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Albert’s Shed review

Jonathan Schofield talks double-Dutch as he enjoys a long lazy afternoon

Written by . Published on June 18th 2009.


Albert’s Shed review

A pleasant Saturday afternoon. There was work in the morning taking Dutch theatre directors around on a guided tour. No, honestly there was.

As we’d strolled the city we’d passed Dukes 92 and Albert’s Shed. One of the guests smiled and nodded, clearly delighted by the beautifully maintained, pleasantly planted terrace by the Rochdale Canal.

“Ik ben heel gelukkig dat ik mijn leven met jou zal delenon,”* she said.

There was only one way to reply: “Kun je het vertrektijd van de vliegtuig naar Quebec bevestigen?”* I wittily threw back.

The experience encouraged me to return. Sat by the window looking out to the Rochdale Canal, it was hard not to admire what the Ramsbottom family and their team have created here.

Some readers may know that we started a campaign two years ago to turn Castlefield into a place to be proud of, a proper tourist destination in the city. The idea is now at last gathering steam with a series of committees and the support of the city council’s Chief Executive. If all the property owners in Castlefield showed as much pride as the Albert's Shed people there’d be no need for any action.

Last time I had a full two hour meal here it was sort of ok. This time it was much much better. The menu is still too long but then, what is being aimed at here is general appeal. Talking to the boss, James Ramsbottom later, he said he wanted mass appeal ‘everyman’ dishes plus some things that the chefs could get their teeth into – so to speak. Thus there are pizzas, pasta dishes and risottos alongside proper mains.

I’ve given up pizza and pasta for summer on grounds of over-familiarity. Since I was reviewing, and Confidential was paying I told my companions to go for the real meals.

For starters we had eggs Florentine, French muffin, topped with a poached egg, spinach and Hollandaise sauce (£6), six Whitby oysters with sherry shallot sauce (£8) and pan-fried scallops with Bury black pudding, crispy pancetta and saffron butter sauce (£7.50).

The oysters were all sea and wildness. On a bright June day, with the view across the terrace, and a general al fresco air about things they were perfect. Good presentation too. The sauce was subtle but defined. The black pudding dish was damned fine as well and contained much of what Albert’s Shed is about: big solid flavours and clear presentation.

Get this wrong and it can become clumsy. That was the problem with the eggs Florentine which suffered from a Hollandaise sauce which was way too heavy and full. There was a big blast of vinegar which should have provided a muted background not a sledge-hammer blow.

Mains were just right: well-priced, handsome and deceptively simple.

The pick was the confit duck leg (£13) with strawberry, balsamic and cracked black pepper sauce (£13). This is an excellent piece of work, folks. That sauce might have turned out to be a sweet ruination, a sickly morass into which any other flavours tumbled, but instead it lifted the meat without killing it and brought out the gamey flavour of the quack quack. The chips were big fat beauties.

The Cheshire lamb rump with spring onion mash, roasted veg and spiced redcurrant sauce (£16) was almost as good. The sauce wasn’t quite so fine as the exquisite one on the duck, but it was still very good. The mash was not too thin, the vegetables lively not limp, and the meat juicy.

The consistency was maintained with the chargrilled steak which came with mange tout, beans, chips and peppercorn sauce (£16). The 28 day aged steak was cooked as requested medium rare. Look at the picture here after it had been massacred: beautiful, great texture, just right. The rest of the dish was equally as competent.

The desserts maintained the standard. Ramsbottom knows how he wants things and aside from glitches such as the Hollandaise so does the kitchen.

We had the sweet syrup strawberries with home-made syrup, whisky, vanilla ice-cream with shortbread (£4.50) and the warm chocolate pot with vanilla ice cream (£4.50).

My gran was a great syrup and jam maker, saucepans would be bubbling away in her kitchen whenever the family went round. She would have heartily approved of the strawberry pud. It was massively sweet but that was tempered by the hint of whisky and oddly enough by the chilling effect of the ice cream. Chocolate puddings have never been to my flavour, but the verdict was positive here too.

We had to tell people off with one thing. Little details are telling, so to have big linen tablecloths is lovely. But the state of the choc pot dish was disappointing: it looked like Gordon Glutton from the land of Fatpig had got so carried away he’d decided to take bites out of it.

