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The Mark Addy Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield feels game when the steaks are high

Written by . Published on March 4th 2013.

The Mark Addy Reviewed

ONE of the best chefs we’ve had in Manchester for well over a decade now is Robert Owen Brown. Why should this be the case? 

Easy really. He knows what he’s doing with food. 

That applies not only when he's on the tools in the kitchen but also when he’s thinking up menus and sourcing ingredients. The result is stirring food that stays true to his principles of providing innovative versions of British, specifically Northern British, dishes. 

I adore the Addy. I adore the food Robert Owen Brown creates. It is one of the few places in the city I visit with real excitement wondering what he's crafting in the kitchen.

On his day Owen Brown cooks to a higher standard than most chefs in the region. This is because he has a better imagination and a better knowledge of the raw materials. 

It helps that he's a killer. A great deal of those raw materials he dispatches himself. Bang, bang. He's shot mallard, grouse, pheasant and all manner of beasts and fowl. He's fished in the seas and rivers too.

This direct knowledge of the slaughter and preparation behind what we eat seems to give his food an integrity that most other restaurants/pub-restaurants/gastrodised-boozers, lack. The fact that Owen Brown gets his hands red for our sake gives his food punch. Balls.

Literally balls - on one occasion Owen Brown fooled me into eating bulls’ testicles. (They were good as it happens, a bit like bloated sweetmeats, but saltier. Naturally.) 

He's also fed me calf's brain, but I think I preferred the bits of bullocks.

A fabulous pheasant at the Addy in DecemberA fabulous pheasant at the Addy in December

A visit last week to sample steak for our impending Best of Manchester Steak feature was a case in point - not that we were eating anything Owen Brown had recently snuffed out. 

The ribeye steak was exactly what you want from a ribeye, a little communion with flesh, in all its fatty grandeur. The steak came simply garnished in the classic style with a big tomato and a big mushroom. But it also arrived with the proper Mark Addy hallmark of fat chips, tasting of proper potato, a million welcome miles from those tooth-pick missiles of sharpened fries.

The meat is 28 day aged and then kept for a few days longer in the Mark Addy to give it a tender, forgiving, yet rich character. The price of £16.50 is an absolute steal: most other restaurants charge well over £20 for the equivalent. 

Steakly heavenSteakly heaven

Meanwhile a roasted gurnard with lemon, fennel and thyme (£13.50) was delicate but chunky; all the fancy herbs didn’t overwhelm the fish or the palate but went paddling along with them. A gurnard by the way is a curious fish with wing-like fins that looks like it's collided with very sharp rocks and come off worse. 

Gurnard Shaw

George Gurnard Shaw

The crispy ‘Manchester thingymabobs’, a starter to be shared by at least two people, costs £6 and provided one of Owen Brown’s signatures; crisply battered spam fritters. I love spam fritters. I love them more than bulls testicles any day. In with the fritters there were some black pudding nibbles and a stab at bhajis. The latter didn’t work but the black pudding was delightful. 

Brie and beetrootBrie and beetroot

Even more delightful was the filbert crusted, deep fried brie with honey and beetroot (£6). This was gooey genius with a happy chaos of flavour. Filbert is a type of hazelnut.

I’ve said before on these digital pages I’m hunting down sherry trifles, indeed any trifles.

My grandmother was a trifle concocter of note, famous across three counties. What she didn't know about sponge and Croft Original was not worth knowing.

Owen Brown’s sherry trifle (£6) was almost as good as my grandmother’s. Where it failed was in the lack of nostalgia inherent in the memories of my aged relative’s long gone artistry. Even Owen Brown can’t shoot nostalgia and add it to a dish. 

Mon sherryMon sherry

With a cracking bottle of Cahors for £28 – yeah, yeah, an expensive indulgence at lunch – the whole experience was intensely gratifying. The wine list is excellent by the way, but there are also ales to spare and decent whiskies too. Our waitress was the very measure of polite amiability. 

