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Parlour review

Jonathan Schofield on the good looking venue with a menu which needs work

Written by . Published on September 15th 2010.

Parlour review

I love the design of Parlour on Beech Road, Chorlton.

This is the legacy of John Quilter’s adventure with his restaurant/bar Marmalade. The hooped entrances between rooms, the heavy wooden furniture, the muted paint tones and the big windows, all hawk back to genteel eighteenth century interiors (although the building is much younger). The place makes you feel immediately at ease as though you’ve stumbled into a funky kitchen block in a stately home.

Robust, sturdy and simple food can quickly become clumsy, inelegant and careless. Parlour has to guard against that.

Punch Taverns, the asset-stripping pub owning company, that to a large degree killed Marmalade, has left the scene. Punch has sold the place to the team who are rediscovering The Castle pub on Oldham Street for the city, Jonny Booth and Rupert Hill. They have a chef in from the Great John Street Hotel called Jenny Cole and a management team of Jamie and Goska Langrish.

On a couple of visits so far this party of folk have managed to develop the feeling of joyous, lively ease, shown in the decor. It’s a grand place to drink and watch the Chorlton scene glide by.

Beautiful ale, spilled in joy

But what about the food? The menu is familiar, that modern British idea of old British, lots of solid, hearty dish titles that underline the desire to be honest. HONEST in capital letters.

This is no bad thing if done well. Chefs clamouring to be heard in the catering din can try and be too clever. Simplicity produced via skilful cooking and good ingredients is often so much more attractive than misplaced sophistication.

Unfortunately things went wrong with the food right from the start at Parlour.

The problems began with size. The starters of smoked haddock rarebit (£5.50) and warm beetroot and butternut squash salad (£5.50) were huge. They were as big or bigger than the mains. This disturbs the natural order of things. Maybe Parlour should give everything equal presence on the menu to all dishes and forget about starters and mains.

Another problem was with the way the dishes were constructed. The salad had so many leaves I almost asked for a machete not a table knife. It reminded me of a big old rhododendron in my family garden with a hollowed out centre in which I would read as a child on hot days. It took me a while to get out of the thing and find the squash and the beetroot, which were both excellent. The promised dressing of thyme, garlic and chilli dressing was lost somewhere in the rhododendron.

My dining partner on receiving her rarebit asked if this really were the starter. It was of mythical size. Good though, bloody good, and if you’re going to Parlour a bargain at £5.50. That and a dessert will see you more than right.

Parlour booksMy main of faggots with mash, mushy peas and onion gravy (£9.50) had been rushed on to one side of the plate as though waiting for a guest to join. It was very poor in both presentation and flavour. The potatoes were dusty and dry, when a mash should always be light and buttery.

The faggots were strangely taste-free brutes apart from being generically ‘meaty’. My notion of a faggot is lighter filled with all sorts of unsavoury inner bits of animal that give it that glorious richness bordering on the disgusting - the best characteristic of peasant food. These faggots really had no definition to them at all.

The Lancashire hotpot (£8) had been messed with. Correctly cooked with lamb and looking spot-on it also included, according to my co-correspondent, lentils and squash. The verdict was that all the individual elements didn’t work together at all. Maybe traditional is best with traditional dishes.

A huge helping of cottage pie produced specially for the ten year old was good enough but no better than you might cook at home, which unless you’re a would-be Masterchef isn’t what you want when you dine out.

There was partial salvation with a St Clement’s posset with shortbread (£4.50). It was exquisite and a perfect match for the honeyish ale – one of a range of five or six – which had been beautifully kept at the proper cellar temperature. Indeed a passing visit to Parlour for one of these ales with the posset would set a mid-afternoon up just right.

Despite the food problems I still really like Parlour. It remains a lovely place to drink and people watch or read the paper, but it needs to refine the menu items – and sort out the differentiation between starters and mains.

Robust, sturdy and simple food can quickly become clumsy, inelegant and careless. Parlour has to guard against that. The posset and the rarebit shows what can be done in both terms of presentation and flavour. The chef should take those dishes as the measure, and look again at the others. The place deserves it.

Pleasant posset my darling

Breakdown:6/10 food
3.5/5 service
4/5 ambience
66 Beech Road
M4 1LE
0161 881 4871

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

NortherngeezerSeptember 14th 2010.

There are certain dishes that it is sacrelidge to 'fiddle' with, certainly in this part of the world, and one of those dishes is Lancashire Hotpot. Lentils & squash............FFS!!!!.
Whilst faggots should be down to the individual flavour of the cuts of meat they contain, they should at the very least smack yer round the chops and make you salivate. I've yet to be impressed by any faggot i've tried when i've dined out.
Lets not get started on shyte mash eh.

oswald goldSeptember 14th 2010.

