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REVIEW: Parlour | Chorlton

Jonathan Schofield goes to the home of Bilbo Baggins

Written by . Published on January 26th 2015.

REVIEW: Parlour | Chorlton

PARLOUR lives up to its name.

It's a good place to talk, chat, shoot the breeze, chew the fat, mull the mango. The word 'parlour', you see, comes from the French verb 'parler' (to speak) and came into English as a handy word for the room in which you receive guests and talk to them - or shout at them if they're PPI botherers or Jehovah's Witnesses.

This was a dish for which that most dull of epithets, 'wholesome', can be applied as a real compliment.

Certainly Parlour in Chorlton is a happy space, good for a chat. It feels comfortable, easy, just right, like a pair of old shoes you wear to nip to the shops for a Sunday paper when you realise the iPad is broken. Speaking of Sundays, Parlour won the Observer's 'Best Sunday Roast' award for the UK in 2012, and was runner up in ‘11, ’13 and ‘14.

The woodwork might be the key to comfort here, the interior is defined by a series of wood rimmed horseshoe entrances between rooms that put you in mind of Bilbo Baggins' house in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films.

Bilbo Baggin's house without dwarves and a hobbitBilbo Baggin's house without dwarves and a hobbit

Parlour look-alike with dwarves and a hobbitParlour look-alike with dwarves and a hobbit

Parlour is good solo as well. It's a dandy place for a pint and a paper and no-one else. Or even a novel and a glass of wine as one woman was enjoying on an afternoon visit. The novel was Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, the only author named after a disastrous culinary experiment. 

The food here has married the word simplicity and will never be unfaithful. A Lancashire rarebit with red onion marmalade on (of course, of course) granary bread cost £4.75 and was big enough for two. Lancashire cheese is the only cheese you should ever use for rarebit and it shone here. Excellent.

Lancashire RarebitLancashire Rarebit

The beef stew (£8.95) came with rich gravy, a fine quantity of beef and some tasty but diminutive dumplings the size of squash balls when I like my dumplings somewhere on the way to tennis balls. But to mutter and whinge too much would be wrong because I enjoyed the fecund verve of this humble winter warmer. This was a dish for which that most dull of epithets, 'wholesome' can be applied as a real compliment.

The ultimate expression of simplicity was the ham, eggs and chips for £7.95. Eggs, runny and good, honey roast ham good, chips...er let’s search for some adjectival variety...were, well, good. The vegetable hot pot - at £10.50 more expensive than the meaty stew – was not so good. It had lentils, celeriac, a sweet potato top, red cabbage and it was ok. But ok is where it stopped, which is exactly where most of these veggie collations grind to a halt.

Vegetarian hotpotVegetarian hotpot

We're doing a Best of Vegetarian Restaurants feature at present so I also went into Eighth Day on Oxford Road, the vegetarian supermarket and cafe, and had a beetroot dish with chickpea, hairshirt and joylessness. The staff member had thrown the food onto a plate, spattering the 'gravy' all over the show. The dining room felt like a seventeenth century puritan convention plotting to ban folk festivals because they encouraged cheerfulness.

I'm getting away from the Parlour review here but honestly I don't know why so much vegetarian food has to be this way. Don’t people complain in Eighth Day? Utilitarian qualities are fine in plumbing and the provision of street lighting but in food - one of the great sensory pleasures?   

A lemon and lime tart (£4.95) lightened the mood in Parlour, a good combination of strength and zestiness, unclogged by excessive sweetness. A large glass of Zarabanda Rioja at £6 lightened the mood further.

Lemon and lime tartLemon and lime tart

Parlour is a fine neighbourhood bar with a few areas of the building that could do with retouching. During most evenings it buzzes with civilised chat. It has five draught ales, one draught cider, a decent wine list, spirits and on my two recent visits, charming staff. If you’re in the area dropping in on Bilbo Baggin’s house allows you to take a few deep breaths. Just remember the food is good value but a part of the whole, not the standout performer.

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter @JonathSchofield or connect via Google+ 

All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commerical relationship.

