Georgina Pellant obsesses about pie as she visits the new place on everyone's lips

For me, it all began with a pie. A plump, deep-fried rhubarb beauty. I first saw it from afar (okay, on a writer friend’s Instagram story) sparkling with freeze-dried raspberry sugar atop a luscious sea of yellow custard. I’ve thought about eating it on a near-daily basis since, so by the time I finally made it to Medlock Canteen the tension was almost at breaking point. 

I’ve also been talking to people about the pie. Or rather, talking about the idea of it - lusting in anticipation of the thing itself. Friends, colleagues, a neighbour at my local train station one morning: all have been subjected to my enthusiastic promotion of said dish at large. I couldn’t stop. Basically, it turns out that love at first sight is a real thing for me - if you’re a really good-looking pie, that is.  

In my head, part of the obsession was this: it reminded me of everything I always wanted a McDonald’s apple pie to be (and yes, this was part of the conversation I subjected my poor neighbour to). Aged six, I remember having my first. Attracted by a glittering, giant picture in an advert, I was left disappointed when it arrived small, deflated and volcanically hot, and swore off them for years. I’ve since learnt the hack of breaking one up and putting it on a McFlurry, but that’s a conversation for another time.

2024 05 13 Medlock Canteen Interior 3
Inside Medlock Canteen Image: Confidentials
2024 05 13 Medlock Canteen Interior
Inside Medlock Canteen Image: Confidentials

Anyway, in my state of absolute pie lust, I hoped that Medlock Canteen’s rhubarb version (£8) would make up for that early Golden Arches disappointment. It certainly had a hold on me, much more than its Stateside inspiration ever did. All this obsessing, however, meant that by the time I arrived I had built it up to the dizzying heights of pudding stardom - helped along by Jay Rayner, who had at this point described it as a thing of “glory and wonder”. And I’m not even a pudding person. 

I do have a soft spot for rhubarb and custard, though, and this beauty - filled with seasonal Yorkshire rhubarb and apple compote, sizzled in the deep-fryer, then laid on a moat of cold, creamy custard - was everything I wanted it to be at the end of a long week. At last, our moment had come. Comforting nostalgia at its finest, tarted up for your Instagram feed with a sprinkle of pink fruit sugar thrown on for good measure. I foolishly shared it with my date instead of ordering my own portion. Next time, I won’t be so generous.

2024 05 13 Medlock Canteen Rhubarb Pie
Rhubarb pie and custard Image: Confidentials

Of course, there’s more than just pie on the menu at this new concept from the team behind Liverpool favourites Belzan and Madre. Alpine Cheddar and black truffle croquettes (£3 each), for instance. Fat little happiness-inducing things, with potato that’s golden and crisp on the outside, then soft, rich and cheesy once broken apart. Just as you’d want. Riding a heady wave of black truffle mayo, they are gone far too quick. I risk a swipe at the plate with my finger before it’s taken away, and I have no regrets.

We’re here for an early bird dinner service, and at 5pm the crowd is patchy and mixed. It does give me time to enjoy the decor, though, which is all retro glass and sleek wooden panelling, with mid-century tables and squat red counter stools for the customers that border the semi-open kitchen. A quick look through the wine list lands us on a bottle of Moulin A Vent Les Greneriers’ Beaujolais 2020 (£45). It’s not cheap, but the cheapest option is only a tenner less, so we figure in for a penny, in for a pound.

2024 05 13 Medlock Canteen Akpine Croquettes
Alpine Cheddar and black truffle croquettes Image: Confidentials

It soon fills up, mostly with couples on dates ordering the house-butchered steak with jus (200g, £22/500g, £45) and fries. Two girls sitting opposite me order two towering mountains of roast chicken caesar salad (£18), and I can’t help but gawp enthusiastically their way. They, however, don’t seem to appreciate my gusto, and I leave them to enjoy their gigantic salads in peace. 

Inspired, we opt for the still-sizeable starter version (£12), which proves a good size for sharing as well as being lighter on the wallet. It delivers on all fronts: crunchy and fresh, anchovy-salty and just a little bit sloppy, with good roasted chicken from the restaurant’s own rotisserie oven and a hearty beard of grated parmesan on top. I would sit and eat this with a martini and fries quite happily at the bar with nothing else for company, any day of the week.

2024 05 13 Medlock Canteen Caesar Salad
Roast chicken caesar salad Image: Confidentials

For mains we’re tempted by the turkey schnitzel with duck egg (£18), a hearty European favourite that reminds me of my German childhood. Another big tick in the nostalgia box for me. 