Of course there are issues with the riverside Mark Addy. 

Design-wise the cheap, perspex, municipal-looking entrance is off-putting. This dates from the 1980s when the Mark Addy was the most popular gig in town and served piled plates of high cheese and pâté by the dozen.

The Mancunians and Salfordians who packed in during those heady days were astonished to find water flowing outside the windows. They'd never realised the slowly crawling mass of putrescence between the cities was actually a river, and with rapid de-industrialisation they could now sit by it with their pâté and cheese.

The Irwell is cleaner again now, much cleaner, but still jumps its banks intermittently and floods the Mark Addy. This can lead to a damp smell and distressed carpets. It’s not ideal: the owners of the property need to spend some money on the Addy.  

But tish and tash, the venue can still wrap you up as snug as an old favourite coat - maybe one out of fashion but one that fits perfectly. The cast iron pillars and the gargantuan sandstone wall on one side of the long thin main room, add huge character. Meanwhile, on hot days the terrace provides riverside refuge of the highest order. Here you can quickly lose an afternoon lazily gazing as the university rowers glide past. Nature joins in too. The swans watch the geese watch the ducks go by.  

Despite its faults I adore the Addy. 

I adore the food Robert Owen Brown creates.

It is one of the few places in the city I visit with real excitement wondering what he's crafting in the kitchen, wondering whether it will work - it invariably does, sometimes it doesn't. Owen Brown has a competence and a rustic flair the city would be far poorer without.

Others agree.

In autumn I took sixteen Swiss architects for a meal there.

"Wonderful food," the boss of the group said, chewing and looking into the middle distance.

He paused to swallow, before saying: "How do you say? Yes. This is honest to goodness. I didn't know traditional British food was so good." 

The viewpoint of tourists with their fresh eyes is important.

If the Mark Addy were a stumbled upon bistro in some French town it would be lauded for its honest, genuine, clever food and people would scarcely bat an eyelid about the carpets or the canopy: the latter might even be mentioned as adding to the charm. 

Approval from discerning visitors is usually an accurate indicator of a restaurant's calibre, and the Addy seems to excel in gaining that approval.

The Mark Addy is refreshingly real compared to the formulaic and predictable cleverness of so many smooth Manchester city centre operators in which the love of food seems subsidiary to efficient systems control. 

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


Mark Addy, Stanley Street, Salford, Manchester, M3 5EJ. 0161 832 4080 

Rating: 16/20 

Food: 8/10 (thingymabobs 7.5, brie 8, steak 9, gurnard 7.5, sherry trifle 8.5) 
Service: 4/5
Ambience: 4/5 (but read the description above)

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.


Wine onWine on

Special's menuSpecial's menu

She walks in beauty like a spam fritterShe walks in beauty like a spam fritter

Owen Brown and friendsOwen Brown and friends

In the far distance the Mark Addy terrace and now clean waters of the River IrwellIn the far distance the Mark Addy terrace and now clean waters of the River Irwell

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

KendogMarch 4th 2013.

Sure he's a great cook, knows abit about food, is a darling of the humble food critic. Shut his doors owing chefs wages, owing suppliers money. There's better chefs in the city. Never had a good meal in any of his gaffs.

7 Responses: Reply To This...
avoMarch 4th 2013.

Just wait for the editorial team to jump to his defence when people start criticising ROB. In their eyes, he can do no wrong.

StephMarch 4th 2013.

Birds of a feather flock together.

Kris CullineyMarch 4th 2013.

Most of the stuff KENDOG states I would agree with. Ate at Robert Owens Brown's places on 2 occasions. First when he was at the Bridge. Game pie was poor, hardly any game in it.My friend had mussels that were of minimal portion size, poor,small and closed. We waited ages for the food. The second time we just went for a drink in the Mark Addy and had pate', it was bought in and of poor quality! Poor! For some reason the Ray King at the MEN,Mr Rayner (who i respect) and other so-called critics bow down to him. I don't understand it, as was previously mentioned there are better chefs in the city.

avoMarch 5th 2013.

