A quick disclaimer: I hate reading gushing restaurant reviews. Nevertheless, this review is on the gushing end of the spectrum.
There’s nothing quite like the schadenfreude of someone ripping a place to shreds. Jay Rayner got it spot on in the introduction to his collection of scathing reviews My Dining Hell when he said: “People like reviews of bad restaurants. No, scratch that. They adore them, feast upon them like starving vultures who have spotted fly-blown carrion out in the bush for the first time in weeks. They like to claim otherwise, of course.”
So, now that’s out of the way, I can say with a clear conscience that the lunch I had at Tariff and Dale recently was one of the best meals I have had in Manchester for a long time.
At first glance, Tariff and Dale is just another Northern Quarter bar/restaurant with exposed brickwork, some copper bar accessories and distressed mirrors on the toilet walls. But no. Behind the unassuming and quietly understated façade is excellent and reasonably priced food. And their dark blue leather banquettes perfectly matched my man-bag, so whoever is in charge of the décor clearly has an impeccable eye for colour.
I’m a sucker for anything called a board at the best of times. At Tariff and Dale you can mix and match between options in the meat, fish, cheese and veg columns to make your own board – five items makes a decent lunch – all topped off with some bread.
The beetroot cured salmon is earthy and almost has a sweetness to it, while the bresaola is like a tasty beef version of Parma ham, a million miles away from that leathery American beef jerky nonsense.
Even the salads pack a punch. A combination of leaves such as watercress and red and green chicory are topped with a choice of toppings such as duck or delicately poached pear and blue cheese.
The highlight for me is the sausage rolls which are all made on site with crispy pastry. I tried both the pork and pistachio and the lamb and rosemary offerings. They offer rich, multifaceted flavours and come with either a curious porter ketchup or a burnt onion and ‘nduja ketchup. Both are good. The burnt onion is particularly interesting, starting off with sweetness, which gives way to gentle warming spice. Cracking stuff, and now I’m regretting not ordering the other two on the menu as well.
On the pudding side, the dark chocolate mousse is not too heavy or overly sweet and is accompanied by tart blackberries and a few nuggets of squidgy chocolate brownie. For the more texturally adventurous, the lemon meringue baked Alaska is light and fluffy with a delicate lemon flavour.
Can I find anything wrong with Tariff and Dale? It seems churlish to say that I found putting the lemon mayonnaise at the bottom of the small dish of lightly battered calamari mildly irritating – the one at the bottom being drenched and having to lift the others out of the way to get any sauce for the top one – but I really am clutching at straws here.
All in all, Tariff & Dale really does punch above its weight and should be in for a great second year.
2 Tariff Street, Manchester, M1 2FN