Restaurant Review: The Mark Addy
If you want to know what The Mark Addy is like, all you need to do is take a look at its waiting staff (all female on the night we went to visit).
There are no divas amongst them. Nobody posh or snooty or who gives the impression they’re in need of high maintenance. Nobody with delusions of grandeur or a rod stuck up their arse. Just an extremely nice group of honest people – friendly, charming and a good laugh.
You could imagine marrying the lot of them. And you’d expect to be made very happy indeed.
Such is The Mark Addy on the Salford bank of the River Irwell.
I don’t think I’ve been to a restaurant before with a bouncer on the door to turn away scumbags. I certainly can’t remember the last time I ate at a restaurant with worse toilets, where you can expect to line up alongside the head chef at the urinal trough. Stepping into the bar area was like breaking open a time capsule to a low-end 1980s pub. The only thing missing was a pool table with a ripped cloth and a missing cue ball.
Before we’d even sat down, I’d said to my wife: “If the food here’s as good as it’s meant to be, I think I’m going to fall in love with this place.”
You see, there’s nothing pretentious at all about The Mark Addy. It’s a very honest restaurant, true to its roots and the city it’s in. The formality of restaurants can be intimidating to some people, but you get the impression anybody could walk in here and feel right at home. I really like that.
It’s also clear, if you look past the slightly grubby facade, that a lot of care goes into the place. On appearance, you’d expect the bar to be selling flat lager in plastic glasses – the sort of drinks that taste and smell like bananas because nobody has bothered to clean the lines for half a decade. Instead they’re serving top quality ale in glass pint mugs. My pre-meal Mark Addy-branded beer was, for that particular moment in time, as close to perfection as you can get.
A lot of thought also seems to go into the dining area, where the tables are nicely spread out and candlelight lends further atmosphere to the gorgeous brick-arched ceilings and broad views over the river. It looks fantastic. In this recent, and slightly unfair, review, the critic kept banging on about The Mark Addy being a pub that sells food. But sit down to a meal on a Saturday evening and you’ll be in no doubt that you’re in a restaurant.
And what a good restaurant it is too. I’ve already hinted at the great vibe and fine service, but the food – which is obviously the most important part – delivers as well. It’s big, hearty, interesting British fare, at prices most good places in Greater Manchester haven’t had on their menus since years started with a 1 and a 9.
Deciding what to eat and what to drink with it was a bloody nightmare. My stomach only had enough room to rescue some of the dishes from the kitchen; the rest were going to have to be left behind.
I had shrimp soup to start – a shrimp bisque served under a dome of puff pastry. It was extremely simple, but bang on the money for a rainy night in Salford, warming me right down to the tippy toes of my soul.*
(Incidentally, I would’ve killed for someone to make it for me earlier this week when I was suffering from a cold. It was that sort of food.)
For my main, I had a whole roast grouse with a large fondant potato, bread sauce, jelly, gravy, potato crisps and a gun cartridge (!) stuffed with herbs.** The grouse was overcooked, and the potato was perhaps a little under, but there was still a lot to like about the dish – being able to pick up the bird carcass with my hands and gnaw away at the bits of meat I couldn’t get with the knife chief among them.***
It was probably half the price of the grouse I had at Northcote Manor last month, but it was just as much fun to eat. All the condiments were excellent and it made for a nice little feast.
I was already full come dessert, and the cheeseboard pretty much finished me off. The cheese itself wasn’t anything remarkable, but the accompaniments and quantities had to be applauded. Four large triangles of cheese, four full sticks of celery, a dozen biscuits, half a bunch of grapes, about 50g of butter… It was what I would call “a proper cheeseboard”.
I managed about two-thirds of it before throwing in the towel and called for the bill. But in fractions signalling victory rather than defeat, the cost was about two-thirds the size of what we were charged for a vastly inferior meal at Jem&I a few weeks earlier. It was a satisfying way to end the evening.
It’s been a while since I walked away from a restaurant in Greater Manchester with such a big smile on my face. It’s been even longer since I walked away from one thinking that I really got my money’s worth. And my memory definitely doesn’t stretch back to a time when I’ve walked away from somewhere already planning a return visit.
The Mark Addy isn’t a looker in the traditional sense. Neither is it snobby, precious or grandiose. It’s just a very good restaurant – generous, affable, kind.
And it rocked my world.****
Dining Room: 4/5
Overall score: 49/100 (Good)
*Or it would if I still had one. My memory’s a little hazy, but I’m pretty sure I sold it to a friend for some sweets in my early teenage years.
**There may have been more things – it was kind of awesome.
***You’ve got to love a restaurant where you can feel comfortable doing that. Without using my hands and teeth in tandem, it would’ve been impossible to get all the meat off the roasted bone marrow my wife had for her starter.
****These asterisks exist because I forgot to mention the wine. They’ve got an excellent list, short, comprehensive and relatively cheap. We had the rather lovely Soldiers Block Shiraz, Mclaren Vale, Australia 2007/8, plus a glass of Krohn Colheita Port, Portugal 1978 with pudding. Sadly they were out of the 1968…