I DREAM of Scotch eggs. I always have I suppose. Ask my doctor. 

It's a childhood thing.

Occasionally an old subterrranean venue with plenty of stories to tell does this; shuts out the day, cocoons you in a fug of red wine and food that compels you to stay

My mother made Scotch eggs adding herbs of her choice into the meat mix with great success. Crucially she never failed to ensure the egg was runny.

An optimist - a terrible failing in a writer - I have over the years sampled many a commercially produced Scotch egg, usually on train journeys across Britain. I've visited life-sapping stations the length and breadth of the nation and with hope triumphing over experience purchased golden packages of regret by the score.

Inside it's always the same, the food resembles hard-boiled crows' eggs wrapped in sausage meat made from sows' eyeballs, clippings from trotters and mud from the piggery floor.

But I can't help it. I dream of Scotch eggs. Ask my doctor 

Sam's on the outside

Sam's on the outside

Now the time of the Scotch egg is upon us. 

Everybody in the wide world who does a British style menu has a Scotch egg sitting there - I had a marvellous one at The Dockyard recently. They've become as pervasive as belly pork a decade ago and beetroot three years ago. 

But there can be few anywhere near as good as the one I had in Sam's Chop House on Wednesday. It was perfect, a subtly spicy meat case surrounding a soft egg that almost audibly said "hello" in a cheery voice as I cut into it (see top image).

It was made better still by the leap of imagination that matched the egg with smoked haddock. This give the dish added character, as did a delightfully musky curry mayonnaise to muck about with.

At £6.50, Sam's smoked haddock Scotch egg is worth sampling even if you eat nothing else and ask for tap water.

Before the The smoked haddock Scotch egg before the "hello"

The starter's big, ballsy, strength was maintained with the cabbage and bacon main (£14). This should win awards for the simple virtues its name implies. What you get is gammon that almost audibly says "welcome" in a cheery voice as it breaks with good odour and robust flavour.

The cabbage was a perfect foundation, the peas were a joy (when are they not?) but the whole was shunted up a point on the scoring system by a chicken stock, or 'cream', as Sam's calls it. This was so rich, creamy and well-seasoned I asked for a spoon and slurped the left-overs like a soup.

Cabbage and bacon mainCabbage and bacon main

The parsnip cake pudding (£6) was a curiousity but a welcome one and beautifully executed. It was a sponge with parsnip jam, custard and all the requisite floaty appeal of a good sponge.

The parsnip was very parsnippy, very 'present' and I wasn't massively sure until the second mouthful whether its sweet vegetable nature was a good sponge fit. Then all was forgiven. 

The inner puritan in me feels ashamed that on a working Wednesday afternoon a particularly lush Barbera D'Alba was enjoyed at £32.80. Still, food writers have to enjoy their small rewards.

Parsnip spongeParsnip cake pudding

This meal was a cut above the last Sam's meal I'd had many months ago.

It turns out there's a relatively new fella in the kitchen called Tony Atkins. Tony is doing well it would appear, there was nothing much wrong with our meal. At the same time our main waiter was conscientious and pleasant and didn't pester us as to our well-being every fourth minute. 

I was particularly pleased the old misery-guts Laurence Stephen Lowry kept to himself despite his overwhelming presence at Sam's Chop House; hogs the bar that one, thinks he's some sort of artist.

Hey, Mr Lowry, you're always at that bar, what type of artist are you? A piss-artist?

Hey, Mr Lowry, you're always at that bar, what type of artist are you? A piss-artist?

Sam's atmosphere, the heavy wood, the tilework, the heritage of the place, worked its magic. The old subterrranean venue with all its stories shuts out the day if you're not careful. It cocoons you in a fug of red wine and food that compels you to stay when you know out there in the cruel cold world there's proper work to be done, responsibilities to be fulfilled.

Before you can say 'locally sourced and hand-reared', it's 5.10pm and you came in at 1pm. 


You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter @JonathSchofield or connect via Google+ 

Sam's Chop House, Back Pool Fold (off Cross Street), City centre, M2 1HN. 0161 834 3210 

Rating: 16/20
Food: 8.5/10 (Scotch egg 9, cabbage and bacon 8, parsnip cake 8)
Service: 3.5/5
Ambience: 4/5

PLEASE NOTE: Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing, 14-15 worth a trip, 16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away.