Jonathan Schofield dries up in a pub not living up to its potential

Boothstown is getting a boost. The comfortable but unassuming little place is down the road from a new major attraction. Later this year RHS Bridgewater will open and start packing in hordes of green fingered types. Any decent places for food and drink close by might get some of the spill over.

Almost all the savoury dishes were as dry as Les Dawson’s wit, yet no fun at all

This must have been in the minds of Jason Green and David Salmon when they teamed up with the Heineken brand Star Pubs & Bars to rework the old Greyhound pub. Certainly the interior has lots of botanical references, and there are lots of botanicals you can put in the gin from the on-site distillery. 

2020 01 13 Coal Cotton Interior 2
Interior of Coal & Cotton

The name is all about the mining and textile heritage of this farthest reach of Salford. The interior reveals a smart fit out behind a handsome brick exterior, with some decent graphics. There’s a hint of the Botanist chain of bars to the design but the place is distinctive enough, with lots of local references. That’s the good news.

2020 01 13 Coal Cotton Distillery
Coal and Cotton distillery

The bad news is that the food on our visit was terrible.

Puff pork skins (£3.25 on the bill, £2.95 on the menu) were pork crackling by another name and came with an apple and fennel sauce. The skins were as tough as old boots, maybe tougher. The best pork crackling has a wonderful lift of fat that carries all the flavour. These had none of that. None of anything. The sauce didn't help either.

Beetroot bon bons (£4.95) were worse, more bad bads than bon bons. They were deep fried and when opened revealed a dark interior that had a musty aroma and a flavour that was both odd, unpleasant and bizarrely, not very beetrooty. I could have been eating some gritty loam to keep up the RHS theme.  Indeed, I think I would have preferred to soil myself - so to speak. 

2020 01 13 Coal Cotton Scratchings
Puffed pork, not nice at all
2020 01 13 Coal Cotton Bonbons
Not so much bon bons as bad bads

The half chicken (£11.95) main came with our choice of peri-peri sauce and chips. The chips were awful. Stodgy and that word dry again. The chicken flesh was, quelle surprise, dry, but given a thankful boost by the peri-peri sauce. The ox cheek and chestnut risotto (£14.95) was - three cheers - good. The ox cheek and the chestnut provided a satisfactory combination. There was plenty of moisture, hurrah again, and the dish carried flavour. It was slightly over-seasoned but that aside, it was eminently palatable. 

2020 01 13 Coal Cotton Chicken
The chicken and stodgy chips
2020 01 13 Coal And Cotton Risotto
The risotto: food with some life at last

The Eton mess (£4.95) was small and characterless. It was as if, somehow, all the individual flavours had been smashed out of the various elements and what was left was just a doubtful sense of abiding sweetness. I’m sure this was homemade but it felt bought in from Iceland.

The choice of draught ales is poor, just Dizzy Blonde (I think) and Doom Bar. There are more than 80 breweries in Greater Manchester. Having a gin distillery is one thing, but the ale selection is inadequate. 

2020 01 13 Coal Cotton Mess
The Eton mess tasted as though it was bought in

Coal & Cotton let itself down on our visit. The food quality was far worse and more expensive then you’d get in a Wetherspoons. Aside from the risotto, all the savoury dishes were as dry as Les Dawson’s wit yet no fun at all. 

With a handsome interior, and a good position in a town on the up, Coal & Cotton needs to sort out its food and drink offering. It needs to get the cooking right, or change the menu.  

What we received represented all that can be dispiriting about the British pub grub experience. It's the sort of thing that gives our national cuisine a bad rep. RHS Bridgewater up the road should bring in lots of visitors. Come on, Coal & Cotton, you can do better than this. 

Coal & Cotton, 44 Leigh Road, Boothstown, Salford, M28 1LR

Follow @jonathschofield

2020 01 13 Coal Cotton Bill

The scores

All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.

  • Food 4.5/10

    Puffed pork 4, beetroot bon bons 3, chicken 4, risotto 6.5, Eton mess 5

  • Service 3/5

    Friendly and helpful

  • Atmosphere 3.5/5

    Lively with a good buzz of conversation across the pub