I don't doubt that ROB is a decent chef. I've only eaten once at The Angel when he had it and the food was fine.

What seems to wind me up is how all at ManCon jump to his defence when anyone dare speak against him in any of their rants. This is never done for any other restaurateur and makes this usually fiercely independent site look as though they are in bed with him.

Dan McGlynnMarch 5th 2013.

Never been to the Mark Addy. Was keen to go until I went to his pop up at the Prestwich Food fest last year and was served the below hot pot. Frankly appalling. bland watery and burnt yet raw potatoes- it was like raw potatos had been blasted with a blow torch....


Richard HJMarch 5th 2013.

That looks like ear pie!

AnonymousMarch 6th 2013.

Well said , owes me as well

AlanMarch 4th 2013.

Yes I agree the food IS great!! The service and premises sadly are terrible, place is filthy, with stinking toilets, cobwebs, wrong orders, slow service last visit I was even given a completed feedback card that another customer had filled in, and guess what it said exactly what I thought, bad service, dated and dirty premises. Sort the premises and service out, be back in a flash.

Food BabyMarch 4th 2013.

I completely disagree with the above comment on service, when I was last there the service was top notch, food was awesome, yes it is a bit outdated décor wise but it wasn't dirty.

Karen AdamsMarch 4th 2013.

Avo, I think Mancon like him because he is good. What in the review do you disagree with? The Mark Addy has the best chips in Manchester and I think if this was a backstreet restaurant in Lyon you'd think it was faded but brilliant.

AnonymousMarch 4th 2013.

The typeface on that special's menu is shocking, looks like a 'family' pub in Boothstown typed it up

Chris HawkeMarch 4th 2013.

Good luck to him. I've never liked the Mark Addy before this although I do try and make an effort for places with a certain 'character'. I have had some good experiences with Mr OB's meat offerings elsewhere so perhaps I'll have to brave the ugly old entrance building again.

Fair enough for ManCon to talk it up as well. There will presumably be no walk in traffic given the exterior, people will have to seek it out.. or not. Seems a world away from Spinningfields although that newish metal bridge almost joins them now.

AnonymousMarch 5th 2013.

Good point. 'If the Mark Addy were a bistro in some French town that was stumbled upon while touring the country it would be lauded for its honest, genuine, clever food and people would scarcely bat an eyelid about the carpets or the canopy: the latter might even be mentioned as adding to the charm.'

AnonymousMarch 5th 2013.

I've had an excellent meal here but find it to be very inconsistent, either very good or very bad

Beast from WeasteMarch 5th 2013.

The Mark Addy starts with a walk past the smelly Gents toilets before your even descend into the pub area.
If you are unfortunate to sit in the benchs , you will no doubt be back-to-back with someone rocking you from behind the entire time you are eating.
The food is alright but nothing special and certainly not an 8 or above.

Dan McGlynnMarch 5th 2013.

" (They were good as it happens, a bit like bloated sweetmeats, but saltier. Naturally.) "

Do you mean Sweetbreads?

AnonymousMarch 5th 2013.

Well I wonder if the place has improved since I last went, I agree with the above, but to have a FOOD premises, that is dirty and smells, and obviously is not cleaned or maintained has to make one wonder what the kitchens are like. Last time I went in the gents it was horrible, just had to get out. Public toilets dont smell that bad!! I Do not mind outdated, character, 50s,60,70,80s, or what ever, even love the carpet, but get it cleaned!! a place that still has old Christmas decorations hanging full of dust, is not a place I like to eat in, it is a great location / view and great menu, so the chef must be fine, he just needs a decent manager for front of house, who can make sure the staff are trained and the cleaners (if they have any) know how to clean!! Maybe a time to revisit clearly the place may have improved!! I hope so, as I loved the food.

