There is no greater feeling than taking your friends or family out for dinner, turning around and saying ‘I know it’s in a weird place, but just wait until you try the food’. This feeling only comes second to that satisfying ego cleanse you get when it lives up to your hype.
Now I am going to let you know about my go-to hidden-gem. This isn’t one of those rustic little tapas bars nestled into the side streets or a hotel cocktail bar that does the best martinis around – this is one of those in-plain-sight places which I can guarantee you have walked past again and again.
Have you guessed yet? Maybe the title gave it away – but I am of course talking about Pier Eight at The Lowry in Salford Quays. My god is the food good there and it is so much more than a mere theatre restaurant designed for a rushed nibble before a show.
Just as a little background, Pier Eight is the stunning waterside restaurant in The Lowry Theatre and are champions of modern British cuisine. Not only that, but they are also hugely environmentally aware. Everything on the menu is seasonal and as local as possible. So local, in fact, that some of it is grown on the roof of the restaurant itself.
The head chef also told me that this is just the beginning. He plans to expand the roof garden even further to accommodate even more veg, fruits and even a couple of beehives.
I’m getting off-track, but you get my point. There is a real sense of sustainability at Pier Eight, which is a good thing to know before you even tuck into a plate of their delicious food.
We kicked things off with a few glasses of fizz (it’s free-flowing after 8pm for 90 minutes so fill your boots), while we enjoyed the view and looked over the menu. We opted for the chef’s recommendations of the Flame-grilled Cauliflower and the Venison Carpaccio for the starters.
The former was served on a lemon, coconut yoghurt with crunchy bits of almond, fermented chilli and Thai basil which was the dominating flavour. For a vegetarian dish, this really held its own amongst the other inclusions on the menu.
You are served a pretty hefty bit of cauliflower which is charred beautifully and twinned with the petite slices of pickled cauliflower – this was a great way to kick off the meal.
The venison was what winter dining is all about. As soon as the nights start getting shorter, I start getting excited about the game season and this dish was everything I ever wanted. The meat itself was dark as night, packed full of flavour and cut quite thick which was a nice touch too.
The head chef paired this with smoked yoghurt, blueberry, apple, pickled mushrooms and rooftop flowers – in other words, the flavours of the forest, which in my opinion is the only thing to pair with venison. Top Marks.
This was followed by Char-grilled Pork and John Dory (which was actually monkfish on the day – Pier Eight favours freshness and availability over consistency.) The fish was perfectly cooked, and being a robust, meaty fish, I am aware that it is difficult to do.
This was paired with kale, poached celery and cucumber, parsnip fondant and a chicken sauce. The most operative word for this dish would be delicate- and it was the kind of dish that became more and more delicious upon every mouthful.
The pork was another bowl of autumnal comfort food. The pork was cooked on the bone with a satisfying layer of crispy fat on the outside (is it really pork without it?). This succulent meat was sat aloft a celeriac puree and served with braised chicory, a pear croquette and smothered in sage butter.
This dish had the comforting flavours of a home-cooked Sunday roast, but with the added fine-dining finesse we would expect from an establishment such as this.
On to dessert, again we were spoilt for choice. Following the chef’s recommendations once again, we ordered the Caramel Miso Tart served with ruby chocolate, blood orange and crème fraiche ice cream.
It was so unbelievably delicious, I am actually struggling to find the words to describe it which is not like me at all. Basically, it was one of those desserts that were more savoury than sweet, which is something I am a big fan of. The subtle twinges of sweetness came from the orange and the ruby chocolate – a fermented chocolate from South America with a distinct pink hue.
Usually, I am a sharer when it comes to puddings – a symptom of my rather weak sweet tooth – but I demanded having this all to myself.
We couldn’t say no to the cheeseboard which was made up of English cheeses, naturally. This came paired with their house preserves (I think it was rhubarb but my palate could have deceived me), quinoa crackers, saffron pickled pear, air-dried grapes and homemade fig and walnut bread. A perfect end to an utterly delicious meal.
In short, Pier Eight is one of Salford’s best-kept secrets. Although, I guess I’ve blown the cover now… oops!
Pier Eight, Inside The Lowry, Salford, M50 3AZ
0161 876 2121