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The Engine House review

Jonathan Schofield and the Modern Caterer’s new outlet in IABF

Written by . Published on July 28th 2010.

The Engine House review

First thing this morning I was testing the depths in the River Medlock. I was testing them to see if the river was shallow enough to allow thirty Confidential readers to walk its tunnels without drowning.

Call me the Tunnel Inspector...or even Inspector Tunnel.

I gazed into the waters at Cambridge Street, off Whitworth Street, and then set off for Great Marlborough Street. En route I passed The Engine House, the cafe of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation (IABF): Burgess was the Manc author and polymath behind A Clockwork Orange and a million other novels, plays, screenplays, musical works and so forth.

The Engine House was looking foxy in an all brick outfit accessorised by bookshelves, plate glass and toast. It whispered ‘breakfast, coffee, juice’ at me in the voice of a husky sex kitten on an 0800 number. I was tempted. I entered and perused the menu board.

“Bring me scrambled eggs, bacon, bread and pear juice,” I demanded, plucking a Guardian from the counter. I took time out to view two sets of bookshelves, one full of books by Burgess, the other with a mix of paperbacks from all ages.

“Those were part of Burgess’s private library which you can read,” said one of the lads behind the counter. “The books by Burgess you can buy.”

I discarded the Guardian and bought Burgess’s biography of Shakespeare and read bits while I waited.

When it came the breakfast was magnificent.

My mum used to do ‘emerald eggs’. She put chopped chives or parsley into the butter at the bottom of an egg poacher. When the finished product was turned onto toast, the egg was speckled with an entertaining and tasty layer of greenery worked into the white.

Here the scrambled eggs had been mixed with chives. Lovely. The streaky dry cured bacon was cooked just the right side of brittle. There were thick slices of lightly toasted bread with warm butter dribbled into them.

I gouged out doughy lumps of buttered bread spiked them on a fork and rammed it through the bacon and then the egg. Genius. As Shakespeare wrote ’Shall I compare thee to an English breakfast?’

The pear juice was James White’s organic juice and was lovely too. But then it was ‘farm pressed’ as the bottle said. This must mean something and is probably better than being buttock pressed or dwarf pressed. Or hard-pressed. Or depressed.

The Engine House is a very organic and Soil Association type place, and it likes to flaunt this. It is, afterall, one of Peter Booth’s outlets. Booth also runs the Modern Caterer (the company name) businesses at the Whitworth Art Gallery and Gabriel’s Kitchen on Upper Brook Street.

He’s an amiable Scouse crackpot who follows cows round fields to make sure the meat has the right provenance and hasn’t been sneaked over from Argentina in a vacuum pack. The bread he uses comes fresh from the Barbakan, and his meat from Frost’s - both in Chorlton. He probably interviews the carrots to make sure they have a northern accent.

The result is that the kitchen’s raw materials are top-notch in Booth’s various venues. This means that good chefs and decent cooks can make the food sing, even the simple dishes. True there is the oddity of beans on toast on the menu which specifies Heinz Beans – although I suppose Booth tries to ensure they’re prepared and packed in that massive Heinz plant in nearby Wigan.

Still, overall the breakfast experience was superb: laid-back and comfortable with papers and books helping relax the mood. I rounded the occasion off with a really stiff coffee punching a fistful of caffeine. Breaky, juice and coffee cost £7.40.

Back out on the beat I have to report that Inspector Tunnel concluded Confidential would probably lose two or three of the shorter readers in the Medlock tunnels. Damn, it would have been good to show people where the old River Tib (as in Tib Street) enters the larger river, then chewed it over with a homemade cake in The Engine House. Maybe soon.

Rating: 14/20
Breakdown: 8/10 food
3/5 service
3/5 ambience
The Engine House
0161 235 0776

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

NortherngeezerJuly 27th 2010.

Bit pricey for a brekky Ed. Best brekky in gods own city??.
My vote goes to Johns Diner in Trafford Park, not just cos of the food though, exceptional as it is (the slab of cheese on toast is to die for). Its a typical greasy spoon kinda place but the girls behind the counter are great and it creates a nice atmosphere whilst one is partaking for less than a fiver.

AnonymousJuly 27th 2010.

Great reivew.

Would reccommend this place to everyone. Fantastic setting too.

It would be interesting if they could produce some kind of deli offering, Barbakan bread, cheese, cold meat, few interesting beers/wines, newspapers etc.

Jonathan Schofield - editorJuly 27th 2010.

Well it was juice, coffee, and breaky NorthernGeezer in a lovely place with great literature - depends what you want from breaky. John's Diner is good though as well.

AgricolaJuly 27th 2010.

I think they are applying for a licence

Chorltonian MillinerJuly 27th 2010.

As a resident in the same building as The Engine House I too would like them to have a deli style offering, it'd be better than walking up to the Spar for my bread and cheese.

Justin JJuly 27th 2010.

Hats off to you Chorlton Millener

Daniel WildJuly 28th 2010.

Where is this place? Looks and sounds fab!

AnonymousJuly 29th 2010.

Cambridge Street - maybe worth adding an address Mancon?

Jonathan Schofield - editorJuly 29th 2010.

Sorry. Here it is. The International Anthony Burgess Foundation is at The Engine House, Chorlton Mill, 3 Cambridge St, City, M1 5BY. 0161 235 0776.

NickJuly 29th 2010.

I live in Chorlton Mill too... haven't been into The Engine House yet (except for the launch night, where they had the nicest chocolate brownies ever!), but I agree totally with the Deli idea too.

Bob the ButcherJuly 31st 2010.

What kind of mucky phone lines have a freephone 0800 number?

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