Guardian food critic Jay Rayner has been in Salford checking out the (relatively) newly-reopened Black Friar pub, brought back to life in spectacular fashion following two decades of closure.
A glowing review, published this weekend, showers the pub with praise – with Rayner ultimately concluding that he’d be ‘rather chuffed’ if the Black Friar was his local.
With former 20 Stories chef Ben Chaplin at the helm, when it first threw open its doors this summer the Black Friar initially offered two menus – a ‘pub classics’ menu and a selection of more ‘fancy’ restaurant dishes.
However, rather conveniently, the day of Rayner’s visit also happens to be the day the team decided to merge them into one, leaving him to comment: “don’t therefore expect the food to be confined to essence of British pub.”
“What you now get is a hybrid. There are pies and terrines and fish and chips from the boozer side of the ledger, and altogether grander things involving truffles and champagne from the fat-walleted end.”
He does still take a good-natured swipe at some of the prices, mind.
That ‘fat-walleted’ comment, a reference in part to the residents above “working at the very cutting edge of modern media communications, or whatever it is the denizens of these tidy apartments do”, leads him to describe a few dish prices as either ‘brave’ or ‘enthusiastic’.
Still, for the most part, he’s on-side, stating: “When I get on to those prices some of you may wish to start curling your noses like the Catherine Tate characters Janice and Ray while shouting, “And this! In Salford! The dirty robbing bastards.”
“Get it out of your system now. […] What matters is that the cooking is big and bullish and, for the most part, on point.”
He heaps praise on the pub’s daily rotation of pies, proclaiming: “the pie liberationists will be pleased to know that it is very much a single item, clad from top to toe in crumbly, flaky puff.
“Pie purists will agree that if you can’t throw it across a room with one hand, it’s not a pie. This is a pie.”
Adding ‘obviously sipping gravy should be a thing’, a fact we couldn’t possibly agree with any more enthusiastically, despite his enjoyment he can’t help but point out that a similar creation in London’s The Windmill in Mayfair still comes in at a pound cheaper.
“As Janice and Ray might point out, we really are on the edge of a dual carriageway in Salford,” he quips.
Elsewhere, he waxes lyrical about a charming plate of ‘big fat scallops’ and a boar and pheasant terrine served with warm brioche and chutney, stating: “If you’re going to pay £10 for a terrine, you want it to look like this.”
All in all, it seems the visit is a hit, with Rayner proclaiming, “This is serious cookery: both profoundly beautiful and profoundly eatable.”
He’s got great things to say about the dessert menu, which he notes features all the ‘much-loved usual suspects’, calling a beautifully made bitter orange parfait ‘a gift to marmalade lovers everywhere’.
Read more: The stunning reservoir walk near Manchester with giant ‘plugholes’
His only real critique, in truth, is for a dish of turbot with smoked ell choucroute, champagne velouté and caviar -described as “a brave £32.”
But even this, he concedes, is a ‘very good dish indeed fighting to get out from underneath all this overkill’ – adding that a spoonful of caviar is ‘more symbol of northwestern largesse than vital ingredient’.
The Black Friar is remarkably chuffed to have had the esteemed critic down for a visit, sharing the review to its Facebook page with the caption: “The Blackfriar has made the pages of The Guardian and we couldn’t be prouder.
“Thanks to Jay Rayner for paying us a visit and a big thanks to our team and customers. Without their hard work and support over the last 20 weeks what we have achieved wouldn’t have been possible. We love you all.”
Feature image – The Black Friar
The Makers Market is coming back to Cutting Room Square every month as of this Sunday
The North West’s hugely popular Makers Market is returning to Ancoat’s Cutting Room Square as of this weekend, marking the start of a monthly community staple.
While Makers Markets have been popping up around the region for years now — Stockport, Cheadle, Salford and Media City; Knutsford, Northern Quarter, Didsbury, Congleton and countless other locations — it’s only ever been at Cutting Room Square just the once as part of a trial run back in November 2022.
