The Fat One is pleasantly surprised by a café that is not a pork chop
Art Galley cafés are a bit like pork chops.
You know the pork chop Gordo’s talking about? That big fat juicy one, with a cover of creamy white fat and a rind that promises crispy, salty crackling. Fried or grilled, it’s going to be wonderfully juicy, yet crispy and crunchy. It whispers about needing sage butter and a smattering of fennel seeds; a siren call from the chilled cabinet in that lovely independent butchers shop.
Don’t get me started on that fucking quiche...
Yet it lets you down every time, like a whore in the window of an Amsterdam brothel after eight Amstels and a fat one. Unforgiving. Pork chops are always a let-down - until you learn that trick by Matthew Fort*.
But what’s the Fat One going on about? Well, he likes art galleries, and art. He’s been to a lot. The problem is usually art gallery cafés.
They look the part, with cutesy cakes cooing at the punters. But as you take a slice off the tray, having spilt the tea all over the place from a tea pot that doesn’t ever work (FFS) you sink your fork in and it’s always a day too old. Salads are limp, having been dressed by a thug who never ever bothers to pick through the leaves, and don’t get me started on that fucking quiche.
(Gordo is using naughty words again. That’s because he has a fan that sent a critique about Gordo’s review to the Editor: 'The food is very good. Shame about your narcissistic, foul mouthed reviewer.' Anyway, whoever you are, fucky fuck fuck fucky off.)
Let’s get back on track.
The Louvre is a shocker; and as for the Royal Academy in Piccadilly, London - where Gordo is actually a member - they have the most beautiful caff of them all. You have to be a member to get in and it’s full of toff Telegraph readers and a sprinkling of aristocracy decomposing in the corner. It’s the only place they can afford a cuppa and a sandwich ‘in town’. Years of being fed brown stuff by nanny and then school, makes them think it’s paradise. It’s not. The food is horrible.
To be fair, Gordo seems to remember the National Portrait Gallery wasn’t bad, but he was with the Harden Guide boys on the day and fell out of the front door onto Trafalgar Square, battered.
Recently, the fat one, having thrown a few bob into the pot to establish a fund to help the Manchester Art Galleries start a contemporary collection, showed up at the Whitworth Gallery on Oxford Road, which actually has a stunning restaurant round the back. He was looking forward to the lunch the Art Gallery bosses were throwing to say thanks. The food isn’t too bad.
The lady on the front desk, wearing several crocheted tea cosies cleverly stitched together to make a coat, looked at Gordo as if he was a mentalist when he announced that he was here for ‘the lunch’.
“No lunch here” she said, eyeing this strange and dangerous looking person-with-a-penis up and down. “Are you in the right place”? It was then that Gordo realised it must be at the Manchester Art Gallery caff.
Arriving a full half hour late, with a plan to throw a sandwich down his neck and get off as fast as possible, Gordo sat down to a charming plate of cured salmon, dressed beautifully. It was only when the pudding arrived - a tiptop lemon tart - it dawned fully on Gordo that he had just had a lunch that was better than any other art gallery he’s been to across Europe.
As this was a comp meal, Gordo decided to go back on his own. Would it stand up to a full-on test?
You know those truly awful quiches they serve in these gaffs? The ones with slimy, soggy pastry and a filling whose main ingredient was snot supplied by the sixteen year old trainee from catering college getting ‘experience?’ Well the mushroom, onion and cheddar tart (£6) wasn’t one of those.
This was glorious, with a crunchy base, creamy filling, and onions on the crisp side. It was something delivered by a pastry chef who can deliver. This was made in the back, not delivered in the back of a catering truck.
Confit duck leg with roasting juices, pink fir apple potatoes and kale (too cheap at £9.95) was excellent. Another splash of the juices please, and slightly less salt, but it made it well worth the re-visit.
Finally, the pistachio sponge cake (£4). Sorry guys; ordinary and it had been there eighteen hours too long. Next time Gordo is going to stick to pastries and puds like the lemon tart.
Service looks to be confused at first glance, but it isn’t. It’s pleasant, efficient and the team break out into smiles. The back room is the best, next to the really good shop.
Also, great tea served in a proper pot. Yay!
So, if you’re looking for extremely good, great value lunch, forget Madrid, Paris and Vienna. Get to Manchester Art Gallery Café, because this place isn’t a pork chop.
*TIP FOR PORK CHOPS BY MATTHEW FORT
Make a brine, 3 litres water, 150ml salt, 75 ml sugar, 1 tsp peppercorns, 1 tsp juniper berries, ½ tsp allspice berries, 4 bay leaves, 6 pork chops.
Bring all ingredients to boil (not chops!) boil for five minutes, skim, cool, pour into non-reactive dish throw the chops in, then cook them in your usual way. Transformational!
From Matthew Fort's Cooking by Numbers.
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.
Mushroom, onion and cheddar tart 8, confit duck leg 8, pistachio sponge 6.5
Green and pleasant
Efficient and smiley