I never thought I’d be reviewing anything in the Lowry, or any other theatre for that matter. The last time I saw some Shakespeare was Michael Fassbender in Macbeth at HOME, and to be perfectly honest the only thing I could pass comment on was the bottle of red I got through during the film, which was lovely. I didn’t understand a word they were on about. Anyway luckily I wasn’t invited to watch a play but eat, at Pier Eight, the new restaurant inside Salford Quay’s Lowry Theatre. It’s a venue that has managed to sneak under my radar to be fair, perhaps due to my philistine tendencies, but a quick look at their menu of appetising modern British food was more than enough to tempt me down.
We both chose seafood to start, and opted for a couple of glasses of white Rioja which was excellent. I had smoked salmon on a Lancashire bottom muffin topped with poached egg and a tarragon sauce. It was a dish that was always going to rely on the quality of the fish and the Port of Lancaster Smokehouse didn’t disappoint, it was delicious stuff and there was plenty of it too. A little less generous were the scallops, two of which came with bacon, lentils, cauliflower purée and a smoked red wine sauce. What was lacking in portion size was made up for in quality, they were spot on, crisp yet rare, the lentils also adding another lovely layer of texture.
Meat was most definitely back on the menu for mains, my companion picked the pork fillet, accompanied with crackling, braised cheek, sausage, onion mash, Savoy cabbage and a marjoram jus. It looked strangely nautical with that fin-like shard of crisp skin, especially set again the dockyard backdrop, or maybe it’s just me. I have to say I found all the presentation pretty impressive as I’m sure the pictures will attest. The combination of pork four ways could’ve been a bit of a swine overload but it was well executed, each element adding something slightly different.
I had the Cheshire beef fillet, it was the stand out item on the menu I thought, and lived up to its billing. The meat itself was cooked perfectly pink and the dish also came with tender braised blade, a buttery golden brown bubble and squeak patty, artichoke purée and spinach.
Our desserts were once again well presented and proportioned. Dark chocolate torte was light but rich in flavour and enhanced by the chocolate and raspberry sauces that flanked it. Raspberry sorbet topped the dish off, cool, tart and tangy.
Apple tarte tatin is always a favourite of mine and I certainly enjoyed this one. That slowly caramelised apple, buttery pastry crunch then creamy vanilla ice cream melting gently on the side, it’s got a lot to love. We finished off the night with an old fashioned and the rather nice view over Salford Quays, most certainly a pair of very happy punters.
It could be seen as a unenviable task running a restaurant in a theatre to be honest, for all the added footfall you’d imagine the average diner might be fairly discerning in their taste. The bar has clearly been set above just pleasing that audience though, and so I had wondered beforehand if it I’d be left thinking it was worth a trip to the Lowry just to visit Pier Eight alone, and I’d have to say yes. We enjoyed some truly delicious food with no fluffed lines in sight. These are classic dishes beautifully performed with the odd twist and plenty of thought gone in to each. Everything we tried was well balanced on a menu with plenty for everyone, backed up with some great wines and cocktails, so the only thing I was left wondering, when we might be back for an encore?