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The Angel and Robert Owen-Brown

Gordo has a right good meal on the wrong side of the tracks

Written by . Published on August 26th 2008.


The Angel and Robert Owen-Brown

There are a number of ways that food critics and lovers alike can tell if a restaurant is going to be good, one of them being word of mouth. Gordo is getting out of his cab at The Angel pub/restaurant, formerly known, in a no-nonsense way, as The Beer House. It’s twenty yards up Rochdale Road, an area not known for art galleries.

The place is de-constructed, theme-less and has a Mancunian charm that Bernard, the renowned Belgian restaurant designer would charge the Restaurant Bar and Grill group £100,000. He would still be miles off.

A mean looking couple fall out of the front door, clearly well pissed.

“Eh, mate, are you goin’ in ‘ere?” asks the male, trackie bottoms bristling with static. Gordo inwardly groans. “Cos”, says our boy, “the food is fookin’ ace. It’s fookin’ bangin. Make sure you ‘ave the fookin Eccles cakes, as mad as fookin’ cheese. Am I right Crystal, or am I fookin’ right”, asks our gourmet scallie of his lady friend who had tits like torpedoes. “Dead right Darryl, replies Crystal, fookin’ top. ‘Ave a bottle of that Nuits St. Georges, mate, it’s less than thirty quid, with a bit of fookin’ age on it as well.” Off they went, weaving up the road towards the council estate used to shoot Shameless.

Now that’s what you call word of mouth.

The Angel is a pub on the wrong side of the tracks taken over by Robert Owen-Brown and his ex business partner, with a budget of eighty-six quid. You may well note the use of ‘ex’. Robert has bought Mark, his partner of a few weeks out of the business already. Rob loves a bit of chaos in his business life but not usually in his cooking. The pub has had a bit of a wash and brush up along with a lick of paint; good beer has been installed. Dunham Massey, Little Bollington at £2.50 a pint is a great mouthful, along with the usual assortment of wife-beating lagers. A fair old wine list with interesting bin-ends on the blackboard and a delightful bar maid who has a smile wider than the Mancunian Way all go together to give a great first impression. The place is de-constructed, theme-less and has a Mancunian charm that Bernard, the renowned Belgian restaurant designer would charge the Restaurant Bar and Grill group £100,000. He would still be miles off.

Gordo had a pair of pals in tow, Professor Huw Morris, Dean of the MMU Business School and Richard Seline, a Texan Jew from Washington, currently advising the City Fathers on how to boost innovation in Manchester. These two can have a drink.

First course arrives; black pudding cake with a tarragon cream sauce being ridden by a poached egg. (£5.50) “What’s this”, asks Richard, reasonably. “I’ll tell you after”, replies Gordo, wondering if cooked pig's blood is kosher. It was definitely fabulous; the second time Gordo has had it. Lots of black pudding in the fluffy potatoes, rolled in breadcrumbs and pan fried, the tarragon sauce lending just the right amount of juiciness whilst the runny egg yolk delivered the coup de grace.

“Err, pigs blood Richard” owns up Gordo. “Ok buddy,” says Richard “when the lightning strikes we are going to hell together”. Richard is a sport, especially after the first bottle of Nuits St. George, Louis Trammier & Fils, 2001. Crystal knows her stuff. It was £29 or thereabouts and a great mouthful of red burgundy, a fine example of the Pinot Noir grape.

Next up a slab of hot smoked salmon with lemony broad beans partnered with pan fried mackerel on top of a new potato salad that had been stroked with horseradish. (£6.00) The salmon was compact, with a texture difficult to describe, resiliently flaky? Typical of the process, the flavour packs itself in and is a rewarding mouthful. The mackerel hadn’t been hanging around for long and kept its side of the bargain, marrying up well with the minimalist potato salad.

Chicken breast, just cooked and juicy, with bacon lardons, sat on a blanket of wild mushrooms and perfect mash in a generous puddle of mushroom gravy was a marvel. Great quality chickens used here, the buggers had clearly spent time with a farmer’s wife who spoilt them.

