Jonathan Schofield becomes obsessed by too much of a dull thing

IN MY head I was chanting the word ‘cress’ to the tune of Monty Python’s Spam song. There was clearly a cress mine under The Anthologist and the kitchen had hit a rich seam. Cress came with all the main courses and with a subsequent breakfast. Cress without dressing or oil. Dry cress.

The waitress said the cress was there as a decoration, a green bouquet to make the plate brighter. I would have preferred a picture of cress instead, or even better a small plastic Lego figure standing on one side of my plate holding a bunch of small plastic Lego cress.  At one point I dropped some cress on the table, so I could make a joke to my dining companion: “I’m totally cress-fallen.” I think people are still laughing their heads off 24 hours later. 

It’s the restaurant equivalent of a mid-range Audi

Water cress is clearly the new rocket. I can’t stand either and as an infestation for pure fancy on my plate, I wish both were banned.

Cress aside The Anthologist has a splendid location on St Peter’s Square with, immediately on opening, one of the very best and liveliest terraces in the city. There’s so much action going on in the square, trams pootling by, people rushing or strolling, and the lovely trio of the Midland Hotel, Central Library and the Town Hall Extension to gaze at. By the end of the year a statue of Emmeline Pankhurst will have joined the party.

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The Anthologist has just opened on St Peter's Square

This is a brother-venue of The Refinery in Spinningfields, by bar and restaurant group Drake & Morgan. It has a similar slick, sharp design that wouldn’t look out of place anywhere in the world. Let’s call it global generic aspirant with good furniture and generous space. It’s the restaurant equivalent of a mid-range Audi.

The service is excellent, efficient, smiling and comes completely free of cress. The food is ok, and like the interior, wouldn’t look out of place anywhere in the world. 

A starter of smoked trout (£6.50) was probably the pick of the food. The trout was gorgeous, deliciously oily, in a nest of salad that complemented the fish. A main of sea bass (£13.95) with wilted greens and beurre blanc was fine, a nice skin crust on the fish helped, but as a dish it definitely needed the side order of Parmesan and truffle fries (£4.50) to bolster it.

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Smoked trout (£6.50) in a nest of salad... and cress
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A main of sea bass (£13.95) with wilted greens, beurre blanc and cress

The poussin with gremolata for £12.99 needs a total rethink. It’s very ugly. My dining companion said it looked like the chicken had crossed the road to meet its friend the frog and they’d both been tragically run over, merging in death into an unspeakable green and brown thing. Worse, while the flesh of the poussin was decent enough the herby gremolata condiment was so rugged and earth flavoured it didn’t look like a lemon had been anywhere near it when it should have. 

Instead of being the friend of the chicken the squashed frog insulted it. I say coat the fowl with something else, maybe something colourful and hot like piri-piri. To be fair, once I’d complained that the dish was unpalatable, one of the managers took it off the bill.

The crème brulee (£5.95) did ok and had a good consistency. A bottle of Albarino (£29.95) was right for the day and the meal.

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The poussin with gremolata (£12.99) is ugly and comes with cress
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Breakfast fritters (£7.95) with a poached egg, labneh and cress

The following morning I went for breakfast…and cress. The fritters (£7.95) with a poached egg, labneh (a yoghurt cheese) and mint were entertaining enough, once the cress had been combed off.

 Generally the Anthologist is a very good breakfast option, despite that need to adorn when none is necessary. A coffee came with a gooey chocolate brownie thingy that gooed all over my fingers, then on to the cup and finally like glue you can’t get off your hand, was only removed via a couple of napkins and some of the water on the table.

Despite my caveats the place seems to have hit the ground running. On a Friday lunchtime it was completely booked up. Thursday had been busy too. 

Mind you, there are millions of accountants located nearby providing a ready audience; for instance, above in the KPMG offices and next door at EY. It’s a very accountanty sort of place. 

Maybe the accountants can tell the Anthologist that, pleasant though it is to sit in the restaurant and bar and on the terrace, some things such as the gremolata and the cress simply don’t add up. Whereas small plastic Lego men carrying small plastic bunches of cress, clearly do. 

The Anthologist, 1 St Peter’s Square, M2 3DE. Tel: 0161 509 5085.

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The interior wouldn’t look out of place anywhere in the world

The scores:

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.

  • Food 6/10

    Cress 10, Trout 7, Seabass 6, Poussin 4, Crème Brulee 6, Fritters 6

  • Service 3.5/5

    Trained well

  • Ambience 3/5

    Buzzing along nicely