Parlour, 60 Beech Road, Manchester M21 9EG. 0161 881 4871

Rating: 13.5/20

Food: 6.5/10 (rarebit 7, beef stew 7, veg hot pot 5.5, ham, egg and chips 6, lemon and lime tart 6.5)
Service: 3.5/5
Ambience: 3.5/5

PLEASE NOTE: 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, 18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away


Parlour barParlour bar

Parlour main roomParlour main room

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

AnonymousJanuary 26th 2015.

Looking forward to the veggie feature. I'd guess Lilly's, 1847 and Greens will feature highly. Hope there are some places that I've not been to that I can try. This place looks good. I think I'll have to sample the rarebit sooner or later!

RevaulxJanuary 26th 2015.

Had lunch at Lily's today Jonathan, and the food was anything but joyless. Difference is that with them it's a way of life, not a hobby like the Eighth Day-ers

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 27th 2015.

Couldn't agree more

AnonymousJanuary 27th 2015.

Always a solid performer and they welcome my little dog, who curls up and has a sleep while waiting for any cheeky leftovers. It's that kind of place. Top stuff.

The CooktwitJanuary 27th 2015.

Sounds great. Just wish I could get in! Done the one hour journey four times now and never got a sniff of a table! Will keep trying!

Lynn SantisJanuary 27th 2015.

Have been a Parlour devotee since it opened and it gets better every year. For the absolute expression of simplicity try just eggs and chips (without the ham) - egg runny, chips crisp - takes me straight back to childhood. Love this place!

AnonymousJanuary 27th 2015.

I have to say that the sunday lunch here is only above average. How on Earth it has gained such accolades for it, I do not know. However, my opinion seems to be in the minority, as they are always hammered every sunday afternoon. A little off-track, but if you're looking for one of the best sunday lunches going (in terms of quality, value and setting), The Whitehall in Pwllheli gives you better quality food, prepared superbly and in a relaxed and pleasant setting - cheaper than Parlour too.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 27th 2015.

I'd say it's 'good', rather than just 'above average', but I must admit to being puzzled by the accolades too.

AnonymousJanuary 27th 2015.

I imagine there's quite a few good places to eat within 120 miles of Chorlton tbh

Carl ParkerJanuary 27th 2015.

I agree - not bad Sunday lunch but by no means stunning. The score is about right (between "if you're passing" and "worth a trip") but the hyperbole in the article over eggs it.

Paul SoanesJanuary 28th 2015.

The Wharf in Castlefield- Steak and Ale pudding, soft and creamy mashed potatoes, cabbage, onion gravy, that's a Sunday lunch my fellow Hobbits and Munchers.

Francesca OatesJanuary 28th 2015.

The Parlour is a great place to eat - we went on Christmas Eve and had a truly brilliant meal. The food is warming and hearty and it comes into its own this time of year.

AnonymousJanuary 28th 2015.

I don't get the haters of the Parlour, I've never had anything but an exceptional meal and service here. The sunday roast pisses all over anything else i've had in Manchester.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 28th 2015.

Not thinking that it isn't "exceptional" doesn't make someone a "hater".

AnonymousJanuary 29th 2015.

One too many negatives in there, but you get the idea.

AnonymousJanuary 28th 2015.

If I'm paying around the £7 mark for a sandwich, I expect it to have a few chips on the side, not be charged another £3 for a portion.

Stephen HayesJanuary 28th 2015.

why go to so much trouble with a review and not publish the address. Why doesn't Mark Garner read my books.

David BentleyJanuary 28th 2015.

Not a pub foodie but the bar/lounge ambience is good enough to encourage me to a frequent 30-mile round trip from Oldham. Then again Oldham is a ghost town at night. Consistently pleasant staff. Definitely needs some urgent 'retouching' though before someone comes through the ceiling.

AnonymousJanuary 29th 2015.

Too many dogs and noisy children, other than that, decent pub food at London prices.

NoelJanuary 29th 2015.

David try the Waggon in Uppermill! complete refurb absolutely fantastic! Well done to the parlour clearly still doing great business!

NoelJanuary 29th 2015.

David try the Waggon in Uppermill! complete refurb absolutely fantastic! Well done to the parlour clearly still doing great business!

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