However, after going down an absolute treat and just as popular as all the others around Greater Manchester and beyond, the organisers have decided to bring it back on a permanent basis from this weekend onwards. Ancoats just got even better.
Now, as of Sunday, 2 April, city centre residents and those travelling into town will be able to enjoy a regular community market packed with local traders from all over every month. Wonderful stuff.
If for some reason you’ve never come across a Makers Market before, the concept is pretty simple: local businesses and indie traders of all different kinds gather in public spaces like Cutting Room Square, setting up pop-up stalls to sell their wares, whatever they may be.
Whether it’d be homemade food and bakery items, handcrafted prints and textiles, or homeware, second-hand records, flowers and everything in between, there is literally always something for everyone.
More importantly, though, these monthly markets aren’t just another place to shop locally and responsibly, but they genuinely provide a wonderful sense of community, quickly cementing themselves as a regular staple for everyone to look forward to and socialise at.
Typically taking place on the second Sunday of every month and with Cutting Room Square and Ancoats already a popular district for locals and tourists alike, we’re sure the atmosphere is going to be great.
You’ve also got the successful Ancoats Pop Up events scattered throughout the rest of the 2023 calendar too — happy days.
We look forward to a year filled with plenty more markets all around Greater Manchester!
You can check out the full list of traders that will be appearing at this weekend’s Makers Market at Cutting Room Square HERE.
Graeme Park thanks fans for ‘valued support’ and launches fundraiser in memory of late son
Graeme Park has thanked fans for their “valued support” following the devastating passing of his teenage son last week.
The former Hacienda legend and his family have also set up a fundraiser in his memory.
The DJ took to social media last week to share the heartbreaking news that his “true warrior” son Oliver had passed away at the age of 18 after a year-long battle with a rare cancer.
In a tribute to the late teenager, Graeme described his son as a “kind, loving, and beautiful soul” who “fought so hard until the very end” but was sadly taken “far too soon” when he “had so much more love to offer to this world”.
Graeme’s initial post drew in thousands of messages of love and support from the Greater Manchestermusic and entertainment community and beyond, as well as from famous name including from Vernon Kay, Sacha Lord, and DJ Paulette.
He asked fans to “bear with me” and confirmed that he will not be performing DJ sets or appearing on the radio for the time being.
Now, a week after sharing the news of Oliver’s passing, Graeme, his wife Jen, and son Ben have taken the time to thank everyone for their “wonderful and valued support” – adding that the family is “heartbroken” to have lost a son, grandson, nephew, cousin and friend.
“Your messages and kind words have been well received and have offered us all some much needed strength and hope at what has been a very difficult time,” Graeme continued.
“Friends, colleagues, fans, followers and complete strangers have all been in touch in person, via phone, email and social media offering support and more, and it really has been heartwarming to read all the messages and to listen to everyone who’s called.
“Apologies if I’ve not responded to everyone, but rest assured we all really do appreciate the sentiment.
“Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
Graeme also confirmed that, after lots of discussion following so many reaching out and asking if there’s anything they can do to help, the family has decided to set up a JustGiving page in Oliver’s memory to help raise “much needed funds and awareness” for Sarcoma UK.
Sarcoma UK is a national charity that funds vital research, offers support for anyone affected by sarcoma cancer, and campaigns for better treatments.
“After complaining of leg pain over a long period, Oliver was eventually diagnosed as having a malignant nerve sheath tumour that was a type of sarcoma, hence our decision to help Sarcoma UK,” Graeme explained.
Sarcoma is a type of cancer that develops in the bone and soft tissue. It is difficult to diagnose and one of the hardest to treat – “but by donating in memory of Oliver, you can help change this.”
“Your donation will help researchers find answers, keep the specialist Support Line open, and raise awareness to improve treatment and standards of care,” Graeme concluded, “Your donations go so far in helping the sarcoma community.”
Over 200 people have already donated to the JustGiving fundraiser, with the total now at £6,900 and counting by the minute.