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The Lowry Restaurant Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield chokes on his sunset

Published on September 3rd 2012.

The Lowry Restaurant Reviewed

I FEEL like a moaner at the moment, a food curmudgeon.

The first half of the year was full of pleasant surprises. I've enjoyed really good food in 2012 at Livebait, Podium, Teacup, Almost Famous Burgers, Gorilla, 63 Degrees, the 'real' menu at Great Wall and Solita. It's all been satisfyingly different as well. 

But lately, honestly.

It's like the management has given up and simply aim to please the dribble of custom that comes via the shows. Can't they shake off the municipal small minded offer they currently deliver and think bigger, try harder? 

39 Steps was an overpriced disappointment and now the Lowry Restaurant has taken the bloody biscuit.

As the pictures show this is the restaurant in the Lowry not the hotel. The Lowry self-describes itself as 'a spectacular waterside building housing theatres, galleries, restaurant, café/bars, gift shop and Tourist Information Centre'.

Panoramic View Of The QuaysPanoramic View Of The Quays

I love the place and I love visiting it.

Michael Wilford's building is spectacular yet also very human. It's a fine modern arts centre. It's uplifting from the start and that's a rare quality in buildings. 

Also on the www.thelowry.com website they say 'Our Vision is to be the most successful Arts Venue in the world'.  

The LowryThe Lowry

Good job they don't mention the food.

On our visit to the flagship restaurant with its lovely site overlooking the water and the Imperial War Museum North, the food was terrible. 

The menu was two courses for £19.95 and three for £22.95. The dish descriptions were fancy dan and the aspiration and presentation underlined the fine dining pretensions. 

But there's a thief somewhere in the building. Someone's stealing all the flavours from the food. 

Dramatic dining at The LowryDramatic dining at The Lowry

I started with 'the slow cooked Loch Duart salmon, lentils, pickled beets and Little Town Dairy sour cream vinaigrette'. Thank God for the beetroot as it was the only thing with any taste. 

The rest was plain strange. It did not contain a scintilla of flavour aside from the lentils, it had all been snatched. I could see the salmon but I couldn't taste it, the vinaigrette was a watery whiteness, a Ship Canal sludge. 

Who's stolen the flavours?Who's stolen the flavours?

Another starter of 'dry cure Upholland ham, summer melon, rhubarb, cress, hazelnuts and Lancashire cheese' also suffered from the curious case of the vanished flavour. The ham was vaguely decent where it wasn't old, hard and curled at the edges and tasting of Biltong - one of the most pointless foods ever created. I like the tiny bits of cheese too.

There was a vegetarian dish called summer vegetable strudel with 'buttered carrots, broad beans and herb sauce' which featured lentils (again) and so many raisins that it resembled fly paper on a particularly productive insect killing day. The veg was awful. The broccoli was solid, not al dente just under-cooked. This could have been a creative and very good vegetarian dish, instead it was nish and tish. 

Strudel fly paperStrudel fly paper

A mullet main came with crushed new season potatoes, Cheshire tomatoes and a basil and rapeseed dressing. It was another void. The mullet was grey mullet from Morecambe Bay. It was as grey as the towns in Morrissey's 'Every day is like Sunday'.

Worst off all it was so very very dry. All moisture was sucked into the dead fish and into the potatoes so that the food clagged up the mouth. The Ship Canal shimmered to our left, there was water water everywhere but a desert on the plate. The mullet was mullered.

Mullet about to dryMullet about to dry

And there we were with a Californian sun setting like glory in the sky. There we were in a big-boned exciting building energised by that absolute atmospheric clarity that the onset of twilight can bring when water and open skies come together. It was beautiful folks.

Sunset from The Lowry RestaurantSunset from The Lowry Restaurant

Except for the food, and the fact that the restaurant closed at 8pm when the theatre shows started. And there was a general air of let's get this done and get home. And the lovely space was almost empty.

The Lowry Restaurant is a missed opportunity. A massive missed opportunity. Another of the dreary food and drink venues in a thousand otherwise excellent galleries and museums across the country. 

I rang back the following day for the official opening hours and was told that "these vary, they're a bit random really. If there's a show on the restaurant opens, but it always closes when the show starts, so the kitchen shuts by 8'o'clock anyway. It's normally open for lunch."

How can they run a serious restaurant along these lines?