Then a potato crusted Lancashire hotpot spiked with rosemary. (£9.00) Lancashire Hotpot is about a number of things. You need the poorer cuts of lamb, scragg end of neck and neck being the best as the bones and cartilage give the flavour with fat that melts into the stew over hours of braising resulting with unctuousness. Gordo doesn’t know if that’s a proper word but it describes the dish well. Good spuds on top gone brown and a bit crispy, with a layer on the bottom that many times disappears to thicken the gravy. Rob's is all that and more. There was some debate as to whether the seasoning, was on the light side, but in Gordo’s case easily rectified with the salt and pepper pots. Rob's cuts of lamb are a bit posher than Gordo’s but none the less, you can use that unctuous word for his. Maybe a couple of shakes of Worcester sauce? The crisp, tart, pickled red cabbage sat grinning, waiting to storm the dish. Master class.

Darryl was right about the Eccles Cakes. (£5) They are fookin’ bangin’. Mad as cheese even. Served with a butterscotch and ginger sauce, delightful whipped cream and some tart strawberries. Lush. Much better than Fergus Henderson’s at St. John (click here).This pub/restaurant is the business, with another similar establishment one hundred yards up the road (The Marble Arch, click here) this area is in danger of becoming the culinary quarter.

Make sure you check to see if Rob has got the credit card machine working yet. Be aware that the menu has numerous specials every week; this week will see grouse, rabbit and wood pigeon taking starring roles. Toward the end of the month of September there is a six course ‘celebration of game’ dinner at £30 a head. Rob will not be announcing the menu until the evening. Contact numbers below.

Go to eat with Rob and his crew at The Angel. It’s fookin’ wicked.

Rating: 17.5/20
Breakdown: 9/10 Food
4.5/5 Service
4/5 (2/5 if you don’t have a sense of humour) Ambience
Address: The Angel (previously The Beer House)
6 Angel Street
(off Rochdale Road)
Manchester
M4 4BQ
0161 833 4786

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

AnonymousAugust 26th 2008.

Greaterix. Why don't you get a life? The crap about cc machines means they don't have them - ask yoursef why. Some people may book a table and stay there all night - a restaurant should account for that. Either you have the table all night or you tell people that they have a limited time - you can't have it both ways. There is nothing 'unfortunate' about it

Disappointed Rob O-B DevoteeAugust 26th 2008.

I could quite easily wax lyrical about the talent and creativity that Robert shows in his menu for far longer than I care to write and certainly for far longer than you’d care to read…... However Robert Owen-Brown may be the Angel of the north, but his front of house staff are beyond redemption!This was our second visit to the Angel, or more accurately, the Angel’s second chance. Like many other customers on our first visit we’d experience a few mix-ups and just like those other customers, we’d put them down to teething trouble. So after a four month gap, we were sure they’d have been resolved.I fortunately, was lucky enough to be notified payment was still by cheque or cash only, so I came prepared.My party arrived 15 minutes early for our table. We were seated at our table after spending a few minutes helping the staff find our booking (which eventually was done by spotting my mobile number in their diary – next to a name that who ever had taken the booking had managed to invent).After two truly wonderful courses, we were presented with the desert menu and after a few minutes, the waitress returned to take our order, or so we thought. We were actually informed that we weren’t allowed to have dessert, as they needed the table back in five minutes for another party. After going back ‘to check’ a second member of staff came to the table to reiterate that they needed the table back and told us that we had been informed that this would be the case when we booked the table. Having booked the table myself, we weren’t. We were then told that it was house policy to only allocate an hour and a half per service. Weather the waiting staff had simply forgot to mention the 90 minute turn around on tables (both on the phone and when we were being seated) and were then too inept to perform their regulation 90 minute service even with the extra fifteen minutes we had given them by arriving early, or they had invented the whole story to cover-up a double booking. They stood there and lied to us.I can forgive mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes; it’s how you handle them that matters. When I get something wrong, I hold my hand up, I don’t lie to cover my own arse!Robert, over the years, myself and guests have provided you with well over a hundred covers at all three of your Mancunian pubs. Sadly, courtesy of you staff’s inexcusable behaviour, tonight’s visit will be our last!Needless to say when we were asked by the maitre d' if “everything was OK” I’m sure you can imagine our response.

AnonymousAugust 26th 2008.

