It’s a lovely, sunny day in Manchester (insert weather cliché here). Where to head for a seasonally apt light lunch? I know - I’ll head into this dark Victorian basement for a steak and kidney pudding.
Many people have recommended this Manchester institution to me recently. I gather Sam’s Chop House has had many ups and downs over the years but have been promised it’s most definitely ‘up’ at the moment. I was actually going to go for tapas at Grado (would have been far more appropriate for the weather) but it’s closed and been turned into (yet another) steak restaurant earlier this year. Not to worry. Let’s go and have some suet.
When you enter Sam’s Chop House the first thing to greet you is a life-size statue of L.S Lowry sat at the bar, apparently contemplating ordering his 7th pint of mild. There’s a great little story about the conception and creation of the statue on the back of the menu, which can also be found here. He’s quite unnerving at first as he appears to be staring right at you but after a few more milds we got on riotously.
We were warmly welcomed by the staff and chose a table at the back of the bar area (an atmospheric wood-panelled space filled with photos of my old mate Lowry). Despite the beaming sunshine, it was busy. Full of people tucking into pies, roast dinners and the like. Made me proud to be Northern it did, love. Aye, lad/lass.
The menu is proper old-school English. I was pleased to note that veggies are well-catered for with 2 tempting and interesting options of pan haggarty (a one-pot dish of fried sliced potatoes with Lancashire cheese and shallots) or wild mushroom and spinach wellington. Still, veggie or carnivore - it’s not for the faint-hearted (or those who may have eaten a large breakfast). The wine list is really excellent. Well priced, exhaustive with a good value bin-end section. We went for full-bodied Etchart malbec for reasons that will become apparent below.
To kick things of I went for black pudding, obviously. It was BEAUTIFUL. Moist and light-as-a-feather accompanied with a perfectly cooked scotched quail’s egg (complete with jelly-like runny yoke), mustard mayonnaise and apple puree . To my surprise it was presented in a fine-dining style. I’m not 100% sure they pulled this off looking back at the photo, but it raised a smile when the waiter brought it over.
The next course of my delicate summer lunch was steak and kidney pudding with mushy peas, chunky chips and a jug of gravy on the side. Every meal should come with a jug of gravy on the side. This was sublime, if a suet-based dish can appropriately be described as such. Soft, dense suet pastry surrounding rich, peppery chunks of moist steak and the unmistakable gamey flavour of lamb’s kidney. The gravy was a perfect consistency and gloriously meaty. Mix up a mouthful of pudding, a splash of gravy and a smudge of mushy peas and you achieve some sort of earthy meat nirvana. I’m ashamed to say that I only managed to eat one chip after all this, but it was a really good fluffy chip with a thin crispy skin.
Mrs MBFBY went for a roast beef dinner. The beef was top quality, rare and tender with delicious goose fat roasties and the obligatory pointless greens. Oh yes, and a HUGE yorkshire pudding which she didn’t finish, so I did. I was pleased to note that the gravy that came with the beef was completely different to the one that came with my pudding and equally as tasty. It’s testament to the quality of the cooking that all the gravy doesn’t just come out of one big pot, but is chosen to match individual dishes.
By this point I thought the pudding was actually expanding in my stomach so I’ll have to try the desserts on a return visit. There was the expected Eccles cake and Eton mess alongside more intriguing options like a lemon and poppy seed sandwich.
Throughout the meal the service was excellent. On delivery of the starter the young chap was enthusiastically telling us about the forthcoming scotched duck egg they’ve been trying out in the kitchen. It’s great to see the staff genuinely passionate about the food. Every request was met with a smile. It felt like they were making a special effort to go the extra distance. Hats off to you, Team Chop House.
A lot a places claim to be ‘traditional English restaurants’ but Sam’s pulls it off with flair. High quality cooking with a few surprises, a cracking wine list and an atmosphere of old-world charm. The bill reflected the quality of the cooking, not the cheapest place for lunch but definitely a fair price. If you are in Manc, very, very hungry and want to write off the rest of your afternoon to a food coma (in a good way), get down to Sam’s. Tell Lowry that he owes me a beer while you’re there, he didn’t even say thanks when I bought him one. In fact, he didn’t say anything. What’s his problem?
Sam’s Chop House
Back Pool Fold
0161 834 3210
Sam’s Chop House