Terrace schmoozing at The LowryTerrace schmoozing at The Lowry

Sat there as the day burned into evening I dreamt of this restaurant as a proper grill with decent steaks, crisp salads, fresh fish, oysters, lush desserts. Easy, quick, dining with a splash of quality. Forget all that fine dining fiddle-de-dee.

Given the location I was dreaming of this as the region's OXO Tower, filled with people, life and excitement. The evening was very beautiful, you know. Maybe it had turned me giddy.

But why can't we get these places right?

As stated I love going to shows in The Lowry, the gallery does a good job too, but the food and drink is poor especially in the restaurant.

It's like the management has given up and simply aim to please the dribble of custom that comes via the shows. Can't they shake off the municipal small minded offer they currently deliver and think bigger, try harder? 

Imagine a tourist from say France, Germany or Italy, visiting for a game at United over the Canal, or coming for one of our festivals, or having made a diversion to The Lowry for a show and getting served that food. It would turn their whole day into a three quarters experience. It's embarrasing.

Back to our visit.

I've left out mention of some spectacularly poor carrot and rosemary soup, and steak that was anything but the medium rare asked for and came with a dry salad. We were also asked if we wanted desserts. But we just wanted to get out and take a walk around the building and then onto the Quays. 

Not medium rareNot medium rare

The only decent food came on the kids menu with a good tomato soup and bangers and mash. If you're going, go with that.

Nice bangers and mash from the kids menuNice bangers and mash from the kids menu

The very pleasant waiter asked me if the food had been ok. Normally on review visits I mumble something indeterminate but this time I told him what I thought.  

The concession given by the management to my words was to take the 10 per cent service charge off. Brilliant.

There'd been nothing wrong with the the waiters, so I had to give them the service charge in cash. It wouldn't have been fair otherwise. 

On the far bank of the Canal, the Trafford side, a newish scheme called Promenade Park has been installed that's quite excellent. There's a climbing frame, sculpture and also landscape features too. It's good quality and tasteful. 

Promenade ParkPromenade Park

Unlike the food at The Lowry Restaurant.

No inland UK city has anything like the Quays, a collection of landmark buildings and water on an epic scale. It's impressive, something for us to be proud about and show off to visitors. Apparently a million people visit every year.

So is it too much to expect just one decent restaurant? 

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield


The Lowry Restaurant, The Lowry, Pier 8  Salford Quays, Salford M50 3AZ. 0161 876 2057 

Rating: 10.5/20 

Food: 4/10
Service: 3.5/5
Ambience: 3/5*

*This is a compromise figure. The place was beautiful in terms of the views and the perfect evening, but in terms of human ambience it was bland.

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, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away.


The late sun creates a pattern on the chairs of the items on the tableThe late sun creates a pattern on the chairs of the items on the table

The Imperial War Museum North from The LowryThe Imperial War Museum North from The Lowry

Strolling the QuaysStrolling the Quays

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

Wall-ESeptember 3rd 2012.

Is it not Oliver Thomas there now? Used to be at the hotel.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 4th 2012.

Well if it is Oliver Thomas we all know the score. No doubt he's taking home a nice wage each month without delivering the goods.

AnonymousSeptember 3rd 2012.

Yes it is.
The food use to be fantastic a couple of years ago. Such a shame it's gone down hill over the last year.

RevaulxSeptember 3rd 2012.

Had an OK lunch there a few years ago. The building was busy but the restaurant was like a morgue. I felt sorry for the staff, who were pretty positive given the atmosphere and lack of custom.

Kris CullineySeptember 4th 2012.

A picture/photo tells a thousand words.

AnonymousSeptember 4th 2012.

I ate there a few months ago and couldn’t disagree more.

As a vegetarian you normally have to settle for the token “Veggie Dish” which invariably is a stuffed mushroom followed by some un-imaginative pasta concoction. At least there’s an attempt to do something slightly different here, and on my occasion it was great and full of flavour.

Service was friendly and efficient, which for pre-theatre I couldn’t really ask for much more. Would go again.

Simon TurnerSeptember 4th 2012.

Assume they don't need to make money. Take away the need to really think about your customers and your food offering and you end up with a lazy restaurant.

AnonymousSeptember 4th 2012.