Yeah true about the strawberrys and cream...Still no card machine, went sunday and asked when they thought they might have one and they didnt know!! Also called up in the morning and asked if they were doing sunday lunch, they said no, got there and turns out they actually were. Whilst deciding what to eat i had 3 seperate visits saying they had ran out of various main and my friend got the breakfast, asked for runny yolks and they came rock hard, will walk a little further in future and go the Marble.

AnonymousAugust 26th 2008.

smells fookin' awful (bit like wet dog)and the old scallies who obviously met on Match.com don;t appreciate a good chat about micro-penises

ricardoAugust 26th 2008.

There is also a book on Flemish button hole weaving , whats that all about ?

GregAugust 26th 2008.

I think that line of asterisks might have given me my answer. How ****ing ridiclulous!

AvoAugust 26th 2008.

Rang up and booked earlier this afternoon. Was pre-warned by the nice chap on the phone that they still didn't have credit card facilities though.

GreaterixAugust 26th 2008.

Baby, they made a mistake, apologised and supplied free drinks. What do you want to happen? Would you like the staff to be strapped to tables and whipped? Whats this c**p about cheques and cc machines? Who gives two ****s? Get a bloody life.

AvoAugust 26th 2008.

Ahem, don't you recall my description of the Cheung Fun at Tai Wu which won me a seat at your hallowed table at The Lowry recently..."The Cheung Fun has an amazing gelatinous and unctuous texture which is akin (you filthy man, we've cut that ed)"

ancoats girlAugust 26th 2008.

We've eaten there twice since it opened and the food is indeed top.On my first visit I had the potato pancake with mushrooms and a chive cream sauce and my bf had the fish and chips - both very nice. On our second visit the bf had spam fritters for a starter - delicious guilty treat - and we both had the steak & chips. I fancied a sauce (none are offered) but otherwise it was very good, although not cooked quite as rare as we'd asked for.The eccles cakes are definitely amazing - I pictured a typical dry wheel of a cake and didn't fancy it, but my bf's curiosity paid off as he ended up with the better pud. My chocolate mousse with cinder toffee was lovely but far too big a portion for me to do it justice (especially after a big plate of meat!)Our friends had to wait ages for their food last week, and the lack of a card machine is a pain (it's been weeks now, what's the deal?) but these are teething problems which can be sorted. Yum.

JoanneAugust 26th 2008.

Yeah, I smell a rat. There really isn't any comparison between the Angel and the Marble Arch. The MA is a lovely pub, but food wise? The MA is more expensive, hit and miss, with smaller portions. If you're happy to settle for that, fine.

Ray LangtonAugust 26th 2008.

Hey Chick , what are the two reasons why an establishment would not take cards ? I have a Masters degree and am a chartered psychologist .So the assumption is , that no I don't know . What I do know is the fishcakes I had the other night were bloody brilliant so yes , please book . I saw at least two other couples not being able to dine

GordoAugust 26th 2008.

Greg, exactly you ****ing simpleton

JoAugust 26th 2008.

The food was good but in the end the service slightly ruined it for me. It started off ok but during the second half, it was virtually non existent. I thought they'd disappeared on breaks all at once.My only point about the food would be slightly more seasoning required and the omelette wasn't fantastic.Was really looking forward to it as well. No warning about card machine when I booked the table either, just as well I read this article.

IvanAugust 26th 2008.

Gordo , this is the best review ever on Manc Con , great new pub with ROB back on top GREAT

AvoAugust 26th 2008.

Well, maybe I'm a bit naive but I'd like to think that The Angel haven't got cc facilities because they are still getting on their feet rather than the fact that they are trying to evade paying taxes. I assume that is what you are alluding at Chick?

AnonymousAugust 26th 2008.

Can't really go wrong with strawberries and cream though, can you? Have they got the card machines yet?

AnonymousAugust 26th 2008.

Food was so nice, but I could not eat them up all, as they are a bit big quantity for me.I wonder if I can ask to take away my leftover to home...maybe not?It is so sad if they would be thrown away.

AlexAugust 26th 2008.

Hmmm. A lot of negative remarks from "Mr/s Anon." Probably work for the Marble Arch!

AlexAugust 26th 2008.

The Angel is a great place for both a drink and a meal. Top class beer and, it has to be said, better food than the Marble Arch.

ancoats girlAugust 26th 2008.

I would recommend booking ahead. They didn't seem to have many free tables when I went, especially for later seatings.

