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The Wharf, Castlefield, Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield enjoys a pleasant experience but wants the food to attack him more

Published on September 10th 2012.

The Wharf, Castlefield, Reviewed

CASTLEFIELD is a much better place for having The Wharf.

The new big food and drink beast of the urban heritage park has sorted out the 'empty' south west side of the basin with aplomb.

The big-hearted operator, occupying the long derelict site of Jacksons Wharf, looks every inch the zillion pounds it cost to refurb. With its real fires, smart terrace and charmingly bric-a-brac packed interior it feels cosy and confident, intimate and expansive at the same time. 

Clearly The Wharf doesn't want to go down the route of smarmy gastro-pub, but it needs sharpening up foodwise, it needs to define the flavours and then give them umph.

Part of the Brunning and Price pub group, we have here a fine venue for wasting a few hours swilling down good ales and good wines while watching the people, the narrow-boats and the geese go by. It's got real fires too, so maybe the odd whisky might suit on cold days.

But what about the food?

I've eaten a few times at The Wharf since it opened in July and it's still a work in progress. The kitchen should be pushing itself harder and trusting our tastebuds more.

The WharfThe Wharf

One of the signature dishes is the pan fried Anglesey seabass fillets with crab croquette, saffron fondant potato, roasted fennel and gazpacho dressing (£15.95) - this is the main picture at the top of the page.

The potato was just wrong, too brutal and solid when it should have been creamy but the fennel was perfect, packed with wonderful anise character. Meanwhile the seabass was a silky and subtle star and the crab croquette was a rewarding and very enjoyable extra.

But the gazpacho 'sauce' was bland. It contributed nothing to the dish. There certainly wasn't enough garlic in the thing. In fact a better idea might be to ditch the word gazpacho altogether and just get on with creating another tomato based sauce but one with some heat to create a contrast with the gentle seabass. It'd help the presentation as well if the sauce was more red and less orange.

Gazpacho dispatchoGazpacho dispatcho

The same competence but lack of excitement was apparent with the seared scallops with broad beans, baby onions, braised gem and crisp bacon (£9.95). This was good. It was fine. But again there was a lack of edge, a diffidence that seemed odd given the raw materials. 

A 2011 Castell de Raimat Albariño wine was a booster throughout the meal. It would have been lovely on its own as well. 


There was nothing bland in the truly gorgeous bread and butter pudding with apricot and clotted cream for £5.50. This was a juicy delight, with a floaty bread and butter mix, glorious with a thick and delicious clotted cream. It kept its feet on the ground with the tartness of the apricot. Brilliant. 

Bloody lovelyBloody lovely

This dish should be the model for The Wharf.

The pub should let its kitchen break free, help it be as confident as the interior designers in what a re-invented pub can deliver. Go for those big, honest, robust flavours and it'll improve no end.

Clearly The Wharf doesn't want to go down the route of smarmy gastro-pub, but it needs sharpening up foodwise, it needs to define the flavours and then give them umph. Like I say, I've tried several dishes on the long menu, and this lack of character is a problem, with the fancier dishes. 

Wharf menuWharf menu

What The Wharf shouldn't be is afraid of scaring off the audience. This is Manchester city centre, the residents - a large part of the market - live here presumably because they don't want the quiet restraint of suburban life. The kitchen should reflect the cosmopolitan nature of the city centre.

That said, the atmosphere, aspect and location of the pub all make it worth a try, especially if you're feeling like some bread and butter pudding with your drinks.

Or you really like geese. 

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield


The Wharf is at 6 Slate Wharf, Castlefield, City, M15 4ST. 0161 220 2960 www.thewharf-castlefield.co.uk      

Rating: 13.5/20 

Food: 6/10
Service: 3.5/5
Ambience: 4/5

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


The WharfThe Wharf

Real firesReal fires

The WharfThe Wharf

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

Daniel JamesSeptember 10th 2012.

Oh dear, isn't the Wharf advertising with Confidential?

Eaten at the Wharf half a dozen times, and the food has always been spot on, with excellent friendly service (which is rare in Manchester!) On the last visit I had the the pan fried Anglesey seabass fillets with crab croquette, saffron fondant potato, roasted fennel and gazpacho dressing which was excellent, well worth a visit, the chicken with dumplings is also recommended.

