Just when you thought Manchester’s Northern Quarter couldn’t take any more new openings, up pops another.
Over the last few years, this hip and unashamedly bohemian section of the city centre has become more urbane. As one end of the sprawling neighbourhood has found more favour with the drinking classes, some of the newer venues at the opposite end are trying to put the focus on food.
Tariff & Dale is one such example, and offers up a small but ambitious menu, based around small plates, sourdough pizza and hearty-sounding meat dishes. Chef Chris Vernazza spent time working under Tom Kerridge at The Hand & Flowers. Tariff & Dale has hardly had its very heavy doors open two months and it’s already picked up a best newcomer nomination from the Manchester Food and Drink Festival.
The aesthetic ticks all the usual boxes – stripped wooden floors, exposed brick, big metal beams – although it’s not offering anything radically different to many of its neighbours on the décor front, except perhaps the attraction of bagging the table that sits at the foot of a disused lift shaft.
The range of ales is impressive, but pork nuggets (which should have offered a crisp, salty accompaniment to the lunchtime wheat beer) were too greasy. It got better, though. The beef shin and marrow dish is so deftly delivered that it could charm the pants off the most cynical hipster. A rich, comforting hug of a dish with a gravy so deep in flavour, we’d happily bathe in it once a week. The mashed potato-filled éclair on the same plate was a little superfluous, though.
More robust was the beef and ale pie (with that gravy), deconstructed to show off a perfectly cooked piece of meat and the obvious talent of Chris and his team.
Unfortunately, dessert – pea and white chocolate – was a disappointing end to an otherwise good meal. It sounded great, but on the plate the green mousse, dehydrated peas, brownie and chocolate crumbs was just plain odd. Likewise, ‘big honeycomb’ read better than it looked, although the small baked Alaska included as part of the dish was impressive in its own right.
Service was as laid back and comfortable as the huge leather chairs and booths that punctuate the bar’s substantial footprint. Friendly and engaged in a way that the Northern Quarter sometimes is not.
There’s much to admire here, and Tariff & Dale is a step in the right direction for the Northern Quarter. But nobody wants pea for dessert, do they?
Written by Simon Binns
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