I remember the Mark Addy when it opened in 1981. It was a manky city centre pub at best. Renovated in 2009, it looks like the cellar of Victorian riverside warehouse. For me, it’s a place for which the word “gastropub” was invented. That’s the right mix between “gastro” and “pub”. When you enter, you hit the bar area serving a good range of beer. There’s also a range of bar snacks that set the style of the place - Spam fritters or a Blacksticks Blue bhaji, for instance. And then there’s the more restauranty end – with an open kitchen so there’s chefs to watch should conversation flag.
There’s a changing menu which reflects the seasons and local produce. It’s supplemented by the odd special or two. And my starter was one of the specials – mushrooms on toast. Now, these weren’t just any old mushrooms. These were foraged wild mushrooms, lightly fried and retaining some bite. They sat on the toast which, unfortunately, had collapsed into a soggy morass due to the generous portion of sauce which had been ladled around it. Tasted fab though.
The other starter also had issues on the soggy front. A baked Morecambe Bay shrimp soup topped with puff pastry. Again, a fab flavour but the pastry kept falling into the liquid which drowned it. Possibly a deliberate reference to history – the real Mark Addy saved over 50 people from drowning in the Irwell during the 19th century.
For mains, two mackerel fillets had been lightly smoked, providing an interesting little backnote of flavour. There should have been another backnote of Leagrams blue cheese. Presumably it was in the sauce but, although this was savoury and enjoyable, there was no real sign of cheese maestro Bob Kitching’s work. There was a little chard, some new potatoes and a scattering of chestnuts which seemed an odd combination with the fish.
Mutton was absolutely bloody delicious! Long cooked melt in the mouth mutton. Packed with flavour. Rich sauce. A spoonful of a celeriac cream. And Nodding Pudding. No, me neither. It’s a mashed potato and flour mix – a sort of bubble and squeak without the squeak. Just the thing for mopping up the sauce. I really liked this plate of food. I liked it a lot.
Service was that sort of relaxed, friendly, efficient style that was well suited to a pub. Also well suited was the excellent range of well priced wines by the glass.
I think we might just become regulars. Well, there’s the brawn and piccalilli toast to try. And the oxtail/tongue combo main course. Oh, and the dandelion & burdock roast duck with Lyth Valley damsons. And it’s probably the only place outside of an Oldham chippy that you’re going to see rag pudding.