Bakerie – Bread & Wine Bar – Manchester – Review by Sarah
Manchester’s Northern Quarter sprang up as the playground for the hopelessly geeky, techy and creative types ill at ease with the superclubs and Tiger Tigers, the Canal Street carnage of a Saturday night and the trousers-and-shoes-mate footballer hangouts of the late nineties and early noughties. Now it still has its individualities, but all being aped by the more business minded looking to profit from a successful indie model. Everyone and their plaid shirted, skinny jeaned, mid-30s mate wants to head there.
The irony of mid-30s me ending up there last night was not lost on me, yet I was going wary of being part of this and even more wary of Bakerie, with its flashy website and annoying branding schtick (We’re a restaurant! We’re a bar! But WE bake bread! Ourselves! Aren’t we amazing? Er, no). I’d been several years ago for drinks so I did at least go equipped with the knowledge that the bar itself is a pleasant space and the general vibe was conducive to conversation and relaxation. I’m properly stoked to report that the food, as bar food goes, was proper good.
Bakerie has one large room, cleverly divided with a central pillar and the use of high tables around the bar and typical wooden seating for diners. The restaurant has a small open kitchen space so all the food preparation can be watched, and what was great was to see the kitchen running effectively and remarkably quietly, and at no point did I see a hot dish sitting on the pass for several minutes, waiting for its brethren to hit their own plates. Before we even started with drinks, we had a serious spell of food envy, watching the man behind us come face to beast with his jerk chicken. I could see it was cooked with some expertise, blackened with the jerk rub on the skin, but fleshy and tender inside (it’s rude to stare, but in this case, it would have felt rude not to).
The wine list proved a good distraction, featuring several unusual candidates which I had a chance to try. How many bar-restaurants offer ten whites by the glass and have a Turkish amongst their number? The waitress kindly let me try three from the list (a Chardonnay, the Fiano and the Angora), all of which were fresh, properly chilled and reasonably interesting for wine-by-the-glass.
The food menu also contained some lesser-spotted meal choices. Basing a menu on bread doesn’t exactly rule out very much and to some extent the menu was a little scattergun, not really having any kind of coherence beyond all being filling plates of food. Five types of bread are listed at the beginning of the evening menu, and it was disappointing not to see anything more exotic than focaccia. Soup, dippers and even a fondue were on the list of starters; having seen the jerk chicken, it was apparent starters were going to be completely unnecessary. One of our group went for a deli board option, where you can pick three meats, three fish or three vegetarian options, which will be accompanied by (guess what?) a bread basket and two dips. She chose lamb koftas, Serrano ham and chorizo. As you can see, despite the darkness of the photograph, there was bread. A lot of bread, and definitely not much salad (it wasn’t advertised, so fair’s fair, but then why bother with one leaf of lettuce?) The three meat components were all good, the chorizo being appreciably pungent with paprika to be salivated over at twenty yards.
Dangerously, two of our crew went for seafood gumbo (£9.45) – dangerous, because when the dishes arrived, the bucket-sized portions were liable to create some competitive eating (use the hands of a fully-grown man on the photograph for reference). The gumbo was superb and imposing, full of hearty hunks of fish; there’s nothing to slacken the spirits like a runny gumbo where the fish seems to be back swimming round the bowl, and this gumbo was properly thick and hearty.
And me? From the five salads I went for Lamb Kofta (£9.45) with pitta and tzatiki. It’s a simple dish and as such easily enjoyable. The pitta was not great. Texturally, there was some success with that lovely balance of one thinner, crispier side and one thicker, breadier companion; this mostly becomes meaningless when the bread is just tasteless. For a venue based on baking, this felt like a substantial inadequacy. The koftas themselves were brilliant; forming a lamb patty that is smooth and meaty, not fatty and mincey, and then cooking it so it stays just so slightly pink inside – that’s a skill, and one repeated three times on my plate. I continue to wish restaurants plating dishes that typically include raw onions would reflect on how unappealing these might be to folks going out for the evening. A gentle slow roasting earlier in the day would easily provide cold and socially acceptable onion slices later on.
Overall, this was an enjoyable meal that certainly left no one hungry. Dessert options were quickly eschewed too – there was a list of three on a blackboard which suggested most diners like us are very unlikely to need more than the main event. Bakerie fed and treated us well at £10 a head, without providing any kind of wow factor or novel creations. We left full, content and ever-so-slightly trendier than we arrived, and sometimes, that’s enough.
Food = 7 (but, given its billing, 5 for the bread)
Service = 7
Atmosphere = 8
Overall = 7
Restaurant Website: http://bakerie.co.uk/bakerie