JJM21March 5th 2013.

Totally agree with much of what's been said. I took my parents having heard the raves about the food, and was actually quite embarrassed.
I can't even remember what the food was like to be honest as the place was utterly rank. Smelly gents, dirty, faded decor, freezing cold - why would you want to spend an evening here? It just can't possibly be worth having the venue let the food down to this extent. As it currently stands I would never go back. I was so disappointed.
There's no way that the comparison to a back-street faded french bistro place holds water - this is dirty and smelly, not tatty charm. What a shame.

1 Response: Reply To This...
crisbyMarch 5th 2013.

Ive always eaten well there but I wouldn't take parents either. And Mrs Crisby won't go in winter, too chilly. Personally I find the food worth the rest of it and I suspect you'd never get ROB into a nice smart place over the river. You pays yer money and ...

AnonymousMarch 5th 2013.

I went in January the food was good but the place was very poorly lit my friend nearly fell down the stairs on the way in,it was cold and smelly the smell coming from the gas hot air blowers, being used as a poor attempt at heating also very unsafe and against all fire regulations the place needs a massive makeover before it could be considered as a nice place to eat

AnonymousMarch 5th 2013.

We had a great meal in the Mark Addy a few weeks ago, but it would have been even better if ROB kept more of an eye on whoever was doing the cooking. My main was spectacular, but my girlfriend's duck breast was cooked to oblivion. Perhaps we should have specified that we didn't want it particularly well done, but I assumed this wouldn't be an issue in a place renowned for its game. Everything else was great though - we certainly weren't put off going back.

As for the interior - I wouldn't change owt about it - even the candlelit toilet. Poncifying the place would remove all the charm.

MarkMarch 5th 2013.

It is interesting to read the above comments and see just how polarised opinion for Rob is. While I would agree with some of the points - especially inconsistency when the man himself is not in attendance - I think overall we should feel lucky to have such a venue in the city. Homogenized, vacuous, identikit restaurants are not what Manchester should be about, give me the characterful Addy - for all its foibles - any day of the week...

SMOSSMarch 5th 2013.

We eat there quite regularly, and agree that the building is run down and in need of a good clean, but I think it does add to the feel of the place.

The service I have always found to be second to none. The waiting and bar staff are always polite and attentive, above and beyond some Manchester restaurants.

In terms of the food I have had more good experiences than bad (which is the reason I go back) but recently it has become inconsistent.

Ancoats Canal ProjectMarch 5th 2013.

Last year our local volunteer group put on a canal festival in Ancoats at the New Islington Marina. Rob had recently moved in on his boat. Didn’t know him but as soon as he heard us, down at the local pub, talking about putting some canoes etc for the kids etc he put his hand up straight away and mentioned that he had been around a BBQ once or twice.

Now for the cost price we paid for the food you would have expected supermarket ‘beef’ burgers. But Rob and the mates he roped in to help really put the effort in with top notch, properly made patties, sausages and basically half a pig.

Feed over 250 people from the city centre, Miles Platting and the surrounds. Grafted all day on their day off and then kept going after the finish to make sure the volunteers got a feed. Only request was for a few cold beers at the end. Made the day - and was a really nice thing to do. So thanks Rob again- you will always be appreciated in Ancoats!!!

Pics here: ancoatscanal.wordpress.com/…/…

1 Response: Reply To This...
MarkMarch 5th 2013.

Well said, Rob also does his bit feeding the Salford homeless on Xmas day...

AnonymousMarch 5th 2013.

Have been for drinks a number of times, the place being between work and the train station. Have also had food at the Addy two or three times last year, the chips were the best, the bernaise sauce was also really good and enjoyed the pate, the wine list has some interesting choices.

However, I agree about the comments regarding the interior and most importantly the hygiene standards. The smell from the gents toilets being the first thing to greet you and the ladies toilets, windows and interior being dirty rather than outdated.

