With a new General Manager and a new Head Chef in residence, change is in the air at Bakerie — and it smells delicious! I recently visited the busy Lever Street bistro where the menu refresh is all about showcasing passion, increasing value for customers and making the most of the quality ingredients the restaurant is accustomed to working with. In the kitchen, new top man James has put the emphasis on plates that please the eye and flavours that harmonise across courses. And bread, of course. It wouldn’t be Bakerie without phenomenal bread.
First to hit my table, along with the requisite oil, vinegar and butter, was a baked round of Camembert served with Olive Sourdough. Gooey, warm and homey, the Camembert spreads onto a tuft of bread with an irresistible sheen and delivers a bite of compelling salt with faint arboreal notes of rosemary. The sourdough is springy but not dense and not so crusty as some traditional sourdoughs, offering a satisfying chew instead of a Crossfit workout for your jaw.
Also from the starter menu of “Bakerie Boards” came a dollop of Smoked Mackerel Pâté paired with Tomato Chilli Focaccia. The fish-forward spread is powerfully fresh-tasting and delivers on the promised smoke, handily bolstered by the focaccia’s faint chilli heat and resinous backbone of tomato. Drizzled with lemon and studded with a bit of warm cucumber-celery salad, the pâté sings a lively song of summer by the sea.
Because there is no such problem as too much cheese with a meal, I next took possession of a Cheese Board with Apple Chutney and fortified my table’s ever-growing cache of bread with a basket of White Bloomer. The board felt lovingly curated, and I passed a blissful half-hour sampling each possible combination of cheese and bread. I was especially taken by the Green Thunder, strongly herbaceous and slightly oily, tasting like a gourmet cheese cracker, and the Cumin Gouda, with its waxy crumble and an intense savoury cumin flavour reminiscent of a perfect taco.
Feeling stuffed and satisfied, I could easily have rested my head on the table amongst the crumbs for a quick Bread Nap but the free space was suddenly and rousingly taken up by an incoming Rack of Ribs. The generous rack is conservatively glazed in sticky barbecue sauce and arrives with a beautiful gloss and mouth-watering char. The sauce is just slightly sweet with hints of citrus and leans away from spice in favour of a tangy acid that cuts through the fat on the ribs as the meat dissolves sumptuously against the tongue.
The paprika aioli on the side is perfect for dunking both the ribs and the accompanying roasted potato wedges, and the garlic mushrooms which fill out the plate went uneaten because I find mushrooms revolting but they weathered my scorn looking plump and buttery all the while!
By now you’ve wondered to yourself what sort of fool sits for hours in one of the city’s top wine bars without a drop to drink. Well, not this fool. Even though I visited on a rainy afternoon, the bartender sent sunshine to my table by the glass with an assortment of signature cocktails.
The Strawberry Basil cooler is gloriously red, summery and sweet, a fruit bomb tempered smartly by the earthy basil, but if you’re only ordering one drink make it the Honey Lemon Bellini — mine was pure ambrosia, soft, syrupy and roundly flavoured, glowing even in the rationed sunlight.
As my jaunt through the new menu drew near its end, I decided that I hadn’t yet had quite enough carbs and asked for dessert. Lifting the lid from a small white crock, I was faced with the most perfectly gorgeous Creme Brûlée I’ve ever seen. Adorned with berries and bright purple flowers atop the expertly-immolated golden-brown carapace of sugar, it was almost too pretty to eat.
When I finally stopped gawking and cracked my way inside the reward was an immaculate white chocolate silk and a glorious toasted-marshmallow crunch in perfect balance. Soon the problem was not that the Creme Brûlée was too lovely to eat, but that it was too delicious to contemplate finishing. Instead of a small crock they should serve it in something larger, like an inflatable kiddie pool.
Feeling less and less able to resist the call of that nap, I hoisted my distended midsection out into the drizzle, kept warm by the satisfaction of a meal where the only bad bit was running out of bread. Whether you’re a regular from way back or planning your first visit, the new menu at Bakerie is a perfect excuse to pop in. Make it soon!
Bakerie Bread & Wine Bar, 45 Lever St, Manchester M1 1DN
0161 236 9014