I LIKE the words ‘ply me’. With drinks, with well-thought out cocktails, with an airy, light ambience that puts so many Northern Quarter mock industrial look-alike bars to shame – just Ply me.
I thought the wow factor had gone from the NQ. At best I hoped for quirky that worked (Hold Fast), while expecting it might not (Allotment) but of late the rest of the bar arrivals have been business plan places hoping to capitalise on the district’s cool reputation.
In contrast, Ply is a playful, light airy ‘bar/creative space’, where everything appears to be made of plywood and cork apart from the monster wood-fired ‘disco ball’ oven that twinkles in the corner while issuing splendidly crisp-crusted, cannily topped pizzas in 90 seconds flat.
We even like the back story behind this ‘Stefano’ oven, which I’m convinced was partly responsible for the legendarily long lead-in before Ply finally opened its doors off Stevenson Square. Stefano Ferrara pizza ovens can weigh up to 2500kg, cost up to £20,000 to ship over and, being crafted from volcanic clay from Sorrento, can withstand temperatures up to 500°C. Three of Stefano’s boys came over to construct it.
Which leads me to those pizzas which, along with antipasti and salads are the basis of Ply’s food offering. My Artichoke and Pig's Cheek with tomato, mozzarella, smoked pig’s cheek, artichoke, chilli (£12) worked exceptionally well, but my companion’s £10 Courgette Bianca was a delicate, spring-fresh blend of courgette, taleggio, mozzarella and garlic oil with delicate flowers – a picture on the plate (above).
The beer list is among the best around offered by a non-specialist bar, including ABC Crate Digger coffee stout from Alphabet, the brewery run by Ply/Kosmonaut owner Joe Fearnhead. We tried two Italian reds, an unusual Vermentino Nero: Il Torchio (£25) from Liguria and a more familiar Piemontese Dolcetto from Otto Rube (£23.50). Neither lived up to the promise of their respective descriptions –’herbs, resin, wild fruits’, ‘morello, pomegranate, countryside’. These pizzas deserved better.
PLY, 26 Stevenson Square, Manchester M1 1DW. http://plymcr.co.uk
Photos by Sebastian Matthes at Manox.net