6 Responses: Reply To This...
DouchetteSeptember 10th 2012.

I actually don't actually believe you Daniel, I think you are lying.

You managed to remember EVERYTHING in the seabass dish (erm, conveniently because it's listed in the article above) but could only recall that the Chicken was with dumplings!

This is a very fair article IMHO

AnonymousSeptember 10th 2012.

I had the sea bass when I went for a freebie meal there. It was very good but the gazpacho was indeed a bit bland and pointless. Some fantastic ideas on the menu; they just need a bit of tweaking. Overall, the pub is an ace addition and I'm sure (hope) they'll refine things with experience. The ubiquitous sticky toffee pud is, by the way, sublime.

James KaySeptember 11th 2012.

I don't believe Daniel either. Read the review; Jonathan's given these guys a few chances and still not 'slated' them He's given just an honest opinion which everyone else (who've really been) agrees with. Processed ham with oven chips is unimaginative and over-priced at £10.45. The beer, the setting and the staff are excellent though!

AnonymousSeptember 11th 2012.

And the most obvious veiled threat to remove advertising revenues goes to....

AnonymousSeptember 11th 2012.

Actually the Wharf isn't advertising on Confidential. Unless they are planning on it and Daniel, as an employee, knows about it.

Mark Garner, Publisher, aka GordoSeptember 11th 2012.

Daniel, Daniel, Daniel. After eight years now of publishing Confidential i can spot an employee/friends/family posting a mile off and you're one of them. Now Jonno and I spend most of every day bickering with each other (healthy publisher/editor relationship) and I know he doesn't give commercial one ounce of give whether they are trying to get advertising, have got it, or have been blown out. It's always the ones who can't take criticism who make comments like yours. The full dish description is the giveaway. It would be fantastically easy to change the spud recipe and give out a really banging pimento/tomato sauce (i have a great copy of a Guerard one if necessary), call us, get us down, blow our minds and say, hey sorry, waddaya think about this? what a great <free> article we could write and get our readers down in droves? Go on try it. And Daniel, grow up, take the shit then improve and catch the plaudits.

AnonymousSeptember 10th 2012.

I tried it once. Lovely staff. But I'm with Jonathan on the food. Haddock and Chips at £12.25 was disappointing in size and taste stakes compared to The Fish Hut nearby. And all that chintzy old stuff slapped on the walls is all a bit 1993.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 10th 2012.

Fish hut has gone downhill since the change in ownership. The fish generally overcooked now and the mushy peas are awful. Sad times.

AnonymousSeptember 10th 2012.

*yawn* Daniel - read the review again, jonathan was pointing out were it can improve, he hasn't slated it. This has nothing to do with if they advertise with Confidential or not. I eaten here on many occasions and find it slightly over priced for the food delivered. The venue is brilliant and great addition but agree with Jonathan they could step it up on the food

AnonymousSeptember 10th 2012.

Real fires in a fake warehouse? Hope the checked the flues!

1 Response: Reply To This...
GadgeSeptember 11th 2012.

Looks like a 'real' fire that runs on gas. And has it really been cold enough recently to merit their use?

BLR_3September 11th 2012.

I think it's too expensive for the prices, i'd rather go to knott bar for a burger!

1 Response: Reply To This...
BLR_3September 11th 2012.

How do you delete nonsense posts?? haha!

BLR_3September 11th 2012.

I think it's too expensive to be honest, the prices don't reflect the quality of the food.

ashimotoSeptember 11th 2012.

eaten there recently and food was good, everything Browns is trying to aspire to

the Whalley RangerSeptember 11th 2012.

...only that Browns sits bang on the middle of town in a f@q off huge historic building whilst this place had its windows fitted by Wicks when built less than 10 years ago..

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 11th 2012.

but I don't eat historic buildings just live in one

Jon GrievesSeptember 11th 2012.

Me thinks Daniel is on The Wharf's payroll...

1 Response: Reply To This...
James KaySeptember 11th 2012.

Me thinks so too!

AnonymousSeptember 11th 2012.

I went 3 weeks after opening. Distinctly underwhelmed with both food (pleasant but bland) and service - had to ask 3 times for water, and waitress forgot someof dishes we'd ordered and quite staggered by bill - for what was in essence pub fayre. Now returned to the much more reliable and pleasurable Dukes 92 just across the canal!

