The three musketeers have done a fine job, but careful with those cooking times, says Jonathan Schofield
THE Bay Horse is a pub with a history that stretches back deep into the nineteenth century. Its past is littered with breweries that bit the dust such as Bass and Wilsons. For much of its life it was a hard drinkers’ pub for men who worked in the nearby wholesale and retail markets.
Now the nearby Mackie Mayor meat market is packing ‘em in with fish and chips for £15, while the fish market is a cute arts and crafts centre. A last bastion of old fashioned drinking is the Millstone pub down the street from the Bay Horse, but its ‘Knees Up Mother Brown’ atmosphere is a million miles from the norm of the Northern Quarter.
Things change, cities develop. Gentrification is a word often spat out by middle-class people who don’t like being middle-class and love to place a spotlight on their empathy and conscience, so everybody can see how much they care. But gentrification can be exactly what an area needs, driving up standards, albeit while driving up prices.
The origin of gentrification is ‘gentry’, in other words polite and genteel souls. In Britain it sometimes arrives in a curious guise. Take a Saturday night at the junction of High Street and Thomas Street in the Northern Quarter and there’s not a great deal of gentility taking place. Even the cats in the Cat Café look the other way.
The Bay Horse is just down from that crazy junction and is a handsome Georgian building that was an early adopter of the Northern Quarter’s change of mood. The reinvention came courtesy of Yvonne Goldsmith-Rybka and Nicky Rybka-Goldsmith.
Now, after a period of closure, those three musketeers of the Manchester bar scene, Jobe Ferguson, Ross Mackenzie and Lyndon Higginson have taken control. The Bay Horse is going to be more dog, given the trio between them run the Blackdog Ballrooms, as well as Crazy Pedros, Cane & Grain and Liars Club.
They want the Bay Horse to be a traditional pub rather than one of their typical bars. They’ve done a good job in this respect. The interior is dark and womb-like as behoves a true boozer. There’s a basement kitchen and a garden too.
The food has got a lovely robust British accent, although it comes as small plates of mainly £5. Six plates and a pudd sorted us and were generally very good, although the dishes need a little more colour, a little more moistness and occasionally a lighter touch.
The need for a lighter touch was demonstrated by the Scotch egg which lacked a runny yolk. It was grand in all other characteristics, casing and so on, but really a Scotty egg has got to flow. The black pudding and a cider sauce was a fine combination and worth another try - a good one that.
The duck heart and blackberry was the winner in terms of offering the Northern Quarter a new dish (although beware, quack-quack tickers are becoming all the rage). The dish provided a pleasant and stirring combo of sweet and sour with the distinctiveness of offal.
The faggots and sausage worked well, again with an honest-to-goodness no nonsense blast of flavours. Sticking out like a sore thumb was a prawn cocktail, £1 more than the other dishes, and a thing of colour and delicacy.
The wild mushrooms and goats cheese on toast provided a welcome excursion from meat as did the tart tatin and custard which was quite splendid. A big Rioja helped the conversation at an entirely reasonable £19 a bottle.
I’ll be back to the Bay Horse for more of this food. I’ll certainly be back for the full English breakfast at £10, and to try the rotisserie meat (which I'm told is very good - particularly Pugh's suckling pig). I like what the musketeers have done with this pub, but they need to tell the kitchen to be careful of cooking times, British food does not benefit from over-cooking at any time.
But if their aim is to create a proper food pub for the Northern Quarter, they've done a good job.
The Bay Horse, 35-37 Thomas St, Manchester, M4 1NA. Tel: 0161 661 1041
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.
Black pudd 7, mushrooms 6.5, duck heart 7, faggots 6, Scotch egg 6, prawn cocktail 7, tarte tatin 7
Good chat and generally very pleasant
Smiling and good on the explanations