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The Marble Arch review

Simon Binns likes his nosh but wonders about the sheer number of dishes

Written by . Published on October 18th 2010.


The Marble Arch review

The Marble Arch walked away with the best pub gong at the Manchester Food and Drink Awards this week. You can’t fault the decision. It’s pretty much nailed the art of the boozer.

Thankfully, the two punchy smoked cheeses and a sharp, creamy goats cheese that came with it spoke for themselves and were good value at £4.50. They were washed down with a Ginger Marble, and all was right with the world.

It has its own famed brewery, a faithful following of locals (including all the posties from over the road at the sorting office) and enough pull to make city workers troop across the city to sample its ales. It’s even branched out into a sister bar in the Northern Quarter.

Burger dull, chips good

All this makes it a prime candidate for a good old-fashioned pub session.The menu is expansive – at least half a dozen starters, almost 20 main courses, but oddly, only two desserts.

And there’s cheese. A lot of cheese. But more of that later.

It’s a mix and match kind of affair. There’s your burgers, your fish and chips – good solid pub grub all set below a tenner – next to dishes that suggest a touch more artistry and hang around the £15 mark. The priciest pick was the ribeye steak at £17 – arguably hefty for a pub dish.

I tried to start off with the halloumi and harissa terrine and the chicken pate, but neither were available, so settled for mussels in a Thai broth (£6.25). It was a generous stack and the broth gave off a good whack of lemongrass, although a slightly heavy handed garnishing of spring onions threatened to overpower it.

My dining companion – I’ll call him Thom, because that’s his name - got stuck into what you could essentially class as a posh breakfast – home made baked beans with a bacon chop and poached egg on top (£6.50). Disappointingly, the egg had set, and there was some unnecessary oil scattered around the plate. The beans were the high point, but sometimes, a man just needs yolk.

After a longer than necessary wait, it was time to tackle the mains. My pork belly (£14.50) came with a deliciously tangy but not too sweet roasted Granny Smith and what I can only describe as a phallic black pudding fritter which also delivered on taste.

Nice cheese board

The pork belly itself was a generous slab, twice the size I’ve been served elsewhere, with moist and tender meat hiding under a skin that perhaps could have been crisped up a touch more. But what this dish demonstrated was that the Marble Arch has a chef capable of ramping up from pub grub to something more. This dish said dining room, rather than bar.

On the other side of the table, Thom was prodding his burger, so to speak (£7.95). Solid but unspectacular, and looking around the rest of the pub, the most popular item on the menu. There was no pink in the middle, and it came with the standard tomato/cucumber garnish. The chunky chips hit the mark though.

Mussel men

Dessert was a bit of a head scratcher. Thom chose strawberry soup and rhubarb (£4.50) over the other item, crème brulee. The dish was well-executed, not too sweet, but just looked a bit out of place. The menu was starting to look a bit disconnected and confused. Real ale and strawberry soup on the same table? It was a conceptual stretch too far for young Thom.

I decided to tackle four choices from the 18-strong cheese selection, leaving it up to the chef. I heard and saw the kitchen briefing the barman on what was on my plate. By the time it had travelled the ten yards in between, he’d forgotten all but the cheddar.

Thankfully, the two punchy smoked cheeses and a sharp, creamy goats cheese that came with it spoke for themselves and were good value at £4.50. They were washed down with a Ginger Marble, and all was right with the world.

There are several issues the Marble Arch needs to address on the food front.

Firstly, it needs to have a slightly more focused front of house. The young lad behind the bar was a decent chap but had little or no working knowledge of the menu. Every question about what was off or on the menu, or even on the plate, resulted in a trip back to the kitchen to ask for an answer.

That demonstrates that he’s been told and isn’t listening or just hasn’t been told at all.

The menu itself is confused and overly rangy, but it could easily be split out into bar food and a more formalised a la carte – the latter could perhaps be confined to the pub’s dining room and given a more distinct identity.

Is it going for fine dining, or classic bar food?

If the Marble Arch wants to ‘do’ food it only has to look at the reason why its beer, and the pub itself, is so well-loved – and keep it simple.

Strawberry soup, rhubarb and cream


Rating:14/20
Breakdown:7.5/10 food
2.5/5 service
4/5 ambience
Address:Marble Arch
73 Rochdale Rd
Manchester
0161 819 2694

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

AnonymousOctober 13th 2010.

I've always found the food here a little disapointing but keep giving it another go as it seems to scoup award after award. Some of the ideas are nice but there's never much flavour going on.

AnonymousOctober 13th 2010.