The wine list is straightforward not precious. A glass of Torres Moscatel Oro at £4 went a treat with the strawberry dessert, although its menu description of ‘deep toffee and butterscotch flavours with a hint of orange zest’ made us giggle at its absurdity. Not so straightforward there. During the rest of the meal a Paul Deloux, Chablis (£24) from 2006 had kept us on our toes with its crispness.

Sat in judgement with that glass of Moscatel and a coffee or two, we concurred that this easy-going two and a half hour meal had been hugely enjoyable. It had given us very good food at good prices and was eminently recommendable. The service had been excellent too.

The location and the view had added another dimension. It was entertaining to watch a rain squall driving a group of large men to clump under a gazebo to watch a narrowboat negotiate the canal lock.

As reported in our Food and Drink round-up last week, James Ramsbottom is doing up the Barley Corn in West Didsbury. He appears he’s already got a tidy formula for success with Albert’s Shed in Castlefield.

*The Dutch language exchange starts like this. ‘I am very happy that I will share my life with you.’ The response means: ‘Can you confirm the time of departure for the plane to Quebec?’ One thing should be borne in mind with regard to this exchange. It never happened.

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

quiksilver80June 18th 2009.

Alberts shed & dukes 92 are both all bark & no bite its all about the location the food i personaly find has never been anything to shout about what ever happened to the ox ive been there recently and after a long bad patch it seems to be on the up again!

JinkiesJune 18th 2009.

Does anyone else understand the comment before mine? Am I experiencing Monday morning thickness or is Big' experiencing the Monday after the weekend that was, like, masssive?

CasJune 18th 2009.

Curmudgeon, I hoestly cannot believe your comments. I assume it was a long time ago you dined here as I went last night and we had a brilliant meal! Very fresh oysters served great, brilliant veal, excellent lamb and superb steak. And the sauces, well I wish I could make mine that good! We took my mother who is always hard to please and she loved it. Could you please shed light on the other restaurants of it's kind that it isn't worthy of being compared to as I'll go tomorrow and prepare to be wowed!

BigOKnowsBestJune 18th 2009.

so it took two and a half hours to eat a poached egg, a few oysters, a bit of duck and a blob of ice cream? What were you eating it with... tweezers. Maybe you spent too much time 'giggling at the absurdity' of your own really funny Dutch translation joke.

MelfTheModernDayMussoliniJune 18th 2009.

Lancaster Bomber; 3 words for you. 'Your a twat'.

EditorialJune 18th 2009.

Sorry Cas, we were fiddling in the backoffice and inadvertantly ditched your comment. Please feel free to re-post.

AnonymousJune 18th 2009.

cut-nose-off-to-spite-face

Jammy DodgerJune 18th 2009.

I do like Dukes, it's perfect for a Sunday, especially with the cheese & pate jobbie. However, I don't understand why you now have to sit in the restaurant area to have a roast, rather than serving it in the bar. The carvery used to be great but even if they've decided to stop that, I don't get why there's a limited menu in the (much larger) bar area. When we go, there's normally a fair few of us and people come and go throughout the afternoon, so we don't necessarily want a formal restaurant meal. Haven't eaten at Albert's Shed yet, but may well give it a go soon.

JinkiesJune 18th 2009.

If an editor comments in the forest, does anyone hear him type?

AnonymousJune 18th 2009.

Gotta admit.. the Dutch "joke" is completely inane.

Jane MellorJune 18th 2009.

I was in the Shed earlier this week because of this review and had the pizza and a salad, my friend had a steak. Very good value and lovely surroundings. Service very good. In and out in an hour and thoroughly impressed.

CurmudgeonJune 18th 2009.

@ Editorial - thanks for explaining that highly complex scoring system to me and the advice on how to read. Much appreciated. It's still barely mediocre and therefore not worthy of the mark it received - even when compared with other restaurants of its kind.

AnonymousJune 18th 2009.

YOU'RE

Dukes 92June 18th 2009.

