What's on the menu and what does the refurbished pub look like?
Fires, pestilence (Ok, covid) and accidental damage, Salford's Black Friar pub has weathered a fair few storms in its century or so of existence.
In January 2020, Greater Manchester was confidently zipping into the new year with a raft of exciting new openings on the cards. Historic Salford boozer Black Friar, built in 1886 and having stood empty for 20 odd years, was one of them. We wrote with enthusiasm about developer Salboy’s proposed £2m investment in the pub with its then kitchen to be headed up by Manchester culinary royalty Aiden Byrne of Manchester House fame.
You could be on your jollies with the clinking glasses and seafood wafts of an upmarket Mediterranean restaurant
A few months later, the pandemic took down the hospitality industry as we knew it and by July, Byrne had reassessed his priorities and pulled out of the Black Friar project saying he wanted to focus on his family and his country pub The Church Green in Lymm.
In the 12 months that followed Byrne's departure, the pandemic continued to cause chaos for pubs and restaurants - as reported on at length by us and many others.
We’re quite frankly, ready for this whole sorry episode to be over.
Now, at long last, many restaurants and bars that had intended to open in 2020 are harvesting the fruits of their labours.
But as this Salford pub was gearing up to share its new look with the world last week, a fatal road traffic accident in which a car hit the Black Friar occurred causing extensive damage to the building.
Following hasty reparations, just a few days later than originally intended on Friday 23 July the pub finally opened its doors and Confidentials was invited down to take a look.
What does the refurbed Black Friar Salford look like inside?
The transformation to the historic pub is quite something.
No longer a crumbling former watering hole on the edge of Salford, the Black Friar is now a destination gastropub - something which Greater Manchester and especially the city of Salford, has remarkably few notable examples of.
The familiar exterior still stands, now scrubbed up and faithfully restored. Its front door opens into a more traditional, spruced up pub area with green tiling, weathered Persian rugs and wood-burning fireplaces in exposed brick surrounds. This will be the place for relaxed drinks and a soon to be unveiled hearty pub food menu.
Step through into the restaurant area at the back, however, and the transformation is rather more unexpected. A glass-walled annexe with a black and white tiled floor was spacious and bright on the sunny day we visited, decked out with copious greenery including trays of growing herbs. Comfortable, modern leatherette chairs and white marble tables give the dining area a modern European chic.
The Black Friar's staff, headed up by GM Remi Khodr in his dashing Aegean blue three-piece suit, are the real stars though. They glide around the room in stylish brown aprons with the kind of eagled-eyed attention that puts many other restaurants to shame. Whatever you may be missing or mildly concerned about is addressed swiftly in a manner that says, nothing you could ask would be too much trouble. The customer is king but the staff are deserving of big tips - on our visit, these were not being taken on a card but cash only. Something for them to sort out ASAP we reckon.
Step outside the restaurant into the accompanying garden area and, weather allowing, you could be on your jollies with the clinking glasses and seafood wafts of an upmarket Mediterranean restaurant. They even pulled up a chair to accommodate our Neil’s faithful companion Captain Smidge.
The new restaurant menu at the Black Friar Salford
Head chef Ben Chaplin, formerly at 20 Stories, has created a menu that asserts minimalist confidence while deftly catering for meaty, veggie and pescatarian palettes. Think juniper cured Creedy carver duck; goats curd flan with deep-fried courgette flowers or watercress veloute for starters, mains feature the likes of Iberico pork fillet with chorizo and English peas; monkfish and langoustine bouillabaisse or beetroot tarte tatin with blue cheese. For dessert there is reimagined tiramisu, melting chocolate pudding and a raspberry creme brulee with pistachio shortbread. Look out for a full, scored review by one of our impartial food writers in the coming weeks.
Another decent gastropub for the Greater Manchester area is very much welcome. The Black Friar looks the business, the food we tried was bloody good, you could go further and fare worse.
The Black Friar Blackfriars Rd, Salford M3 7DH is now open for bookings
Watch our video of The Black Friar's new interior over on Instagram
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