I ate there about three years ago and my experience was fairly identical to that of Jonathan's. Except that you can throw in the fact that I was one of the first to arrive at the restaurant and order and was THE last person served before the show. That's my main I refer to. I didn't want dessert which is a good thing because there wouldn't have been time. My main was lamb and was so overcooked that I could understand why I was the last person served.

Three years is a long time so the brigade may have changed since then but it was so bad I'm not risking it. I always eat in town before going to a show there.

AnonymousSeptember 4th 2012.

I'd like to add to my comment above that the experience at the Lowry as a theatre is always without exception excellent and I couldn't fault the staff there in any way.

Amy DSeptember 4th 2012.

You are a moaner with a lack of food knowledge after reading your biased slating of 39 steps

3 Responses: Reply To This...
Jonathan SchofieldSeptember 4th 2012.

Amy, I might be a moaner and may have no food knowledge but I try not to be biased. Tell me though really, is the food at 39 Steps worth a minimum of £23 a main course. I'm still shocked by the fact it was so over-priced and terrible. The Lowry Restaurant was just plain embarrassing, medium rare is not medium to well-done. Carry on reading though. Thanks for that.

StuieSeptember 5th 2012.

It is only a minimum of £23.50 on the A La Cart menu. There is an excellant SET LUNCH Menu - £16.00 (2 course) & £18.00 (3 Course)
SET DINNER Menu - 3 courses, coffee and Petit Fours for £29.25
SUNDAY LUNCH Menu - £22.50 inclusive of Coffee Petit Fours

VERY reasonable ifyou ask me.

Kris CullineySeptember 6th 2012.

I'm afraid I have to agree with Johnathon the al la carte is completely overpriced.I also can never understand how a peice of seabass can be a couple of quid less tahn a fillet of beef which is a couple of quid more than a duck breast. I would alos like to say its quite interesing in the last couple of reviews rants. In essence How much disparity there is in the comments.I would say and this is pertinent to Amy D, that in the UK we are happy to settle for mediocre food and service and always have been. Lets be honest there 's not many manchester restaurants that are shining beacons in relation to top class cusine and service. Now dont get me wrong there are some good consistant cooks and restaurants but no real trailblazers, and I believe its because we are happy to settle for mediocrity.

AnonymousSeptember 4th 2012.

I couldn’t disagree more with this article. As a regular visitor to The Lowry and The Lowry Restaurant I’ve never been able to fault the place. Fabulous food, excellent service and a great setting.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Judge BreddSeptember 4th 2012.

you a member of staff Anon? they always say 'regular visitor...fabulous...excellent...' blah blah blah blah. Its simple, its crap.

Phil MurphySeptember 4th 2012.

Sounds like their sourcing of ingredients is poor and that their saucing of ingredients is poor. Sort them two out and it might be something appreciable by those that prefer a ambitious menu.

AnonymousSeptember 4th 2012.

I had lunch there last week. The food was very poor. I enjoyed watching a chef called Jason cook and couldn't wait to eat. Unfortunately Jason can't cook as my food was somehow cold but still burnt. The fish was dry with no flavor and I'm pretty sure the sauce was past it's sell by date. Will never go again and will advise others not to do so.

AnonymousSeptember 4th 2012.

Me and friends had lunch a week ago at the Lowry. Won't go again let's put it that way.

AnonymousSeptember 5th 2012.

Oliver Thomas. Brings back memories. Not good ones.

Tim GriceSeptember 5th 2012.

Off topic but why is it that the back of the shops and car park face the water...surely the whole of the Lowry area could have been a must visit place if the restaurants/bars faced the water instead of all facing each other on the other side.

StuieSeptember 5th 2012.

We have been twice to the Lowry. The last time was a disaster. I can't remember the state of the food, but the service was abismal. The play that we went to see had to be delayed by 20 minutes to allow the diners to finish dessert.

AnonymousSeptember 7th 2012.

I have had a very similar experience - the staff were great but the food was bland. Our waiter was very apologetic. Best thing was the view!

rockySeptember 7th 2012.

Ate there on many occasions,food was always great and good value.

Lately food is a mish mash,bring back good value for money dishes,food has gone up as well, Seems to have lost its way ,think they need to change direction .

Have always been impressed by the waiting staff,always attentive without being intrusive ,even during busy periods in the restaurant

Robert AtkinsonDecember 23rd 2012.

22nd Dec.
Ate in cafe bar.Menu uninspiring,food similar!Used to be excellent.Do they not read the reviews.

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