In a nutshell
Pier 8 is the Lowry theatre’s new-look restaurant. Part of the theatre’s £3m extension, it opened in in November 2015 with ambitions to be a sophisticated, relaxed food destination – not just a pre-show attraction.
Panoramic windows frame an impressive backdrop of the iconic Imperial War Museum North, modern bridges and the twinkling lights of Salford Quay’s waterfront – the view alone is worth the trip out to Media City (don’t worry, there’s a direct tram straight from Manchester city centre, it takes about 15 minutes).
The kitchen at Pier 8 is partly open; the shiny, stainless steel edges are presided over by head chef Oliver Thomas, who worked in the theatre’s previous restaurant for four years after a stint at The Lowry Hotel (no connection to The Lowry theatre, bar the name of Salford’s most famous son).
What are they cooking
Oliver’s menu focuses on seasonal ingredients, cooked in a modern British style. A mid-winter menu during our visit was full of hearty roots, brassicas and rich meat dishes. There’s a good balance of fish and vegetarian options, and a nod to the restaurants’ northern roots with an obligatory scotch egg and Manchester tart.
What’s the room like
Pier 8’s dining room is a soothing palette of soft greys, teals and mustards, designed in a stylish, Scandi way. There’s even a feature ‘tree’ in the middle of the room – a giant light column.
It’s grown-up but thankfully laidback – there are booths as well as tables, offering a little more privacy and dividing the restaurant from the bar.
Menu must-orders and misfires
To start, like the proper good Northerners we are, we ordered the black pudding scotch egg and tomato salsa. Cooked with a runny centre, the scotch egg was a hit, but the salsa could have done with a touch less vinegar. Mushrooms on brioche oozed butter while a hint of parsley oil took the dish up a notch.
For mains, perfectly pink lamb rump served with crunchy sweetbreads and a dish of parsley crusted salmon was brought to life by a sweet, cockle-heavy (yet very light) cream sauce.
Pudding were a mixed bag. Posset with walnut praline was sharp, soft and subtly sweet, a perfect end to a meal. Unfortunately the tarte tatin didn’t hit the same spot. The pastry was dry, there wasn’t enough apple and there was an overpowering taste of burnt caramel.
Unlike the food, the drinks menu isn’t exceptional. Staff have been trained to pair beers and wines with dishes, but the list isn’t going to blow you away. There’s a good stock of gins, wines by the glass and beers on tap – fine for whetting the whistle mid-performance, but nothing star quality.
What else did you like/dislike?
Staff at Pier 8 are well trained, know the menu inside out and are able to answer any questions and give advice. They had remembered from booking that I had an allergy and already alerted the kitchen. Their friendly attitude made up for the fact that by 8pm the restaurant had emptied as everyone made their way into the theatre, leaving me and my dining companion very much alone in a 300 cover restaurant.
Pier 8 has aspirations to be as much of a destination as the (very good) theatre it shares the building with. With a few tweaks to the menu and a few more bums on seats, it’ll definitely be worth getting the tram.
Words by Sarah Tarmaster (North West Nosh), written February 2016
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