Last summer we sat outside and one of the kitchen staff came out in filthy overalls and apron and there and then I commented to my partner that I would not eat here again unless I was satisfied that the hygiene had improved. I have to say I am not and the last time I was in here for a drink was last week because I missed the train and the next one was not for an hour. It's such a shame because the bar staff are really friendly and the place has so much potential.... I really hope the owners take on board the comments and invest in a refurb in time for summer, nothing fancy is needed just basic, rustic pub feel, but clean. Maybe replace those carpets with tiles so that if the place floods it doesn't smell of damp.....

AnonymousMarch 5th 2013.

REMOVED BY EDITORIAL. Please stick to the commenting rules folks.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
SpencerSpurchMarch 5th 2013.

LOL ! Anonymous. You Really are a card.
I admire the way you slag people off. You are my hero.

SpencerSpurchMarch 5th 2013.

I adore Anonymous on the chat boards and love the way he slags people off, not to mention the way he / she hides his name from the people he owes money to (not too) !!!

Scouse birdMarch 5th 2013.

I think it's ace. He can come over and work in Liverpool any time.

Paul McGarryMarch 5th 2013.

Love the Mark Addy, but have had three poor meals on the bounce. Are standards dropping?

AnonymousMarch 5th 2013.

Waited 90mins for starters and were told it was because they had a big party in on the next table! ! Food arrived at different times for 5 of us. Have not been back. I so agree about smelly toilets etc.
Try ROBs old place the Angel. Eaten brilliant food there recently.

AnonymousMarch 5th 2013.

Surely Jonathan you're always going to get good food etc at the Mark Addy for obvious reasons.

Jonathan SchofieldMarch 5th 2013.

People, people why be anonymous? Listen, I never book and sometimes ROB is not there. So can suddenly average chefs improve immediately just because a critic is in? Don't think so. I refer you to my point above - in the article. That in most other countries Brown would be cherished. He is not a systems man but a food lover.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousMarch 6th 2013.

JS do you think though that there might be some perfectly good chef's out there who rest on their laurels when the public are in but get all committed when a critic walks through the door?

I would think its just human nature afterall most of us would work harder if the boss came and sat next to their desk desk. So good chefs dont get better for you but some lazy ones might pick their game up and its probably worth recongnising that you may on occasion get something served to you thats been shown more love than the general public's food.

AnonymousApril 16th 2013.

MY NAMES IS JOSEPH SMITH. I have worked in the mark addy as a chef. It is a disgusting kitchen, the food is left out for hours on end. Little care is taken in the cooking and the place badly needs a refurb. Mark Owen Brown showed me little of his apparent passion for good honest food. He was rarely in the kitchen and more frequently chatting to customers. There is a massive chef turnover suggesting deep problems with the business. This is part of the reason for the lack of consistency many reviewers spoke of. It is an embarrassment to the Manchester food scene.
Also Jonathan Schofield, yes chefs do improve the attention taken to the food when a critic is in. I worked at Northcote Manor and when the michelin inspector was in Lisa looked over every last detail of all the food he received. This is a reality and a food critic should know this. You should avoid choosing a la minute dishes as they can be different when people know you are a critic. You should choose pre-prepared dishes to prevent this such as terrine's.

AnonymousApril 16th 2013.

apologies for the poor spelling done on an iphone in my 10 minute break *

Ronnie.March 5th 2013.

Robert's a star and a gentleman.

Don AllwrightMarch 5th 2013.

Agree Jonathan, I get confused with all these Anonymous posts. Why can't they be Anon 1, Anon 2, etc. OK so they don't want to give their name but at least let us poor mortals make a distinction between their posts!
I'm looking forward to my first visit for ... 30 odd years when it was cheese and ale!

BullyMarch 5th 2013.

Ooft, I thought there would have been a lot more love for a local talent on here! When I moved to Manchester 3 years ago this was one of the first restaurants I went to and I still think it's great! As said above the things done with meat and game here are still exciting and innovating. Well done ROB.

