Lucy Tomlinson enjoys a low-key, music-themed cafe on Bury New Road
Manchester, or even better the two combined. I was speaking to an artist/animator/blogger who lives in Prestwich and she said it was ‘the Didsbury of the north’ which I’m not sure is an accurate, or even desirable, comparison. It brings to mind the phrase ‘the Venice of the north’ and once you’ve got Venice in the equation almost everywhere else (even suburbs of Manchester I’m afraid) is not going to shine quite as brightly. It’s equally as wet maybe, but that is the only league we can compete in. Still once I’d heard that I had to go and take a look.
What is true is that a little trove of groovy cafes and lifestyle concept stores has sprung up in Bury’s most desirable neighbourhood. Before our visit, I assumed the Dotted Note was one of these, with the website’s explanation of the musical inspiration behind the name reminding me of chaps in beanies who insist on showing you their vintage vinyl collections as a romantic preamble.
In fact, instead of being the hipster joint I’d expected, The Dotted Note is more 50s coffee house in vibe, with a Changing Rooms approach to the musically-themed décor. We visited for Sunday brunch and the whole scene was very cosy. It was raining outside and the large windows – which face onto St Mary’s Park and the rather less lovely Bury New Road – started to steam up. Old records serve as placemats, there is victorola-design wallpaper, a guitar on the wall and no trace of insufferable beanies.
I have to admit that it is a little odd to eat being watched over by gouache of Kurt Cobain though. The painting hangs above an arrangement of candles, plants and an oboe (‘at least I think it’s an oboe’ muses my dining partner, ‘it could be a bong’) and I’m hard pressed to say whether it’s a shrine or an interiors feature. I suppose it could be both.
As for the food, the steak frites (£14.95) is another oddity that is hard to place. Steak is of course an American brunch staple, while steak frites is a quintessentially French dish, so I’m not sure which to expect. We ask for it rare (it is advertised as a sirloin steak) and hope for the best. The dish that arrives is a strange hybrid – chunky chips and not slender frites, a spiky, peppery sauce that is rather delicious, and a minute steak that has been cooked medium. It’s not that I’m saying this dish is incorrect (well maybe I am, but it’s not bad incorrect), it’s just that the steak belongs in an all-American diner, the sauce in a French relaise restaurant and the chips in a British pub with ideas above its station.
Old records serve as placemats, there is victorola-design wallpaper, a guitar on the wall and no trace of insufferable beanies
The halloumi, portobello mushrooms and red onions on ciabatta (£5.95) however, is more successful. A simple dish, well executed and very satisfying, the meaty mushrooms are properly umami. To round off the brunch experience, we share a plate of really excellent waffles (£4.50) with maple syrup, crème fraiche and a sharp fruit compote.
As we eat, enormous platefuls of impressive-looking scrambled eggs sail past, followed by a croque monsieur the size of a brick. The latter is on its way to the table next to me, inhabited not by the beardy hipsters I’d expected, but a pair of ladies of a certain age, let’s call them Gladys and Barbara, who are knowledgably dissecting Manchester’s restaurant scene with some vigour. And they don’t stop there – Gladys has some choice things to say about l’Enclume and Barbara has just got back from visiting a double Michelin-starred restaurant in Portugal. I am so tempted to ask these kindred spirits to write this review for me but decide it would be unprofessional. Ladies, if you are reading, start your own restaurant blog, it would be a total smash.
While contemplating if I can use the phrase ‘goals’ and live with myself (I can’t, but if I could, Glad n’ Babs would come under that heading) I finish up with a hunk of the cake of the day: Nutella. It’s a gaudy thing, towering layers of hazlenutty-choccy fakeness touched with gold dust and chocolate baubles. It is spiritually opposite to handmade, gluten-free, spelt cakes that revel in their wonky edges and homemade looks, being defiantly symmetrical and unnaturally glossy. Definitely the Nancy Dell’Olio of cake.
So I rather liked The Dotted Note. I’m certainly glad it wasn’t what I was expecting. With the bizarre exception of the steak frites, the food was well made, good value and plentiful; the owners helpful and the interior charming and, hey, if it’s good enough for gladysandbarbara.com, it’s good enough me.
The Dotted Note, 255 Bury New Rd, Prestwich, Manchester M25 9PB. Tel: 0161 773 4708
Food (out of 10)
(steak frites 4, halloumi and mushrooms 7, waffles 8, Nutella cake 6)
Deservedly popular with the locals
Friendly but a bit rushed