Just to respond to Jammy Dodger - its just a question of kitchen capacity. If Dukes Grill is full and there are people in Dukes bar eating sandwiches and salads, i was worried about putting too much pressure on the kitchen and the quality suffering. I will look at this again to see if its possible.

BigOKnowsBestJune 18th 2009.

Dear Steve McClaren - Editor says..“ Dear BigOKnowsBest all we'd like to say is: Zijn er lakens in de kamer?”Unfotunately I dont' speak Dutch so I have missed that. Bet it was really funny too like the joke in your article. Try this one...universal language...**** off with your pompous food review.. that is if you aren't still eating your weatabix from 6 hours ago.

CurmudgeonJune 18th 2009.

Albert's shed is mediocre to say the least. The pizzas and pasta are fine, nothing special. In my experience the main courses are poor, badly thought out and clumsily executed. To give them an 8 out of 10 for food is laughable.

Steve McClaren - EditorJune 18th 2009.

Dear BigOKnowsBest all we'd like to say is: Zijn er lakens in de kamer?

Castlefield GirlJune 18th 2009.

Albert's Shed is always a good place for a bite to eat. The service and the food have improved a lot over the years after shaky beginnings which put us off for a while. We took the in-laws for the £10 set dinner and it was a truly lovely evening. I agree, Dukes and Albert are great locations especially in the summer, for wining and dining. However, I am consistently disappointed at the attitude that persists amongst the bar staff at Dukes. To say, 'too posh to serve' would be an understatement and what's with the dirty wine glasses they insist on using for us customers???

katieJune 18th 2009.

I used to love it here - but went couple of weeks ago - my friend found a hair in her pizza - my duck was really average..the waitress acted like we were putting her out by being there...not impressed

Lancaster BomberJune 18th 2009.

BigO, whats this weetabix thing? Is this a private joke? How did you know that was dutch for 'eat weetabix and you will be strong and **** well?' Are you one one of these dirty dutch weetabix perverts? I bet you take it with a bit of cream as well you dirty bas**rd.

fiJune 18th 2009.

Agree with quicksilver here, the pub and restaurant are all about location, location, location. The food at Albert's Shed s mediocre at best and Dukes is to be avoided on a sunny Sunday afternoon as it's full of chavs on a day out from where ever. I always find it a bit scruffy too and lacking in attention to detail - empty glasses not cleared, beer all over the bar etc.

AnonymousJune 18th 2009.

Came in for a meal with my partner and stood for 5 mins watching the managers having a chat and left after 5 minutes as they didn't seem to want our business - only 3 tables in the place so they were not rushed at all.

BenJune 18th 2009.

I might actually do that next time I get asked to do a brew round

CasJune 18th 2009.

Dukes is great. The food is brilliant pub grub and the specials are often great, best chips in Manchester. Those prawn tempura starter things are lovely. The staff are always very friendly when we pop in for tea and lovely to our son - I even saw them on a staff piss up at Mojos and they were friendly then as well! When they started that cheese counter thing it was unheard of around here and I think their location only helps when it's sunny. That's enough arse kissing.

AnonymousJune 18th 2009.

Ate there one evening recently with the family, the food was ok, my sons pizza certainly wasn't the best around though, more like tripe cheese on toast to be honest, was disapointed on leaving to see the set menu outside which wasn't offered to us, may give it another go, may not

spicyJune 18th 2009.

Albert's Shed mmmmmmm: Beautiful food, gorgeous surroundings and the £10 deal if fan-blooming-tastic. Last time we went in we both had dessert too because we were having such a nice meal. They just need to do something now about the customers at Duke's!

This is funnyJune 18th 2009.

BigOKnowsBest.Fact how can you call anybody pompous with a name like that? And have you ever seen a non pompous food review? That's the nature of the beast.

BigOKnowsBest.FactJune 18th 2009.

Sorry. I just hate the pompousness of food reviews. I won't comment on here again.John Atkins... I hope you rub chilli in your eye by accident

AnonJune 18th 2009.

Lancaster's bnp rep is probably on the phone to Paxman. I hear he went to the wrong party the other night.

