THE Northern Quarter periodically subscribes to a New York vibe. It must be all those Big Apple on the cheap movie location shots it has hosted. Some bars try for it and get it, notably Pen & Pencil and Eat New York; others attain it by default (Cottonopolis); and we won’t name and shame all the abject Bad Apples about.
The Patron, final stage in Hatters Hostel's regeneration of the Hilton Chambers, looks the park gloriously. That perfect for people watching corner site with the big windows and parquet floors, a sense of buzz and a sense of space (and on a freezing night we even forgot to check out the hidden courtyard garden) was immediately welcoming. Like stepping in off the Lower East Side and meeting Sally.
My dining mate and I rocked up with a sack of oysters left over from a tasting – as you do – and rewarded our knowledgeable server for his shared enthusiasm for bivalves with a gift of a few.
In return he guided us through the new spring menu (yes, the snow is pelting down as I write), which reemphasises the Persian culinary roots of Salford chef Romin Farahini, once of Hawksmoor.
Post Ottolenghi, such flavours are all the rage, even among home cooks, but few chefs grasp the essentials from their own mother steeped in Persian cuisine, as Romin did. And yes, small plates do rule at The Patron, but for once the kitchen followed our request not to send them out in one great stampede.
In-house pickles are always a plus and some sharp cucumber accompanied our first dish, a slightly, caramelised lemon and saffron kebab, which came on a flatbread with a carrot and radish slaw on the side (£8). Chicory (£6.50), with all its refreshing bitterness, formed a smart combo with feta and pickled grapes and walnuts. Is it just us but are pickled grapes modish these days? A further pickle, of samphire, added bracing salinity to crab on toasted sourdough with a dash of horseradish mayo (£8.50).
Two ‘large plates’ were equally satisfying, in contrasting ways – a stand-out bowl of four baked scallops in a pho style broth (£12) was vivid in aroma and flavour, the nutty scallops neatly al dente; beef short rib was rich and fissile in a black garlic gravy soaking into a fluffy pillow of mash (£14.85). A side of greens, shallots and preserved lemon gave us more of that Middle Eastern influence, but this menu ultimately transcends such buttonholing, as we discovered.
Our bottle of red, a Graciano Crianza (£27.50) from Spain’s Navarre region, erred on the rustic, brooding side and only really came into its own with the short rib. I wished I’d perused the excellent beer offering more closely. The Patron ticks many boxes. The one I like best (promising chef aside) is the feeling that the bar has always been there on that corner (looking very atmospheric in their recent FB photo, below). Just waiting for me to step in off the Lower East Side.
The Patron, 42-44 Oldham Street, Northern Quarter, M4 1LE. 0161 241 7079.