Why can't pubs serve simple, good pub food? Stop messing with the menu! If I want a la carte, I'll go to a restaurant, if I want a good pie or mixed grill, I'll go to a pub. The Bridge is a prime example of a place with no identity, striving to be all things to all people. First it's a pub, then a wine bar, then a restaurant, then a tapas bar, then a destination for afternoon tea FFS, and then back to a pub. In the city, the Mark Addy gets it almost right, not quite, but almost

D KesslerOctober 14th 2010.

If you review one more burger I am going to scream! Jamie O is right all the way, the UK needs to train their food skills...

Tyson ThebeerhoundOctober 14th 2010.

Fair points I'd say. Sometimes it overstretches itself, particularly considering that burgers and fish & chips are the most popular meals. I'd go for streamlining a little and bulk out the dessert options. And they need to start doing pies. Seriously. Proper pies.

The option of 4,9 or 12 cheeses is brilliant though and served without any extraneous salads, pork pies or appples. The best non-ploughmans in town.

Hero
Katie AmosOctober 14th 2010.

I love this pub, and go a lot. I would agree that the menu can get a bit pricey and sometimes the food is a bit hit and miss - but not from being badly done , just sometimes a bit too ambitious. Having said that though I went to one of the tasting events and had a marvelous load of dishes that were intelligent and delicious. Ken - the chef definatley has talent, unfortunatley the management seem a bit confused sometimes (only having the menu on the blackboards seems strange to me). The beer is great, the atmosphere great - on the whole a fantastic pub (though more dark beer instead of wall to wall pale ales please).

AnonymousOctober 14th 2010.

Sick of hearing about this place. It ain't that good really.

Fair enough, you can't get any scran (apart from a toastie or some chips) but Bar Fringe is the best boozer's boozer in town.

jayOctober 14th 2010.

I used to prefer the Marble back when they did really good pub food. Theirs was possibly the best cottage pie I've ever had, the sandwiches and liver and bacon were also pretty good. I went back a few weeks ago and couldn't pick a thing off the menu

EARL OF DIDSBURYOctober 14th 2010.

Thomas's /Sams are my favourite food pubs in Manchester, lets face it we haven't got many , My only experience of the Oxnoble was when two friends and i went last year and got 3 overcooked steaks as part of 3 overpriced mixed grills and their beer was off too ! , at least at Thomas's / Sams you can get some good north west dishes , like corned beef hash and of course Lancashire hotpot which should be on every Manchester pubs menu just like cassoulet is in all Toulouse bistros, come on guys lets make Lancashire hotpot Manchester's signature pub dish with some nice pickled cabbage and a pint of bitter or maybe a glass of gamay wine ,,,, nice !

AnonymousOctober 14th 2010.

Does the Ox even do a mixed grill? The food there is far better than at the Marble.

DibigoOctober 15th 2010.

Why didn't you just google 'Ox Nobile Manchester'and click 'menu'... then you wouldn't have had to ask if they EVEN do a mixed grill would you. You'd have just seen it on there.

AVOOctober 15th 2010.

Probably because it would tell him if The Ox Nobile did a mixed grill but not The Ox Noble.

DibigoOctober 15th 2010.

Probably? Doubt it would, Avo. Probably because there is no such place as The Ox Nobile (as far as I'm aware). That's a typing error mate. Google would provide the option to choose Ox 'Noble' instead. He'd find the menu don't worry.

EARL OF DIDSBURYOctober 15th 2010.

Hello Avo its the Earl , last summer yes the Ox did do a mixed grill, myself and my 2 friends Andy and Alex from Chester all ate a very poor overpriced mixed grill , is it on the menu today? i dont know? is the food up to much at the marble? no not in my opinion, oh yes and the steak was overcooked when we asked for it medium rare and the timothy taylors landlord was cloudy and off!

AnonymousOctober 15th 2010.

So the 'best pub' gets a 14/20 rating? Hmmm...

EARL OF DIDSBURYOctober 16th 2010.

Yes Manchester despite its food festival has few good food pubs , and few if any great restaurants and no michellen stars !

bigearsNovember 3rd 2010.

its hard to take this review seriously when the "critic" doesn't know what the food he is eating is! An example of this is the strawberry soup with rhubarb and cream. i don't know who this chef is but he needs an award if he can caramelise cream like that and keep its shape! i'm guessing its either a floatin island or meringue, either way i think this review is possibly the worst one i have ever read! rant over

Tim the chef (not the chef, just a chef)November 3rd 2010.

It's not actually that hard bigears, Delia covers it, buy a cook book

bigearsNovember 3rd 2010.

buy a cook book?! i have many but not delia as i actually want to cook and not make sheperds pie out of a tin!!! still reckon its meringue though

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