Poodle PowerMarch 6th 2013.

What a bizarro world Manchester Confidential is. You totally slate the most creative chef in our region right now (Ernst Van Zyl) then you tell us a chef who has been essentially cooking the same stuff for a decade is the bees knees. We had an awful meal at The Mark Addy a few years ago and would not return. We were told later that he would not have been in. That shouldn't matter a bit. He should train his team to create the food exactly as he would.

Kevein UnoMarch 6th 2013.

Ah Poodle it's distressing when people don't agree with you, isn't it? And by the way the two stories are by different people, Etrop Grange was written by Gordo, Mark Addy by Jonathan Schofield. I think being two people they have separate brains.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousMarch 6th 2013.

but confidential does have one editorial policy and a structure for scoring reviews that all writers use so that comparisons can be drawn

Bilbo BobbinsMarch 6th 2013.

Poodle, Ernst is way off being the most creative chef in the region; Aiden Byrne, Simon Rogan, Marc Wilkinson, Simon Radley, Marc Rossi, Nigel Howarth, Lisa Allen, Mary-Ellen McTague, to name the front runners; all are hugely creative and, crucially, deliver polished dishes. Gordo is right, at the moment Van Zyl has proven he is mastering the craft but he is like a fashion designer who is trying too hard to be different and finishes up with a dress with too many bows on; he doesn't know when to stop. He will learn if he doesnt listen to his sycophants too much. I have seen twitter go large on this and I have to say you are all admiring The Emperors New Clothes.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
Poodle PowerMarch 6th 2013.

Ah the old Emperors New Clothes cliché. Ok by our region I meant Greater Manchester rather than the North West as a whole. I still stand by that, and I judge the food on it's taste not on anything else. Have you eaten at Etrop Grange?

Bilbo BobbinsMarch 6th 2013.

Yes, Poodle, I have eaten at everyone of the chefs restaurants mentioned. Don't we all judge the food on its taste? The other chefs were head and shoulders above Van Zyl on taste, simply because they were all finessed for months if not years. You really do need to broaden your horizons. Also, eat at Rogans new place at The Midland as soon as you can. If you think Van Zyl is cooking well, Rogan will blow your brains out.

It may well make you a little less patronising as well.

Bilbo BobbinsMarch 6th 2013.

Poodle, yes I have and have eaten at all the others mentioned. Of course its taste that I judge food on first and foremost and Van Zyl was lacking in that when i tried his menu; more importantly, he doesn't understand yet what tastes go together. If I were you, i would try and get a table at Simon Rogans new menu at the Midland; it bet it will blow your mind, he's been working on it for months. And hopefully will slow you down when it comes to being so condescending in your comments, above and below. I would also add that there are four chefs who could give your hero a run for his money in the Greater Manchester area, as mentioned in my previous missive.

AnonymousMarch 6th 2013.

EDITORIAL: It's a dreadful thing to hide behind anonymous rants when attacking individuals. This rant has been removed.

Poodle PowerMarch 6th 2013.

Bilbo, a sycophant is "a servile self-seeker who attempts to win favour by flattering influential people." For example if you were to get a free meal then give a fantastic review, you could be accused of being a sycophant.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
EditorialMarch 6th 2013.

Which is why when we score and mark restaurants we always pay for it ourselves.

Bilbo BobbinsMarch 6th 2013.

Poodle, I rest my case. see my post above.

RevaulxMarch 9th 2013.

Just had lunch there - Chicken Livers followed by Shepherd's Pie. Top notch. Service excellent. Good value. OK the decor's not great but from the pics on this site, neither's The French. The Gents was spotless; it's a bit pubby, but so what? Beer (Hornbean Francesca) great as well. What more could one want?

siobhanfahey@fastmail.fmJanuary 18th 2014.

I am so sad the Addy has gone. Manchester will never be quite the same.

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