I GO to Beagle once every year, only normally it's called something else.

Within the living memory of a pre-school infant it's been Ostara, Charango, Scotts Hill and now Beagle. 

The kitchen appliances must have ethical issues wondering, as every new chef breezes in, whether to tell him he has the life expectancy of a World War One fighter pilot. 

What's strange is that all three previous manifestations of Beagle have been fine. Maybe it's the location that's cursed, maybe some gypsy gave it the evil eye.

At least, the rapid change-overs make the new name appropriate.

The thirty day aged rump steak (£18.50) was perfectly medium rare as requested, and was covered in a mucky but glorious bone marrow sauce which transformed the whole into a dirty delight. 

Beagle is a dog, but also the ship on which Charles Darwin sailed around the globe. As everybody except crazed creationists know, he was the man who worked out we'd evolved from apes over millions of years and didn't pop up magically through the intercession of a deity.

Evolution seems about right for this Chorlton venue. Given all the extinctions on the site it could be a food and drink example of natural selection. Survival of the tastiest.

Question is will this latest incarnation be a dodo or an eagle? As well as a charming mutt. 

Outside in ChorltonOutside in Chorlton

First signs are good, with a menu from chef Jamie Brown that's simple but handsome. You want to eat it all, like sailors did when they saw a dodo after months of eating dried fish and maggoty bread.  

Beagle is owned by the people who run the fine Common Bar in the Northern Quarter. Its food is partly designed by Prestwich's award-winning Aumbry restaurant. The pedigree of the operators shows through on many occasions.

The bread appetiser is straight from the Aumbry menu. It comes homemade in brown and white, with lovely butter, but forget all that, because you get warm beef dripping too. Say those three little words folks, roll them around the mouth.

The bread soaked in warm beef dripping is a rub-your-hands in glee moment. Once you've had this you'll forever be disappointed by olive oil and balsamic dunking substitutes.

Almost as good was the starter of pearl barley kedgeree for £7. This had substance, flavour and came with dainty onion rings. It held to together fishily well. It happily hoisted a peppered egg.

Cunning kedgereeCunning kedgeree

Even better was the salt beef stovey (£7.50). The texture of the salt beef was stringily perfect, the mix beneath ruggedly real, and the grain mustard sauce a joy. The big exuberant hat of a duck egg broke like a happy Humpty Dumpty over the whole thing. 

Happy Humpty Dumpties on a stoveyHappy Humpty Dumpties on a stovey

Onto the mains and the thirty day aged rump steak (£18.50). This was perfectly medium rare as requested, and was covered in a mucky but glorious bone marrow sauce which transformed the whole thing into a dirty delight. It felt caveman, visceral, marvellous. The chips that arrived at the same time were too crispy and fatty, the last thing needed after the glutinous ooze of bone marrow on meat. Boo.

Marrow and fleshMarrow and flesh

The hay smoked Wester Ross salmon (£12.50) involved some complicated process with real hay - as in the thing beloved of horses. Apparently the hay is smoked and used to cook the salmon - or something. My eyes glazed over and I slipped facefirst into my stovey during the explanation, so if I'm wrong I apologise.

It was decent enough, but it's hard to work out how all the effort involved with hay delivered a measurable benefit. The sprout tops and potatoes were excellent, but overall the dish was clumsy, especially the way it was presented. It resembled some ghastly animal experiment - more about presentation shortly. 

Salmon looking oddSalmon looking odd

Puddings (both £6.50) were top notch and glorious. The deep dish apple pie was rammed with flavour and came with a real vanilla custard. While eating it I felt I was walking through aromatic flower-filled meadows. A winner. 

Apple pieApple pie

The Sussex pond pudding was even better. This was a dormant volcano of divine suet under a clotted cream snowy peak that erupted, when cut, into a hot lava of lemon treacle. A 9.5 out of ten dish.

Lovely volcano waiting to eruptLovely volcano waiting to erupt

But look at the pictures on this page.

Ok, I took some with a camera phone but then I went back and used a real camera. 

This is the thing. Beagle's food looks dreary, despite its qualities.

It's either yellow and orange arranged in circles, or principally rectangular in shades of brown or orange-brown. Occasionally there's some white and green but generally the food is better suited to military camouflage than statement. 

A few berries here and there on the puddings, a much more judicious use of leaves on the other courses, would lift matters. Beagle needs to colour up its food. 

There was only one course providing colour, the Oysters Mombassa (£2.70 each). The colour was very welcome, but the oysters were wrong 'uns. They'd been poached and given a coating of hot African sauce. Tough and uncut from the shell, the flesh was as chewy as five day old gum while the sauce was tepid in flavour and empty of character. The oysters were a bad idea all round. Ditch them off the menu Beagle people, or give them us fresh.

Naughty failed oystersNaughty failed oysters

But back to the good things.

Beagle calls itself 'a beerhouse with food'. The beer range is superb whether bottled or on draught. I adored the Beagle Best, 3.8% and £2.90. This was a big bitter hoppy number that sang a song with the steak and danced a dance with the puds. It's produced for Beagle by Quantum Brewery in Stockport. The beer selection is worth it's own article. 

Chalked up beersChalked up beers

As for the venue it has an easy-going, slightly DIY appeal. There's a pleasant bar area but the music needs to be turned down, especially when it becomes a blur of bass. It was nice to see younger folks down in the bar area taking it easy and playing cards. 

If Jamie Brown brightens up the food Beagle might out live its predecessors. It might become a dominant species in Chorlton fooderies, a natural selection for the local naked apes.

I hope I return in a year and find it's still the same place.

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield


Beagle, 456-458 Barlow Moor Road, Chorlton, Manchester
M21 0BQ. 0161 881 8596 

Rating: 14/20 

Food: 7.5/10 (bread 9, oysters 4, kedgeree 7, stovey 8.5, salmon 6.5, steak 7.5, apple pie 8, pond pudding 9.5)
Service: 3.5/5
Ambience: 3/5

PLEASE NOTE: Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away.

Inside the dining room

Inside the dining room

Beagle on the wallsBeagle on the walls