GailAugust 26th 2008.

Greaterix, not stroppy actually, I just expect good service, especially when a reservation has been booked well in advance. What a suprise..... I was expecting a reply from someone mentioning the free drink we had, some people are easily pleased.We appreciated the drink, but as Baby and Annoymous correctly stated, the restaurant has to take into account that they may have guests staying longer than planned. I was merely highlighting an area that the restaurant needs to make improvements in. By the way, there was no actual apology!

BabyAugust 26th 2008.

Half an hour wait without a reservation or if you are late and don't call, is OK. But if the table is reserved for 8.30, then you should expect to be seated at 8.30 or thereabouts. Still no credit card machines eh? How many people still pay by cheque?

MissyAugust 26th 2008.

Went there on Sunday – fortunately it was the first Sunday they were serving food - the roast is one of the best I have had in the city for a long time - I will definitely be going back there regularly! The barmaid was so friendly you can’t fault the service or the quality of food and drink.

FiAugust 26th 2008.

The Angel has closed I think

AnonymousAugust 26th 2008.

I had possibly the worst Sunday Lunch ever. The aunt bettys yorkshire puddings and one tint roast potato, didn't really satisfy me. The rest of the meal was great, the roast was S##T

MatAugust 26th 2008.

Just testing...

GordoAugust 26th 2008.

Gordo is currently looking up "gregarious" and "erudite". He is aware of what 'less hair' means...

GordoAugust 26th 2008.

Avo, whats this unctuous bizzo? Did you use it?have I missed something? TB, great compliments, tell that toss pot Scrotefield....

avoAugust 26th 2008.

Can you book tables there or do you just turn up? Planning to go on fri night but worried it maybe too busy? JeeZz I'm pissed x

Dr QiAugust 26th 2008.

That's it!!! I definitely am going there for dinner this week. I live just round the corner from it and it does look like a nice and cheerful place from the outside. With its fat Angel drawn on the board. It must have over-indulged!

AnonymousAugust 26th 2008.

Went expecting to be wowed but slightly underwhelmed by the experience - service was slow - booked for 7.30, taken to table and told that because they had a big party upstairs they couldn't take our order for 20 minutes - when they did take order told that as steak was requested well-done mains would take 1/2 an hour - since when does it take that long?) - fish stew had fatty offcuts of salmon and was under-seasoned, eccles cakes though delicious were served with three slices of what looked like a block of supermarket cheese. Still no ccs.

GreaterixAugust 26th 2008.

Gail, you appear to be a pretty stroppy customer to me. Half an hour in the bar with free drinks? Sounds like the poor bugger serving you was making the most out of a bad situation. I would happily wait thirty to forty minutes having a free drink and a chat with my pals for the food there. Chill a bit.

AvoAugust 26th 2008.

Aye Gordo! Do I get the credit for introducing the term "unctuous" into the ManCon vocabulary?

AnonymousAugust 26th 2008.

Can I use my card yet?

PaulAugust 26th 2008.

Whats the point in going out if you cant get bladderd ?

AvoAugust 26th 2008.

Off topic but can someone tell me how you get paragraphs on your rants? I try to format mine correctly but it always comes out as one long rambling diatribe...

AnonymousAugust 26th 2008.

Work for ROB do you Greaterix? You're the one that needs to 'chill'

claireAugust 26th 2008.

Really wanted to like this place - an independent restaurant with plenty of black pudding, game and the notorious spam fritters on the menu with a nice DIY feel to it all. Sadly my partridge main course was dry and overcooked, unlike the potato which was undercooked. The accompanying claret sauce was bland and more was required to compensate for the dried out game. Our expectations had already been lowered when starters took an hour to arrive without apology and when the bill arrived extra bottles of wine had been added to our bill and only some of these were ungraciously removed. We were charged for twice as much wine as we had drunk and when we asked for proof of what we ordered we were refused. For a place with a supposedly honest approach to good food of good provenance this was a suprisingly cynical experience. This is no match for the Bridge or the Chophouse. Our large party felt thoroughly ripped off.

ChickAugust 26th 2008.

