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REVIEW: Dough | Northern Quarter

Lucy Tomlinson on an established NQ pizza restaurant navigating the middle ground

Written by . Published on December 4th 2014.


REVIEW: Dough | Northern Quarter
 

THE STORY of pizza is a tale of two cities.

On the one hand is Naples, with its thin-but-not-too-thin crust, slightly floppy centre and minimalist approach to topping (the margherita is considered a bit fancy-pants by this lot). On the other is Rome with its cracker-thin crispy crust and exciting variety of toppings which the pizzaioli invent practically on a daily basis.

Tandoori chicken. Peking Duck. Fish and chips for Christ’s sake. You might as well invite Banksy to freshen up the Sistine Chapel.

I’m of the Naples persuasion myself (one of my saddest food memories is visiting Naples one hot August and finding out the entire city was shut. I saw Naples – but couldn’t get a pizza for love nor money) Failing that I’ll take a New York slice with cheese so hot you end up with a little shred of skin hanging from the roof of your mouth because you couldn’t wait for it to cool. Painful but worth it.

Dough, High Street, NQDough, High Street, NQ

But what of pizza in this country? You can go the high-end route, involving wood-fired ovens, gourmet toppings and artisanal produce, or you can follow the left fork in the road signposted 'Novelty Pizza'. This generally involves warping Italy’s finest creation since the Renaissance with variations on takeaway food for a ‘modern spin’. Tandoori chicken. Peking Duck. Fish and chips for Christ’s sake. You might as well invite Banksy to freshen up the Sistine Chapel. Then there is the travesty of stuffed-crust pizza, sliced open to reveal any number of quivering horrors, from hotdog wieners to mini-burgers to actual fish fingers. I thought I made that last one up but as it turns out it’s a real thing. Seriously.

In our own fair city, Dough navigates the middle ground with, I won’t say aplomb, but a certain uneasy grace. Yes, they serve a breakfast pizza, and the award for most repellent-sounding pizza on the menu is the Philly Cheese Steak, but otherwise there is a selection of classics and lot of beard-stroking about how the pizza dough is perfected, which sounds promisingly Neapolitan.

The restaurant itself is in a handsome building on High Street in the Northern Quarter. The decor is based heavily on the theme of red, as if to say ‘oh no, we are certainly not Pizza Express with its blue neon, see we have red neon... and definitely no camp sailor outfits in the kitchen.’ There is a competent but not exciting selection of wines around the £20 mark, though the beers were hitting all the right spots (the Big Wave Golden Ale, £4.20, comes especially recommended). Then there is a choice of five or six bellinis, though no other cocktails.

DoughDough

First we started with a plate of pork crackling with apple sauce (£2.45) and some pickled baby beets (£2.45). The crackling was good, meaty and moreish, though the sauce tasted as if it came straight out of a jar. The beets were earthy and pungent, a nicely autumnal counterpoint to the richness of the crackling. Alongside this we shared a baked camembert (£4.75), which was fine (hot cheese can never be less than fine) though personally I would have stuck a big old sprig of rosemary in there for more flavour.

One of the nice things about Dough is that it changes its menu regularly, which is a sign of a management that cares about the food and is willing to let the kitchen experiment. But one thing it has stuck to over the years is providing options for vegans and gluten-free types. Some people will inevitably scoff at these dietary restrictions, but given that some people genuinely suffer from food intolerances, or worse, veganism (just kidding) it is good to see places adding to the list of options out there. Dough should be commended for this.

CamembertCamembert

P1050761Surf'n'Turf

Despite surviving fairly well on a diet riddled with all sorts of wheat-based products myself, I decided to order the Rustica pizza (£8.65, main image) with the gluten-free base just to see if it was up to much. It was ok. If you are a coeliac who goes to bed weeping every night dreaming of a quattro formaggio with a side of garlic bread, then think of this pizza as methadone. Not the real thing but could get you through desperate times. The topping of rocket and sunblushed tomatoes was nothing to write home about though.

My partner had the Surf'n’Turf pizza (£10.95) on a gluten-typical base. It veered dangerously close to Novelty Hell. The surf/turf elements of steak and tiger prawns were fine, if a bit blasted by the cooking process, but the base seemed to be smeared with an extremely thin layer of sweet jam. I stole barely three bites. The topping was a bit thin yet overbearing at the same time, and the famed crust was definitely Roman-style. Very thin and crisp, which is fine at first, but after a few minutes out of the oven it started splitting into lethal shards. Who knew pizza-eating was such a dangerous pursuit?

Pear tartPear tart

Finally we had an almond and pear tart (£5.50), which was very good, a lighter, more floral Bakewell accompanied by outstanding cream. What a shame it was served on a wooden board, which did not enhance the eating process - get too excitable with the cream and it goes everywhere. What’s wrong with bowls, people?

In short, Dough’s raison d’etre, the pizzas, are disappointing. I cannot recommend it to hardened pizza lovers. The other stuff, starters, desserts and so on, is fine, but that’s hardly the point of the place. A caveat: I can’t think of a better place for groups of people who you know contain every sort of dietary requirement in the land. Ideal then for the office Christmas party. They even do a Christmas Dinner pizza.

The whole of Naples weeps at the thought.

All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commerical relationship.

Dough Pizza Kitchen, 75-77 High St, Northern Quarter, Manchester, M4 1FS.

Tel: 0161 834 9411

Rating 11/20

Food:  5/10 (crackling 6, beets 5, camembert 5, Rustica 4, Surf'n'Turf 3, Tart 7)

Ambience: 3/5

Service: 3/5

PLEASE NOTE: Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. The scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it; 6-9 call the Golden Dragon and stick Netflix on; 10-11 if you must; 12-13 only if you’re passing; 14-15 worth a trip; 16-17 very good; 18 exceptional; 19 pure quality; 20 perfection. More than 20, slap us back around.

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

AnonymousDecember 4th 2014.

Dreadful bases (tasted bought in, ready made to me), but plenty of toppings to hide it! I'd rather go to Croma personally, but I was outvoted last time we went.

AnonymousDecember 4th 2014.

Not the best pizzas or service!

clk356December 4th 2014.

I have had nothing but great service here! The food is really lovely too

AnonymousDecember 5th 2014.

Found it really disappointing when I last went.

AnonymousDecember 7th 2014.

Agreed Croma is good for pizzas. Dough was pretty average last time I went, which was a while ago to be fair, but the review doesn't really tempt me back!

JimDecember 8th 2014.

It's a poor restaurant with disappointing pizzas. They do quite well as they are in a prime location but u would be surprised if they get much repeat business. You can get a better pizza in the NQ in terrace or black dog ballroom. Which considering they are not pizza restaurants is disappointing!

AnonymousJanuary 29th 2015.

I think Dough has improved significantly over the years - I went when it first opened and was massively unimpressed (burnt pizza, and some of the staff had an attitude problem) - went back a few years later & my opinion changed; much nicer staff, inventive menu (for a Pizza place) and I think the actual pizza dough is amazing (tastes like no-one elses) - they seem to have changed the recipe and it paid off - not tried the Pizza's from Terrace or Black Dog so can't compare, but I think Dough's are well above average.

AnonymousFebruary 23rd 2015.

Name me a better place for gluten free pizzas (if someone says Pizza Hut or Pizza Express, they should be shot). I think Dough are excellent for coeliacs.

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