1 Response: Reply To This...
Karl WheatSeptember 11th 2012.

Dukes is rarely pleasurable.

AnonymousSeptember 11th 2012.

It's my local. I have to say, sitting outside in the summer with a glass of wine is great. The whole atmosphere in the pub is wonderful. Only eaten there once and the best bit was again the desert. I loved my started (smoked duck) but I had a measly portion for the £7 price tag. The main, lamb, was quite boring tbh. I left most of it. Great place, need to work on it's mains!!

Vickie O'DellSeptember 11th 2012.

I have to agree about the Sea bass, The potato was a flavourless lump on the plate and didn’t add anything to the dish along with the sauce it didn’t add much ad seemed pointless.
The beef burger however was bursting with flavour and would definitely recommend this to anyone who kike a good beef burger. I will be trying The Wharf again and sampling other dishes including the apparently delightful Bread and Butter Pudding.

AnonymousSeptember 11th 2012.

For the prices, no one in our party was/that impressed. The "Dhal" was awful and I've had better bread and butter puddings. Mediocre pub food. Food aside, great place though. Really glad it exists. Would go back again for drinks.

WilsonlySeptember 11th 2012.

I like the wharf for drinking. I think they could cater for smaller dishes on the menu at a more reasonable price. I live locally and would probably eat there more often if the prices were not restaurant prices.

My frined ordered a burger last time i was there and the burger was open with the bun sat upside down in a pile of grease. The burger itself had no depth to it and was the size of a flattened cheeseburger from McDonalds. At £12 i expected better.

The brewery needs to realise this is Manchester not London.

The beer is excellent though and the manager is always open to suggestions for new local ales.

Mike DzSeptember 11th 2012.

From reading these posts I think I might be a little too common to comment but the wharf is my local and I think its lovely! There is a great selection of drinks, the atmosphere and the staff are wonderful and the food is really good. You pay a reasonable price and get a decent meal, without having to fight your way through crowds of castlefields standard 'visitors'.
My personal favourites that I would recommend to anyone are both the meat and vegetarian platters, haddock and chips, sausage and mash and also the chocolate marquis, just wonderful!
And before the smart arse reply follows no I don't work there.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
MaggieSeptember 11th 2012.

Oh dear! I wasn't aware that us urbanites were not allowed into the hallowed Castlefield environs without suffering the resentment of you locals. And there was me thinking that the visitor ££££ kept the restaurants and bar open that make Castlefield such a 'buzzing' place to be...............

AnonymousSeptember 11th 2012.

Thats right Maggie.. conservationites don't like tourists

Lorraine ByrneSeptember 11th 2012.

We had a session there last month and it was wonderful. Love the refurb, love the athmosphere and we all thought the food was lovely. I do think its a bit expensive as a pub BUT the portions were huge and we all felt we got value for money. Looking forward to spending another day there in October.

Jenny CollinsSeptember 11th 2012.

Here here for the platters, I go there to meet friends and have a few drinks (we like the space) but when peckish the platters cater for 2-3 people easily (extra bread was given FOC). However I do agree on the value for money with regards to the mains and the grill.
Dear The Wharf,
Take the feedback on the chin make some slight changes and you'll have happy customers across the board!

AnonymousSeptember 11th 2012.

Has Jon moved to the city centre then or does he 'presume' too much.

>This is Manchester city centre, the residents - a large part of the market - live here presumably because they don't want the quiet restraint of suburban life. <

I hate being prersumed.

AnonymousSeptember 12th 2012.

Been to several Brunning and Price pubs and have always been very impressed with the food. As a result I was really looking forward to the opening of the Wharf. Whilst everything else lives up to expectations, the quality of The Wharf's food doesn't quite hit the mark. I expected more from their first venture in central Manchester. Maybe they need to draft in one of the amazing landladies from elsewhere in their chain. They'd sort out the problem in a jiffy.

Graeme WrightSeptember 12th 2012.

Eaten there once, drank there twice. The shared cheese board was big on imagination but short on substance. We were still hungry afterwards but went elsewhere for something substantial. Castlefield is full of places which offer better value, bigger portions and faster service so buck your ideas up, Brunning and Price, us Mancunians and Salfordians have very high standards.

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