I went to parlour on sunday for the roast and enjoyed it. the food was great - beef nice and pink and spiced/honeyed parsnips were delicious - but i suppose a roast dinner isn't exactly haute cuisine. biggest suprise is that the mash was the star of the show, but clearly not when the reviewer went. there was slight mix up with our table, but apart from that the service was friendly and relaxed and overall contributed to a nice afternoon. in short - go for the sunday lunch.

Jonathan Schofield - editorSeptember 14th 2010.

Actually maybe I should have mentioned the Sunday lunch which two or three people I trust on food have mentioned they've enjoyed.

Tracy BeenSeptember 14th 2010.

you have a point about the clumsy food which a low price point doesn't make that much better unless you go out to stuff yourself. great for a drink though

AnonymousSeptember 14th 2010.

From the comments, it sounds like a pub serving a passable Sunday roast then?

AnonymousSeptember 14th 2010.

I like your son, wimpy kid.

Jonathan Schofield - editorSeptember 14th 2010.

I might have to call the police over that last comment

AnonymousSeptember 14th 2010.

I am so sorry: it was just the title of the book...

AnonymousSeptember 14th 2010.

Ate there opening week with the kids and it was ok. Had steak and chips, good quality but no better than The Bar , half a mile away and more expensive, service wasn't the best though as we should have been offered the childrens menu, but they forgot !
As for the Interior, yeah quite nice but it owes it's design to The Nose and Bluenote both there before Mr Quilter, about whom I'm guessing entered into his deal with the asset stripping Punch Taverns fully aware of their terms and conditions, no matter how one sided they were.
Also went last Friday night, very busy with loud Chorlton gobshite media types, started ok but the bar area is too small to get served and the table service (nice idea) took 1/4 hr.
Will stick to Electrik/The Bar

sz837rSeptember 14th 2010.

not sure about the comment on the photo "nice beech road " unless its sarcastic or the graffiti on the side of the building is in some way artistic - either way its lost on me.

The score seems a bit high for a restaurant with such poor food, still if its chorlton it will always get at least a 13.

Jonathan Schofield - editorSeptember 15th 2010.

SZ837R it should say 'nice Beech Road location' a slip of the posting. As for the score, that's because we score for food which was low at 6 and then we score for ambience and service which can lift it higher.

Account ClosedSeptember 15th 2010.

You must have caught them at a bad moment.

I have eaten there at three different times over the last couple of weeks and can highly recommend the food.

IMHO, the Sunday Lunch is one of the best in Manchester.

AnonymousSeptember 16th 2010.

Not sure how large portion sizes can be a bad thing, particularly for pub food which is what this place offers. If you want small, delicate, portion sizes go to a proper restaurant like Aumbrey or MC at Abode. I have only eaten in Parlour once but have drank in there a few times and the food was good and service was fine and friendly.

Dont not go to places just because of an indifferent review. Food is all about personal preferences and just because somebody who claims to be a food critic doesn't like it, it doesn't mean that you will feel the same.

NortherngeezerSeptember 16th 2010.

Good point about personal preferance Anon, but if 10 people tell yer its shyte, then its shyte.

AnonymousSeptember 16th 2010.

Further proving my point was on the 'Food' program last night they did a flavour test of scones. One with butter and one with an oil based spread. The food crtitic Jay Rayner picked out the one with butter as the best tasting but 52% of the tasters (the audience) chose the other one. Therefore if this translates to his reviews more people would like the restaurants he slates.

Noel ''not anonymous'' HeathSeptember 16th 2010.

"It reminded me of a big old rhododendron in my family garden with a hollowed out centre in which I would read as a child on hot days."

I give this review 1/20.

I've been to the Parlour a few times and I have always had a really nice time in there. I've found the service to be personable and efficient. The beer is amazing and I am genuinely surprised the rating isn't much higher. I'm used to big portions in gastropubs.

OhcomeonSeptember 17th 2010.

Nice time. Service. Beer. The reviewer all loves these and repeatedly praises them. It's the clumsy grub he's getting at. The lack of finesse in the cooking. I've been three times and that's true. Read the the review Noel.

Mark JorgensenSeptember 17th 2010.

When I saw the title "PARLOUR REVIEW" I did wonder whether you'd been to rate a local spot for 'ladies of negotiable virtue' Jonathan.

Kevin HandleySeptember 17th 2010.

Funny these comments about reviewers - it appears you keep reading this site and thus giving it credibility. Listen reading this again I can see no reason to doubt the words. Schofield clearly likes the place but the food wasn't to his liking.

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