Here at Medlock Canteen it comes with capers, salsa verde and half a blackened and charred lemon which, when drizzled liberally over the top, pulls the whole thing together. The saltiness of the turkey, the crisp schnitzel breading, followed by a lovely bit of juicy moistness once you’ve gone in with the lemon, and that rich, silky coating of the egg. I like it a lot. There’s also an option to add truffle (£8), but after the croquettes it doesn’t really feel necessary.

We have to have a moment, too, for the fried duck egg on top. At a place that offers eggs ‘all day’ on its menu, it would be remiss not to. Let me just say, as an egg lover, they know what they’re doing. A little bit of crispiness on the outside, paired with a perfectly runny, sunny-side up yolk. I mean, it’s not a real American diner - they didn’t ask us how we wanted the fried egg cooked - but who cares. If I really wanted to be particular about it, I’m sure they’d oblige.

2024 05 15 Medlock Canteen Schnitzel New
Turkey schnitzel with salsa verde and duck egg Image: Confidentials
2024 05 13 Medlock Canteen French Fries
French fries Image: Confidentials

Ok, let’s talk sides. Of course, it being an all-day diner concept, we had to order some French fries (£6.50). These came out hot, a little bit greasy, grainy with salt, crispy but fluffy in the middle. They were moreish, and the portion was huge. The Wetherspoons chip counters would definitely approve. They might struggle, however, to stomach the price tag. 

They also might not approve of the lack of ketchup or mustard on offer and, whilst I don’t personally mind paying £6.50 for these fries, I would be with them there. Having been asked if we wanted any sauce, we’re told neither are available, and not offered any alternatives. I know that ordering ketchup with your steak is gauche, but with fries? In a diner? Come on, now. Let a girl live. Or at least tell me you have mayo.

However, all is not lost. The fries have also been ordered with a show-stopping side of leeks and peas in parmesan cream £6.50), and its sauce makes an excellent substitute after we’ve put away the contents within. I am a bit baffled, though. Did she not hear us correctly? I look, but I can’t see ketchup on anyone else’s tables, either.

2024 05 13 Medlock Canteen Leeks Parmesan Cream
Leeks and peas in parmesan cream Image: Confidentials

There has been something of a disconnect with our service all evening, it has to be said. It probably isn’t until the end of the evening - post pie nirvana - that we really click with our server. Just in time for the bill to land on the table with a 12.5% service charge. At this point I am riding a rhubarb and custard high so it’s pretty hard to burst my bubble, but after I pay up and leave I can’t help but think: if there hadn’t been a service charge on the bill, I would’ve still tipped - but I would’ve probably tipped a bit less.

It was just the little things. Things like asking for soda water and getting still, or having our cutlery taken but then needing to ask for more after our mains arrived. Wanting to prove it a fluke, I also went back on Sunday for breakfast and was given the wrong menu when I sat down. My bottomless coffee wasn’t refilled without asking, either. But the crab and gruyere omelette was faultless, and someone did come to my table before I left to make sure I left happy - which I did. 

So, putting the lack of ketchup and a bit of fallible service aside, here are my two takeaways. One: order the rhubarb pie. Two: it’s easy to understand why Medlock Canteen has become a near-instant smash hit. This American Diner-meets Parisian bistro concept is offering a menu that feels accessible to all, and it’s doing it with finesse. I know I’ll be back here again.

Medlock Canteen, 5 Owen Street, Deansgate Square, M15 4YB

2024 05 13 Medlock Canteen Interior 5
Medlock Canteen Image: Confidentials

The scores

All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, and ALWAYS paid for by and completely independent of any commercial relationship. They are a first-person account of one visit by one, knowledgeable restaurant reviewer and don't represent the company as a whole.

If you want to see the receipt as proof this magazine paid for the meal then a copy will be available upon request. Or maybe ask the restaurant.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their type. What we mean by this is a restaurant which aspires to be fine dining is measured against other fine dining restaurants, a mid-range restaurant against other mid-range restaurants, a pizzeria against other pizzerias, a teashop against other teashops, a KFC against the contents of your bin. You get the message.

Given the above, this is how we score: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: sigh and shake your head, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: nothing's that good is it?

  • Food 8.5/10

    Croquettes with Alpine cheddar and black truffle 8, Roast chicken Caesar salad with parmesan and croutons 8, Turkey schnitzel with duck egg 7.5, French fries 7, Peas and leeks in parmesan cream 7.5

  • Service 3.5/5

  • Ambience 4/5