Jonathan Schofield adores big windows and isn't a teenage girl
THE Patron is thoroughly enjoyable. This new, savvy Northern Quarter venue has all the elements you’d want: good food, good drinks range, a buzz of expectant customers, a louche early seventies décor, and so many windows there’s always something to watch, inside or out.
The service was entertaining too and I really mean that as a compliment.
Asking a staff member about the menu, she said: “You’re obviously not a vegetarian so I’d go for these options.” I laughed and thought I must never wear this flat cap made of steak again, nor this fake hipster beard constructed of lean mince. Tapping the table top with the leg of lamb I’d just gnawed I asked how she knew I wasn’t of the parsnip persuasion.
“Well, you’re clearly not a teenage girl," she said, "and they’re often the ones who are vegetarian.” This was news to me, but she was right, I am not, and never have been a teenage girl. Not to my knowledge. John Robb, an occasional writer for this magazine, is a vegetarian, and while he does not look like a teenage girl, I now harbour doubts.
Mind you, I did as I was told. There are mains that read well on the menu but I wanted variety. My waitress said the three best small plates were the crab (£8) on toasted sourdough (the only bread left on earth), the filo wrapped goats' cheese (£6.50) and the shortribs (£8), so I went for them all - especially as from Monday to Thursday at lunch and teatime they come as a bargain £13.50 package.
Solid dishes these. The filo wrapped goats' cheese gave a good crunch through the pastry and then went all softly ashy in that pleasant goats' cheese way. The juicy tomatoes and the lovage added to the mix. I love lovage. I have it in my garden and garnish dishes with it all the time. Indeed, I often say my love for lovage carries no baggage. Make lovage not war.
The crab on the toasted sourdough was nicely split. White meat, all fresh and zesty on top, with the dark meat spread on the bread as a bold paste and the whole offering lifted, unexpectedly, with some fighting horseradish cream. The samphire was lovely too with this, but then I’m as giddy as a teenage vegetarian girl over samphire.
Meanwhile, the short rib crowning smoked swede was perfect for winter. The wonderfully flavoured flesh flaked as swiftly as an adulterer’s apology. It was as big as a proper lunch too and came with a hint of chilli that did no harm to the balance of the dish.
A clever chocolate soufflé did no harm either at £5.50 and provided a suitably rich companion to the suitably rich Portuguese red I swigged. If wine is not your thing there’s a goodly range of beers, but none that I could see from Greater Manchester, which is a bit rubbish given we have so many producers.
Then I overheard the waitress saying the restaurant was Middle Eastern in inspiration and I looked at the menu and thought yeah, there’s some of that. Rose and saffron feature in one of the desserts and there are other Eastern elements scattered across other dishes, but then I thought doesn’t this simply reflect modern Britain and our glorious mix of influences?
For some reason floating into my head came the image of old-timer comedian Tommy Cooper wearing a fez. The Patron is British food with something of the Middle East, or even the Near East, as it used to be called in Tommy Cooper’s day.
The Patron has a tree. Of course. So many Manchester restaurants have a tree. But this one is a real tree, not the usual fake. It sits in a tiny courtyard with fun umbrellas above and a mural on one of the walls. It’s very sweet, a place shared with Hatters, the parent business and hostel above Patron.
The restaurant is easy and comfortable in everything it does: food, service, ambience. I like it, I want it to prosper. And I adore those watch-the-world-go-by windows with all that activity, much better than TV or VR. Seeing life pulse past on Hilton Street and Oldham Street is pure entertainment. It’s a mad world out there and don’t we love it.
Something else makes me smile as I write this, pushing my steak constructed flat cap back on my head and scratching my lean mince beard. I’m sitting in my house on a chair I bought in The Patron site, when it was a furniture shop called Den, which moved and is now a fine place in Bury. The chair is part of a dining room ensemble of chrome-legged, cantilevered Scandi delight from the seventies that I’ve never done anything but love since I bought it twelve years ago. I love it like lovage. It’s furniture that wouldn’t look out of place in The Patron.
The Patron, 42-44 Oldham St, Manchester M4 1LE. Enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Crab 7, goats' cheese 7, short rib 7, soufflé 7
Love those windows
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