DON’T go searching for extensive food offerings in Manchester’s craft beer temples. Few bother to run a hot kitchen. So Port Street Beer House, winner in the beer bar category at the 2018 Manchester Food and Drink Awards, offers no food, while city centre rivals The Pilcrow and Cafe Beermoth stick to bought-in snacks or boards, albeit from quality sources.
Latest addition to the taproom scene Beatnikz Republic is confining itself for the moment to a guest street food trader every Saturday (not unknown at The Pilcrow,too).
Which makes fellow tap newcomer Northern Monk Refectory unique as far as ToM can see.
Acclaimed brewers Northern Monk inherited a kitchen when they recently took over the Tariff Street premises formerly occupied by Kosmonaut , so they could go one step further than their Leeds base in the Old Flax Mill, Holbeck, where the food came from seasonally changing pop-ups.
Head chef Liam Raynor, once of Artisan and Tender Cow is certainly putting his new stoves to good use of it with some seriously good small plates.
Immediate stand-out, and crying out for a glass of their lethal Strannik Double Imperial Russian Stout (followed by a lie down), is Roasted Bone Marrow, served in the bone with a herb crust (£8.50). Up there with the Fergus Henderson ‘nose to tail’ original. Beef dripping on toast is an equally rib-tickling alternative.
My veggie drinking buddy could only look on aghast, yet his wild mushrooms on sourdough (£7) was equally succulent. The fungi had been tossed in cream and herbs, the whole unctuous morass finished with pine nuts and hazelnuts. Rainbow chard and golden beets tossed in lemon and garlic (£4) was simple and fresh.
Again favouring the veggie, deep-fried discs of purple kohlrabi with sweetened cabbage and red wine jus was less attractive.
Maybe, served on wholemeal, the slowly steamed beef brisket (£8.50) was on the dry, slightly unyielding side, pickle and dill topped but a flavour or two short of a full Reuben.
They were beautifully partnered with Don’t Mess With Manchester DDH Pale Ale, NM’s launch collab with Manc brewing ‘rivals’ Track, Marble, Cloudwater and Runaway – think of it as a gently bitter, fruity supergroup of an ale.
Perhaps the Refectory Food, kept simple, deserves just three stars but the beer roster drives the whole experience up to four. ToM says well done to all those crowdfunding fans whose £1.5 made the Monk invasion of Manchester possible. A major addition to the scene.
Northern Monk Refectory, 10 Tariff St, Manchester M1 2FF. 0161 236 9876.