There are two reasons why establishments don't take cards. Not difficult to figure out

AnonymousAugust 26th 2008.

unfortunately,some people book a table and stay there all night.This obviously has a knock-on effect on other customers and from the staff's point of view is difficult to deal with as you can't tell paying customers to sod off as you need the table.

GordoAugust 26th 2008.

Gotcha. quite right, it's your fault.

CountryboyAugust 26th 2008.

What a night at The Angel.See 'Readers, drunk as usual' above, that's me front right. Drunk? Well maybe a little, say rather that our glazed expressions came as a result of our first sighting of the legendary Gordo. Like Captain Ahab and his quest for that 'dick' Moby, we have searched the vast ocean that is the Manchester dining scene for a glimpse of that mighty leviathan. But what did we find?Not the bellicose, dimensionally challenged Lothario that rumour had led us to expect, but an erudite, gregarious bon viveur as playful as a Saint Bernard puppy, but with a lot less hair. Suffice it to say, now that we have seen him at close quarters, none of us feel the least inclined to hurl a harpoon at his blowhole!ps The Angel is really good.

GailAugust 26th 2008.

Having read the review and comments and being a previous diner at The Bridge, we were excited to hear the return of Mr Owen-Brown, and took the advice to book our table for 2 on Saturday (13 Sept) night. We received a message reminding us that they only take cash or cheques, what a shame that the staff didn't have the courtesy to phone to advise that they had c*cked up on the tables booked! Our table was booked for 8.30pm and we arrived on time, mentioned of our reservation and ordered drinks. We were told by the waitress that the guy who seemed to be in charge (running round like a headless chicken, I hasten to add) would be with us in 1 minute. Approx 5 mins later, advised by the guy himself that he would be with us in 1 minute.So far, no problem, stood at the bar waiting to be shown to our table, the barmaid then advised that our table was just being arranged.Now at 8.45, again not a problem waiting 15 mins, we were approached by the 'headless chicken' who advised that there had actually been a mix up with the tables and our table would not be ready for at least another 15 - 20 mins and that he would give us our drinks on the house. We took a table in the bar area until approx 9pm. No update, no apology, no food and not happy so we left! Rather shoddy experience!

GregAugust 26th 2008.

What's with spelling '****in' as in 'fookin'? It's like the bad old days of Southern NME wankers transcribing Oasis interviews in that slightly patronising 'dialect' way. We spell ****, '****' no matter WHO says it thanks. Let the reader bring their own accent to the reading. Fook and **** sound the same to me so give it a rest you facking snob.

AnonymousAugust 26th 2008.

Maybe i always make the wrong food choice at the Angel as its always average, but then i can never get any of the specials i want so always have to settle for what they have left, the seebass was full of bones, the rabbit bland, the fish pie was flavoursome but they may as well not have bothered with the tiny prawns and the hotpot was the best ive had yet bland again so i needed extra red cabbage to give it some flavour, however the strawberrys and cream were divine!!

AnonymousAugust 26th 2008.

Looks like the usual over-enthusiastic fawning is over then. ROB is always going to excel when cooking for critics, he know every last one of them. Shame us lesser mortals - the ones who pay his bills (allegedly) - don't get the same treatment. Wonder who'll be wearing the emperor's new clothes next then?

SarcasticB*stardAugust 26th 2008.

For God's sake Gordo, how often do we have to tell you.... Take your camera when you are doing a review!

AnonymousAugust 26th 2008.

I wonder if I could leave some of my books there so that I can read them while waiting for the dishes..., as I would certainly visit there so often..

ChickAugust 26th 2008.

Avo; there are fees for CC machines, but they are not prohibitive, neither are they paid in advance. Turn-around from order to delivery is about 3 days. No business can afford to be without them by choice IMO

seabeeAugust 26th 2008.

im having chippy tonight from wongs does anyone want me to get them something while i there?

MatAugust 26th 2008.

Scunthorpe.

JeffAugust 26th 2008.

Went on Sunday, very hit & miss.Welsh Rarebit was crap asda value cheese on a bit of toast, lancashire omelette great.Rare tuna was well done & medium rare steak was overcooked. Sausage & mash with really oniony gravy was onionless!Staff were decent though. 6/10 but won't be rushing back.

AnonymousAugust 26th 2008.

On the bookshelf, there was a book by Jamie Oliver. Is this also their sense of humor?? Probably not...

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