'This is good food but my, is it rich', says Jonathan Schofield
THE purple sprouting broccoli at £4, crisped off, as opposed to pissed off, and suffused with lemon oil is rich, simple and spectacular all at the same time. You could produce this and sell it in the street and at festivals and, in THESE DAYS OF THE TRIUMPHANT VEGAN, it would be a total hit. This was a nigh-perfect little dish that is 9 out of 10 for me, when it could quite easily be 10 out of 10 except for one thing. My head hurts to ever mark anything as perfect. Nothing is, not even one’s children.
The quail Scotch egg (£8) was fabulous too, with the filling a Manchester egg-style black pudding. The little egg was a cute thing and worked a treat with the pudding. Sadly I’d missed the bit on the menu which mentioned that it came with cranberry sauce. I ate around that as best I could. I can’t stand cranberry; it’s a vicious liar of a fruit that fails any truth to fruit sweetness test.
The scallops (£12) were dainty and cultured fayre on a bed of pureed cauliflower. This combo shouldn’t have worked given the flavour clash, but the smoothness of the cauliflower was lovely with the tangy fish. The crumbly black pudding sprinkled on top was a bonus, as were the greens. £12 was expensive though. A couple of quid less might still have been on the high side.
A side of heritage tomato and feta (£5) was an oily treat, but the dessert was the true winner. Truffles packed with a rich cherry explosion were simply exquisite. These were a Valentine’s gift all the way, packaged to gold perfection, with a lovely snap to the casing as your teeth penetrated to the soft, moist interior.
Impressive food then plus superb service from Charlie, and one of the weirdest of names for a venue: Albatross & Arnold. The Arnold part refers to celebrated golfer Arnold Palmer, the albatross I don’t have a clue about, a member of staff said it was because the bird has the biggest wingspan on the planet. Ok. Er. Right (Ed - it's a golfing term for a pretty impressive score of three-under-par on a single hole.)
Maybe an albatross is included because it’s a ‘birdie’ and that’s another expression from the arcane language of golf. There is a lot of golf in Albatross & Arnold including a ceiling composed of golf balls and a members' club with an internal putting area and several top-of-the-range (ho ho) simulators.
Now I’m with the much disputed person, apparently misattributed to Mark Twain, who said: ‘Golf is a good walk spoiled’. Or even Winston Churchill, who in bemusement remarked: ‘Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into a very small hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose.’ Quite.
Still, whatever floats your boat.
Indeed, as far as Albatross & Arnold as a restaurant and bar is concerned I have a couple of gripes. The principal one is that the main dining room feels so very corporate and cold. It needs more colour and vibrancy. There are plans to add some more imagery, but it might take more than that to make it attractive for a larger audience.
The other problem is the place suffers from being on the first floor behind a grim black entrance surmounted by the name 'The Range,' with very little announcement of Albatross & Arnold. This makes it as difficult to find as one of those ‘very small balls’ after a 150 yard drive hits the rough, bounces off a tree and the ball lands in a surprised squirrel’s little paws who scampers up another tree thinking, ‘this is a strange nut’.
Fortunately the food, drinks and service makes the expedition to the place a good walk enhanced, not spoiled.
Albatross & Arnold, Leftbank, Spinningfields, Manchester M3 3AN. 0161 325 4444
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.
broccoli 9, scallops 7, quail egg 7, salad 7, truffles 9
Very attentive, intelligent and witty
Needs some interior design oomph