our table . He was horrified , I try to quickly brush them off the table quickly and knocked a full glass of red wine over . As you can imagine it just went down hill from then .I never went back for years , but did return last december . New clean smart bar , no bar flies [ something else that upset him ] , new toilets and quick efficent service . No blonde waitress however !

phil satclffeMarch 19th 2009.

I used to work with Trevor Horny , he is really old school . He used to prefer the heavy old Henry the 8 chairs at the back of the restaurant . If they were occupied and he had to sit anywhere else . For the rest of the day he would be one miserable moaning beggar . Can't see him giving anyone a big tip , most of the time he had a face like thunder

BenitoMarch 19th 2009.

I love that cafe in the northern quarter with the lady who swears blind that the free soup is "homemade," as the cleaners busily tidy up empty campbells cans

Thank God its FridayMarch 19th 2009.

They are putting chairs outside at Toms right now , I can see them from my office . I , for one will be drinking there at lunchtime...bloody hell , hope it dos'nt rain

SausagesMarch 19th 2009.

bite me.

M30March 19th 2009.

Not on the day I was there anyway. "This space is for people who are eating, if you're not eating you'll have to leave". It seems to be the only pub in Manchester which has a "No Drinkers" policy. After being humiliated so publicly by their waiter/manager/maître d', I have not been back despite working within 2 minutes walk of the place.

Ali McGowanMarch 19th 2009.

Tel Boy - you have made me laugh out loud at work and spill beetroot on my keyboard. Benito, maybe said lady IS blind, poor woman, and has had the wool pulled over her eyes. As for the various musings above - I'm with all the positive ones. Nowhere is perfect but Tom's of old was good - and Tom's of right now looks absolutely delish. And just because the management joined in, doesn't mean it can't be regarded as a proper review. For if it were all a load of bunkum, we'd kick up a right stink. As it is, I am going to clean up my beetroot and head over to Tom's for some tasty sausage. Ahem.

Hero
MNovember 17th 2010.

I was served at the bar by an Irishman that short changed me. I'd realised at the point I was putting the change in my wallet, so I didn't tell him. The next time I went was a month later and the same man served me. I ordered the same drinks and as they were being poured, I turned to my mate and said "The last time I was in here, he served me and short changed me a quid." When the barman gave me my change back, this time I kept my hand open and counted it at the bar. I couldn't believe it...the same man, the same bar, the same drinks, and he'd short changed me a quid...again. As he was reaching into the till to get 'my' quid, I told him what had happened the last time he served me. Rather than apologise, the barman said "I resent you accusing me of short changing you in the past!" and then continued to have a go at me.

I've not seen that barman since. Perhaps he's retired early, a rich man.

Well...if you're reading this Mr Thomas...I'm still waiting for my quid back, and an apology. Each time I go back, I always tell customers to count 'their' change. That's not good for business is it?

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