This is a tale of an epic journey, one akin to Scott, Dr Livingstone or one of non-acting Fiennes. Oh all right, it was getting from Media City in rush hour, in the suddenly freezing climate, on a tram that inexplicably stopped outside Cornbrook for ages with loud BBC-types shouting about their programmes while Dubai and Ginger were impatiently waiting for me to join then.
“A massive, warm looking super-pub on three floors, with welcoming fires and comfy seats…”
Then it was off at Deansgate, through the cobbles past Dukes and over the bridge in the dark to find the Wharf, in much need of a vino and a big Ginger hug to warm me through.
But it was worth it to see how much Castlefield has developed since I last ventured this far out of inner city. It’s vibrant, with stunning looking bars, the new Buddha (formerly Barcia), Bohemia all nestling alongside old favourites Alberts Shed and Dukes.
It is quite eerily atmospheric, with the lapping sounds of the canal, the smell of wood fires from narrow boats and quacking of geese and ducks.
Lit up brightly against this backdrop is the Wharf, one of the newest developments. A massive, warm looking super-pub on three floors, with welcoming fires and comfy seats and what will be a fantastic outside area when and if the sun ever shines again.
Ginger said: “It’s whiskey mania! Apparently there’s over a hundred different malt whiskies! And we’re gonna drink ‘em all!!”
You can order food on any of the floors, but on the second floor you get table service if you can’t be bothered to do the remembering your table number thing and ordering at the bar. This is where we sat and is more secluded for intimate chats.
The head chef is Andy Warters and the menu changes regularly to reflect the seasons. It has the staples of bar food for which it is probably best known including fish and chips, burgers, steaks etc with prices a little bit more than you pay in most pubs (from £4.95 for starters and £9.95 for mains), but then the food is so much better than you would get in ‘normal’ pubs.
I started with the coriander tempura seabass which came with a huge fresh salad of delightful morsels including mango, pak choi and chilli salsa. It was so wonderfully fresh, it burst like dew drops of flavour on my tongue, refreshing and revitalising me with the seabass in a tender, light batter working perfectly alongside.
It’s huge portions (ooo matron) all the way here and you get your money’s worth on the volume alone.
Ginger went all effeminate with the cured salmon starter with really big capers to provide a salty bite back and tasted delicious in a light flavoursome way. Dubai opted for the chicken liver parfait and there was so much of this we ordered extra bread to help him finish it off. Tasty, coarse and perfect parfait and we were loving the pear chutney.
Onto mains and Dubai chose the duck cooked with Vimto. Vimto as many of you know is made in Manchester and this is one of the signatures of The Wharf. It prompted fond memories from the Swinton boys of buying hot Vimto for 10p from the corner shop on their way to school (it really is another world). Apparently, they could also get sausage roll barm cakes (seriously pastry and bread) and Dubai even used to get pie in a barm which I would think would be bigger than him. Dubai also revealed Vimto costs £15 in Dubai – wow.
The conversation was really flowing in this convivial atmosphere with Ginger regaling us with a hilarious tale about his watch strap that had the table spellbound (not).
The duck was perfectly pink and came with a huge chunk of blackpudding. The much vaunted Vimto, added a sweet, fruity accompaniment, similar to the role of plum or orange in more traditional duck dishes (was a little alarming that we could hear quacking outside from the canal so I hope we weren’t tucking into mama). It worked and was a great dish.
Ginger had ordered a vegetarian cheese and onion pie as recommended by our lovely waitress Jess who is a veggie.
This came with homemade brown sauce which I dipped into and loved the piquancy and punch of. The pie, Ginger adored for its tangy Lancashire cheese flavour, a strong tasty mouthful. He did however say and I quote “I’m not digging the beans”, which were a kind of giant version of baked beans.
I had gone for one of the staples. Rump steak and chips which came with masses of mushrooms and tomatoes. It was cooked perfectly medium rare and was very tasty as well as being so huge that Dubai finished it off for me (where does he put it?). Great and wonderful value for £11.95.
Onto puds, the boys love a bit of sweet and we all dipped into waffles, brownies and crème brulee. All good, but not exceptional. There is also a cheese board which I normally opt for but was so full I couldn’t manage.
Then it was off into the bitter night where we managed to bump into Clark Kent (he’s sooo handsome even the boys have crushes on him) and the long march through town to the Liquor Store.
This place is fast becoming the place to be as I bumped into a blast from my past, Tony the Cardigan, just out from the big house. The Gay and Zigster hot-footed it from Room, where they had been celebrating his birthday (again) to meet him. A good night was had by all, but that’s another story…
On The I Love’o’meter
I’d walk 500 miles for one of your pies. Go.
The Wharf, 6 Slate Wharf, Castlefield, Manchester M15 4ST
0161 220 2960