I definitely don’t have even one green finger. In fact I’ve probably killed enough house plants to be blacklisted by Homebase, so the idea of having to tend to a patch of fruit and veg frightens me a bit to be honest. However, I’ve heard having an allotment is pretty cool these days, well it must be because my mum’s got one, plus there’s a bar in the Northern Quarter bearing the name. With their seasonal menu of British fodder and cosy, garden themed venue on Dale Street, Allotment Bar can serve you up a boozy little picnic whatever the weather outside. So with the nights drawing in we went to taste a bit of gin – and get a proper slap up meal while we were at it.
The first thing to say about the food we had is the portions were huge, I probably should’ve taken the photos with a credit card in there for scale. This is by no means a criticism, but maybe leave your belt at home, or at least be prepared to loosen it a notch or two over the course of your visit. We chose starters which certainly seemed swayed by the distinctly autumnal feel to the evening, and sautéed wild mushrooms definitely fit that bill. Served with garlic & thyme potato cakes the dish could perhaps have benefited from some sort of sauce, although those mushrooms were nicely juicy. Our other dish of black pudding hash cakes was pretty similar to the potato cakes to be honest, although the presence of that blood sausage made all the difference, adding a softer texture and richer flavour to the crisp, grated spud. A fried duck egg and some sharp, sweet pickled vegetables were also a nice inclusion, and sparked the dish to life somewhat.
With all that gin on the drinks menu it seemed wrong to ignore a dish which included the spirit, so I chose the game stew with gin & juniper berries. It was hearty, homely and just the right thing for a cold Manchester evening, the juniper added an fragrant element of spice as well. Crisp, colourful seasonal vegetables on the side looked fresh out of the ground, and were a welcome accompaniment after some fairly heavy starters. The cheese and onion pie definitely made an impression as well. Gloriously thick cheese sauce, perfect for dipping those thick cut chips, encased in a crisp herby shortcrust – like a supersized, pimped up version of your chip shop pie. Fair to say there was enough to go around, especially with homemade baked beans too, although for me the addition of smoked paprika in those didn’t really work too well.
Our desserts had a proper Mancunian theme, first with the Manchester tart, a tasty pastry case filled with raspberry jam, creamy custard and topped with desiccated coconut. And the other platter was the Manchester chocolate board, which included local chocolatier Martin Chandler’s beautiful handmade creations alongside some dipped fruit and flowers – heaven for all you chocolate lovers out there.
That goes for the jaffa cake martini as well, I’m not always one for mixing chocolate and fruit but this orangey take on an espresso martini is something a bit special. The jasmin tea sour alongside it is well worth popping in to try too, that’s if you can get to it after sampling some of the 50 plus gins on offer. In fact when I mentioned to friends I was going to Allotment Bar for food a few of them didn’t know it was even served there, which seems funny when name their name is synonymous with growing the stuff. As it happens there’s more than enough reasons on the menu to pop down just for a bite to eat, you best make sure you arrive hungry though, and be prepared for some proper northern hospitality.