LeeJune 18th 2009.

me and my mom and dad had a fantastic meal there on thursday, we used the £10 menu so had a starter, main corse and glass of wine and we cannot fault any part of it one bit, the sevice and surroundings were great too

DirkthedigglerJune 18th 2009.

the shed is excellent value and a tremendous location and where are all these fantastic manchester restaurants everyone keeps referring too? these threads are great fun but like radio phone-in's they often attract the pub bores who want to spout negative opinions based on one spilt beer incident. if you don't like it. eat somewhere else.

John AtkinsJune 18th 2009.

BigOKnowsBest that's the biggest over-reaction to a food review I've ever seen. You should win a prize.

Jason PetersJune 18th 2009.

Had a great lunch here the other day. The duck dish is a cracker: I agree as are the puddings. Service coul be sharper.

AnonymousJune 18th 2009.

Katie - you're quackers.

Larry DavidJune 18th 2009.

what's with the anonymous thing? who is anonymous? i think the shed should nominate a wing in praise of anonymous. i like the shed very much and the grill even more. as for criticism about lack of detail .... it's their concentration on detail that made them pretty good. pretty, pretty, pretty good.

CunoisseurJune 18th 2009.

Funnily enough my tea presently has 'deep toffee and butterscotch flavours with a hint of orange zest’. But that's because I just dropped some toffee, butterscotch and orange peel in it.

mememeJune 18th 2009.

Alberts shed is too pompous for what it actually delivers... I agree the pizzas and pasta are ok but the rest of the menu doesnt live up to the expectations you have when you walk in the door!Ive long thought that Dukes and Alberts do well only because of their location nothing more... oh and in Dukes they serve the flattest pint Ive ever had... I prefer Atlas myself!

BenJune 18th 2009.

That'll be Lancaster's BNP rep getting his penny's worth then

BenJune 18th 2009.

Well thats a ridiculous question really - surely the editor would hear the tapping on the keyboard unless he happened to be deaf??

EditorialJune 18th 2009.

Do you ever get the feeling nobody's listening?

CasJune 18th 2009.

I just said these reviews work as now I'm going to go there for that duck tonight!

LeoJune 18th 2009.

I've dined there thrice in recent weeks and have been very impressed on each occasion. The 'Shed' has come a long way from it's very mediocre beginings. All hail the 92nd Duke.

Jammy DodgerJune 18th 2009.

Dukes 92, thanks for the feedback. It's absolutely a fair point about putting too much pressure on the kitchen, but I still think it could be worth your while looking into it again (or bringing back the carvery). I've never had any problems with the bar staff - generally they seem to be a pretty friendly bunch to me.

BenJune 18th 2009.

Some of those items look a lot like what you'd expect to see on Manchester's many pavements early on a Sunday morning

EditorialJune 18th 2009.

Folks. That's enough now. This is a food review of Albert's Shed. Shall we get back to the subject and talk about the food, drink, service and ambience.

AnonymousJune 18th 2009.

Dukes and Alberts Shed are both great Manchester independents - I have been a regular of both for years and have always found them to deliver on quality and service all year round - of course somewhere that popular in the summer might suffer a bit on service but if you want an empty immaculate bar all to yourself keep going and try spinningfields - there are plenty of soulless chain bars to choose from.

terry tibbsJune 18th 2009.

well said dirk

EditorialJune 18th 2009.

Curmudgeon - read this which the writer asked you to read: 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

A squirrelJune 18th 2009.

I do

mattybombattyJune 18th 2009.

I would say that ‘deep toffee and butterscotch flavours with a hint of orange zest’ would be a pretty accurate description of a Spanish Moscatel - however, I do work in the wine trade, so sometimes my pretentio-meter gets a bit carried away...

davidJune 18th 2009.

Went to the shed last night (saturday) first went in Dukes great atmosphere buzzin, then onto alberts . After taking the advice of the review I had the Oysters and the Duck confit, I thought it was all good, infact for a busy Saturday I thought the whole experience was a great night out, even the waitress was a credit to the place, well done and thanks for a good night.

JinkiesJune 18th 2009.

A few words for your Mussolini. Your should be "you're". Which actually makes it two words and a conjunctive noun, four words to the rest of us. Muppet :)

JinkiesJune 18th 2009.

Are you saying "Ye Mam" there anon?

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