Artisan Cafe Bar, Spinningfields, reviewed
The success of the upstairs restaurant and bar has spawned a sister venue.
By Paul Ogden
Manchester Evening News
The city's food giants Living Ventures have done more than most to turn Spinningfields into the most lively part of the city.
Now the company - which also runs Australasia, The Alchemist, The Oast House and Manchester House in Spinningfields and The Botanist and The Grill On The Alley elsewhere in town - have branched out even further with the opening of the Artisan's downstairs cafe bar, directly opposite celeb-haunt Neighbourhood on Avenue North.
Billed as a ‘sophisticated big sister' to the upstairs restaurant, the cafe serves the same menu as its younger sibling until 5pm, after which the kitchen closes and the drinks take centre stage.
The designers have done a cracking job in making what's essentially a concrete office block feel warm and cosy.
Sleek, dark interiors, an eclectic mix of furnishings, vintage glass lanterns, the odd bit of exposed brick and comfy old leather chairs give it a grown-up kind of cool, which puts you in the mind of sipping cocktails until the early hours in a darkened corner.
'The best dish was the St Louis cut salt and pepper pork ribs with kimchee (£15.95) I had for my main'
But, unfortunately, my wife and I went with our two toddlers early one Saturday lunchtime, with one eye on avoiding the crowds, so the Long Island iced teas were off limits.
We were the first in the place, but the friendly waitresses welcomed us in, asked if we needed highchairs and quickly had us sat down.
Artisan makes a big deal of its wood-fired oven and as such pizzas feature heavily on the menu.
We ordered a margherita and chips (£4.95) for the kids to share and it was great.
The pizza was properly thin and crispy and both wolfed it down in about five minutes before asking for more.
For starters I ordered the wood roasted sardines (£5.95), which literally came served on a lump of smoking wood.
I would have forgiven the daft presentation if the two fillets weren't bland and slightly meagre, but unfortunately they were.
Thankfully, it was the only low-point in an otherwise fantastic meal.
My wife had better luck with her choice of Mrs Kirkham's Lancashire cheese, smoked salmon and ham hock terrine from the deli counter (£9.50), which was generous and came with a lovely, sharp chutney.
But the best dish was the St Louis cut salt and pepper pork ribs with kimchee (£15.95) I had for my main.
A thick slab of slightly pink meat, with a satisfying layer of fat on top, it had me wanting to pick it up and tear it apart with my fingers.
On it's own it was mouth-watering, but when combined with the tangy, sharp kimchee it was heavenly and had me cooing appreciatively while leaning across the table to urge my wife to try some.
She responded in kind by offering me a fork-full of her skillet of smoked salmon, poached eggs, green vegetables, hollandaise and crushed potatoes (£11.50) which was creamy, fresh and smoky and almost as nice as the ribs.
Stuffed to the gills we passed on dessert, but the children shared a jam roly poly with custard and an extra scoop of ice cream (£5.50) which soon went the same way as the pizza.
Set in a vast 12, 000 square foot, semi-industrial space on the first floor of The Avenue North in Spinningfields. Cooking goes back to basics in the fire, this is casual dining at its best. Think artist's loft studio meets concrete warehouse: stripped back and raw. Showcasing sculptures, murals, art installations.
Open all day, everyday, serving brunch on weekends as well as lacing the city with music and drink into the night.