Jonathan Schofield thinks Kargo was really needed by The Quays and adds an extra dimension

Kargo MKT is what the rebranded Lowry Outlet Mall, now called Quayside, needed.

Indeed, Kargo is what the Quays as a whole needed. The food offering across the two thirds of a mile from MediaCity to Trafford Road Bridge could essentially be summed up in one word, calamari. No other words are necessary, just saying that word conjures a whole menu of blandishments, some linguine perhaps, a burger or two, pizza of course, halloumi and obviously somewhere selling ramen.

The Quays for food was generally plain boring, small town, chain-addled. Yawn. Let's go into town. 

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Kargo MKT, from across the Ship Canal. Kargo is part of Central Bay which is part of Quayside - too many names there Image: Confidentials
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The fine and large south-facing terrace Image: Confidentials
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Inside Kargo Image: Confidentials

Kargo MKT has brightened things a great deal. The big question is why did it take so long to arrive. It seems such an obvious proposition, especially with the expansive terrace on the south side and a view across the widest part of the Ship Canal, with United’s Old Trafford stadium dominating the horizon. On a cold February weekend day with flashes of sunshine breaking through it makes for an impressive vista. The terrace is shared with the biggest of the Seven Brothers’ many bars, 11 Central.

Kargo inhabits a former retail unit, M&S I seem to recall. That could be a hideously bland space but the vivid colours of this world food hall and the big upfront and handsome bar lend it real liveliness. When all a-buzz with locals and tourists, it’s got a great atmosphere. 

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Colourful stalls in a former M&S Image: Confidentials
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More interior views - the handsome bar Image: Confidentials

For food I decided I’d scoffed a lot of Italian, Chinese and Thai food lately and I wasn’t feeling I wanted jerk chicken so it was Eritrean, Palestinian, British and Burmese. The way ordering works is you approach the stalls, choose, pay, receive a pager and find your table. When the pager enters a mad dance you pick up your food.

The ‘fiery Gazan prawns’ (£10) from Baity Palestinian Kitchen were very good and thankfully unpolitical. Or perhaps better apolitical. Political prawns are so annoying, trying to ram their seafoody opinions down your throat. These came with a gently fragrant and finely timed rice. The delicate prawns were given heat by an entertaining Gazan chilli sauce, although I’m not sure I could work out what made it specifically Gazan. Evidence of the dill in the dish didn’t go amiss either. 

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Fiery apolitical prawns Image: Confidentials

House of Habesha’s Kulwa Keyh, aka spicy lamb, (£14.50) was a little cracker. The lamb in a nifty little bowl was rich with sauce and gently broke in the mouth. The spices weren’t particularly savage in heat and there was a real presence of ghee in the recipe. The secret was using the simplest ingredient on the plate, the lettuce, as a warp around the lamb or the fabulous rice, to give either a refreshing veggie crunch. 

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Kulwa Keyh, a little cracker Image: Confidentials

I was cheated of an egg by the Super Fry Guys.

The spam fritters (£15) ‘from the can’ came with piccalilli mayo but not the promised sriracha fried egg. I took my spam fritters back to the table and stared at them for a little while feeling there was something wrong. I went back to the woman who’d prepared the spam fritters and asked for my egg. She said she was very sorry but she didn’t have any eggs and was new and didn’t know that recipe anyway. There was no return of any of the money already paid from the slightly extortionate £15. Bad form that.

For the record the spam fritters were very good in a childhood memory sort of way as was the piccalilli but the egglessness was troubling as was the response. That egg and sriracha sauce would have improved the dish.  

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Eggless spam dish at Super Fry Guys Image: Confidentials

Nila’s Burmese Kitchen provided the winning dish of the Kargo foray. This place won a recent Food and Drink Festival award and you could see why with the mince beef, potato and pea curry (£17.50). This curiously delicate dish had chilli heat and a refreshing blast of ginger. You could tell there was some garlic in there too and the peas were a welcome addition adding a bit of grist. The minced beef was almost a background element. 

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Nila's mince beef dish Image: Confidentials

That egg-shaped problem aside Kargo MKT is in many ways the best food hall in Manchester and Salford. The range of foods and flavours is excellent, the drinks have variety. The whole experience is colourful and characterful. That terrace is going to see some proper action come spring and it helps that the Seven Brothers’ bar occupies the neighbouring space. This is an excellent addition to the Quays and as stated very necessary in improving the amenity of the area. 

Kargo MKT, Central Bay, Quayside, Salford, Manchester

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The view across the Ship Canal to Old Trafford Image: Confidentials

Kargo MKT is on Confidential Guides

Recommended by Confidential Guides

The scores

All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, and ALWAYS paid for by and completely independent of any commercial relationship. They are a first-person account of one visit by one, knowledgeable restaurant reviewer and don't represent the company as a whole.

If you want to see the receipt as proof this magazine paid for the meal then a copy will be available upon request. Or maybe ask the restaurant.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their type. What we mean by this is a restaurant which aspires to be fine dining is measured against other fine dining restaurants, a mid-range restaurant against other mid-range restaurants, a pizzeria against other pizzerias, a teashop against other teashops, a KFC against the contents of your bin. You get the message.

Given the above, this is how we score: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: sigh and shake your head, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: nothing's that good is it?

  • Food 7/10

    Firey prawns 7, spicy lamb 7, battered spam 6, mince beef curry 7

  • Service 3/5

    Not much service done as it's over the counter sales but pleasant enough

  • Ambience 4/5

    Very good buzz on weekend days particularly