The Lowry in Salford Quays has a well-deserved reputation as one of the North’s top theatre destinations. Thanks to Pier 8, this modern playhouse has a restaurant to match. And it looks great too.
The dining space is wide-open and well-lit, with scenic views of the waterway outside, which on a sunny day can feel like Manchester’s very own take on Sydney Harbour. The Pier 8 waiting staff are a delight, balancing charm and cheerfulness with an instinctive knowledge of when they’re needed and when to give diners privacy.
But it’s the food that really shines. The menu finds that perfect sweet spot between fine and casual dining, offering four vastly different dishes for each course, including both vegetarian and vegan options for starter and main.
A common issue with pre-theatre dining is that chefs need to cater for very different palates, making it tricky to come up with something that appeals to everyone. This runs the risk of uninspired, safe ideas that excite no one – thankfully, at Pier 8, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
The black pudding starter is one of the standout dishes on the menu. Thick slices of earthy black pudding, on a bed of sweet and tangy apple chutney, matched with a breadcrumbed egg and a fat blob of créme fraiche. The flavours complement each other beautifully and it’s a perfect example of what the head chef is trying to accomplish: superb local ingredients, put together with flavour and taste as a priority.
This focus on hearty English fare runs through the mains section too, from the beautifully cooked golden chicken breast (an ideal Sunday lunch if you’re dining at the weekend) to the high-quality, hand-harvested rainbow trout from Hampshire, which arrives lying on a bed of soft lentils and smoky pancetta.
And the celeriac steak deserves a special mention. Cooked to the perfect texture and then chargrilled, the nutty root vegetable combines wonderfully with the mustard and tarragon sauce. Far from a last-minute idea, this dish shows that Pier 8 put as much thought into vegan meals as everything else.
The desserts live up to these high standards, ranging from an intoxicating dark chocolate tart with sour cherries to a bright and colourful lemon cake plate that comes with cute blobs of tahini custard, Italian meringue and a wonderful scoop of strawberry ice cream. No sweet tooth? There’s a classic cheeseboard option which includes onion jam, celery and oat biscuits.
The portions are neither too heavy nor too light, but just the right amount to leave you content and satisfied as you watch the onstage show, while the cost is a bargain: two superb quality courses for £27 or three for £32.
There’s no shortage of ideas in the kitchen at Pier 8. The food here is a cut above the typical theatre restaurant, with a series of fine-tuned dishes that could appear on some of the city centre’s best menus.
Pier 8 Restaurant Inside the Lowry, The Quays, Manchester M50 3AZ