After writing up my Best Bites of 2018 just before Christmas, it got me pondering what my year in dishes might look like come December 2019. Not that I’m wishing time away or anything – I just always really look forward to finding out what edible potential the next 360-odd days has in store for me.
Well, my friends, I sincerely hope that the year has started as it means to go on because January is off to a flying start already and we’re only just over a week in!
What, might you ask, has already secured a spot in 2019’s highlight reel and I would answer: three words – Smoked Shallot Aioli. A sweet, silky dipping sauce that was as rich in colour as it was in flavour. A condiment to kick all other condiments to the curb.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though – let me first tell you a bit about 33 Oldham Street, the latest addition to Manchester’s hip ‘n’ happ’n’ Northern Quarter…
33 Oldham Street is multi-functional kind of venue. It promises music, food, coffee, cocktails and a dynamic calendar of events. Honeycomb tiled walls and musical homages along the walls make it clear that we’re in Manchester, while a patchwork of upholstered furniture and rustic wooden tables make each of the three floors as cosy as can be.
Sat there, at 6.30pm on a Friday night, I’m not entirely sure what to do with myself though. Do I order a cuppa and sink into my leather seat? Or do I get the rounds in and prepare to throw some shapes to the jazz DJ which is setting up as we order our food?
After eating restaurant-standard food (which I’ll come to in a minute), in a tiny two-seater booth, next to a busy bar with loud music playing in the background, I’m not 100% convinced that all of 33 Oldham Street’s hats are working in harmony. However, I am really looking forward to seeing how its identity consolidates over the coming months – especially in summer when ‘the Northern Quarter’s biggest rooftop terrace‘ gets its time to shine.
Right, so back to that Smoked Shallot Aioli… It came served, quiet uneventfully, under a toppled Jenga-style pile of Halloumi Fries (£5) from the Sides list. Ordering these was a sheer act of gluttony but a decision I’m glad our growling stomachs led us to make.
The ‘fries’ were chunky, crisp and refreshingly grease-free for deep-fried squeaky cheese. They were delicious, sure, but I probably would have dipped almost anything into that sweet-but-savoury onion-laced aioli. Don’t leave 33 Oldham Street without scoffing one of the dishes with it on, I implore you!
The 33 Oldham Street food menu is split into Big Plates and Small Plates. Now, you all know how much I love my small plates but on this particular first-Friday-in-January, I was still feeling the remanence of the festive period and absolutely ravenous as a result.
I mean, I was 40% cheese, 30% chocolate and 30% Baileys at this point so I just didn’t think small plates were going to cut it. Having said that, even the Big Plates we ordered weren’t particularly large in portion size so I would recommend adding on a side to share like we did.
We went for the Pan Fried Hake with Sauteed Potatoes (£13) (swapping the peas for tenderstem broccoli which they were more than happy to do) and the Herb-crusted Lamb Cutlets with Smoked Mashed Potatoes, Charred Hispi Cabbage & Jus (£12.50). Both plates were pretty much perfect and surprisingly high in quality in comparison to the bar food I had so unjustly anticipated.
The hake came with a crispy skin but was tender, fleshy and perfectly seasoned. The bed of smashed potatoes beneath the fish fillet were to die for and whet my appetite for a return visit to trial the 33 Oldham Street Sunday roast. The smoked mash that came with the lamb cutlets was creamy, packed with flavour and the perfect accompaniment to the aromatic, melt-in-the-mouth, medium-rare meat. These guys certainly know how to treat a spud.
We didn’t go for dessert – although I did notice a few tempting options (for vegans too) – we decided to indulge in a couple of Friday night cocktails instead…
From the eclectic list of beers, wines, spirits and cocktails, we went for a Jaffa Martini (£9) and a Vinyl Revival (£8.50) from the 33 Oldham Street drinks menu. The first was a chocolate-orange take on the classic Espresso Martini, while the second was the almost-identical twin of the Chocolate flavoured Baileys I swore I was going to surrender until December 2019. Both potent and expertly shaken, even if a tad pricey for a couple of shorts.
We did also stick around for a couple of G&Ts and asked the waitress to surprise us with her recommendation. She returned with a grapefruit gin and tonic which was an absolute multi-sensory sensation and one I’m definitely now going to have to had to my own personal Gindex!
I was very kindly invited to review 33 Oldham Street but all words, photographs, opinions, teeth, hair, boobs and nails are my very own.