PARLOUR lives up to its name.
It's a good place to talk, chat, shoot the breeze, chew the fat, mull the mango. The word 'parlour', you see, comes from the French verb 'parler' (to speak) and came into English as a handy word for the room in which you receive guests and talk to them - or shout at them if they're PPI botherers or Jehovah's Witnesses.
This was a dish for which that most dull of epithets, 'wholesome', can be applied as a real compliment.
Certainly Parlour in Chorlton is a happy space, good for a chat. It feels comfortable, easy, just right, like a pair of old shoes you wear to nip to the shops for a Sunday paper when you realise the iPad is broken. Speaking of Sundays, Parlour won the Observer's 'Best Sunday Roast' award for the UK in 2012, and was runner up in ‘11, ’13 and ‘14.
The woodwork might be the key to comfort here, the interior is defined by a series of wood rimmed horseshoe entrances between rooms that put you in mind of Bilbo Baggins' house in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films.
Parlour is good solo as well. It's a dandy place for a pint and a paper and no-one else. Or even a novel and a glass of wine as one woman was enjoying on an afternoon visit. The novel was Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, the only author named after a disastrous culinary experiment.
The food here has married the word simplicity and will never be unfaithful. A Lancashire rarebit with red onion marmalade on (of course, of course) granary bread cost £4.75 and was big enough for two. Lancashire cheese is the only cheese you should ever use for rarebit and it shone here. Excellent.
The beef stew (£8.95) came with rich gravy, a fine quantity of beef and some tasty but diminutive dumplings the size of squash balls when I like my dumplings somewhere on the way to tennis balls. But to mutter and whinge too much would be wrong because I enjoyed the fecund verve of this humble winter warmer. This was a dish for which that most dull of epithets, 'wholesome' can be applied as a real compliment.
The ultimate expression of simplicity was the ham, eggs and chips for £7.95. Eggs, runny and good, honey roast ham good, chips...er let’s search for some adjectival variety...were, well, good. The vegetable hot pot - at £10.50 more expensive than the meaty stew – was not so good. It had lentils, celeriac, a sweet potato top, red cabbage and it was ok. But ok is where it stopped, which is exactly where most of these veggie collations grind to a halt.
We're doing a Best of Vegetarian Restaurants feature at present so I also went into Eighth Day on Oxford Road, the vegetarian supermarket and cafe, and had a beetroot dish with chickpea, hairshirt and joylessness. The staff member had thrown the food onto a plate, spattering the 'gravy' all over the show. The dining room felt like a seventeenth century puritan convention plotting to ban folk festivals because they encouraged cheerfulness.
I'm getting away from the Parlour review here but honestly I don't know why so much vegetarian food has to be this way. Don’t people complain in Eighth Day? Utilitarian qualities are fine in plumbing and the provision of street lighting but in food - one of the great sensory pleasures?
A lemon and lime tart (£4.95) lightened the mood in Parlour, a good combination of strength and zestiness, unclogged by excessive sweetness. A large glass of Zarabanda Rioja at £6 lightened the mood further.
Parlour is a fine neighbourhood bar with a few areas of the building that could do with retouching. During most evenings it buzzes with civilised chat. It has five draught ales, one draught cider, a decent wine list, spirits and on my two recent visits, charming staff. If you’re in the area dropping in on Bilbo Baggin’s house allows you to take a few deep breaths. Just remember the food is good value but a part of the whole, not the standout performer.
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commerical relationship.
Food: 6.5/10 (rarebit 7, beef stew 7, veg hot pot 5.5, ham, egg and chips 6, lemon and lime tart 6.5)