A new menu at Manchester’s Chop Houses is always a treat, no matter what the weather.
We headed to The Albert Square Chop House to try out executive chef Lee Ferguson’s new summer starters, mains and desserts.
A starter of heritage tomatoes (£8.50) mixes colourful English heirlooms of different sizes, shapes and hues with pickled red onion. It’s topped with deep-fried crispy goat’s cheese and dressed with fragrant basil oil.
It’s the kind of fresh, pretty, summery salad that makes you think of Mediterranean escapes and long alfresco lunches on Italian terraces, except this dish is using the best seasonal British produce.
And it’s vegetarian and gluten-free, too.
More substantial but equally refined is a rich smoked mackerel pâté (£8.50) served with celeriac and horseradish slaw and slices of crisp sourdough toast.
Pan roast North Sea cod loin (£16) is a light, gluten-free and healthy-feeling main, the flaky white fish gently wrapped in a blanket of smoked bacon and served with fresh peas, beans and earthy chestnut mushrooms.
The whole lot is served in the kind of light, comforting chicken broth that instantly makes everything better. It’s a winner.
Cumbrian lamb rump (£16) is served perfectly pink on a bed of dark purple heritage new potatoes, punchy salsa verde and runner beans.
And then comes a pie (£14). And what a pie. It’s absolutely enormous.
The creamy tender Goosnargh chicken and leek filling uses thigh rather than breast meat for full-on flavour and succulence.
It’s topped with golden, buttery puff pastry and served with a pot of crisp, salty Chop House chips which we can’t wait to dip into the hot, meaty pie filling.
Aside from the new dishes, there are other options for a lighter bite, too.
Summer speltotto is a British grain risotto, light and fresh with seasonal peas, beans and baby spinach, dressed with zingy lemon. It’s vegetarian as standard and can easily be made vegan without the cheese.
Or of course there’s the classic Chop House fish and chips with lightly battered Scottish haddock, hand-cut chips, mushy peas, tartare sauce and a squeeze of lemon.
Keeping with the best of British ingredients, the wine lists at the Chop Houses feature several English sparkling wines including two examples from England’s most celebrated producer Nyetimber, which regularly beats top Champagne houses in international competitions.
The Chop Houses also list a top rosé fizz from Hush House Estate in Kent and the quirky Cuvée Noir from Bolney Estate in Sussex – a red sparkler made from the dornfelder grape.
And there’s always room for pudding, of course. Something lighter perhaps than the rib-sticking sticky toffee puddings or treacle tarts with whisky custard that we want when it’s cold and miserable outside.
Although they’re still on the menu, of course, because there would likely be an outcry if they removed the classics.
Strawberry pavlova (£6.50) consists of a huge meringue, crisp and light yet pleasingly chewy in places, filled with lemon cream and served with fresh Yorkshire strawberries.
Or, if you’ve not yet tried them, check out the burnt lemon Cambridge cream (pictured above, £6.50) with candied lemon, meringue and intensely citrussy lemon curd, or caramel chocolate parfait (£7), perfect for sharing, dressed with chocolate crumb and chocolate cream.
Launched in spring, these desserts still hit all the summer notes.
With some inspired new additions, this is a winner of a summer menu. All we need now is for the sun to show its face again.