The entirety of love for donner kebabs comes from the fact that most people eat them while pissed up – ensuring that you don’t notice the limp lettuce, dodgy meat and lashings of vein-clogging fats that you’re shovelling into your mouth.
As a result, many pubs and bars typically tend to view their food as a complete afterthought, offering the standard pissed-up punter a burger and some steak cut oven chips or a Findus Spaghetti Bolognaise in which to soak up the Blue WKDs and continue to spend their hard-earned cash on liquids.
One would assume therefore that the new menu at Black Dog Ballroom doesn’t warrant a review – as it’s primarily a drinking establishment and thus the food won’t be up to much. Well, that assumption would be incorrect, and I must say that I was pretty impressed when we went to try the grub in the NQ branch last Friday.
Of course, Black Dog have always done food, and to be fair it’s always been pretty decent. Their pizzas are consistently impressive, their burgers can stand up next to most (if not all) of Manchester’s other establishments and they typically always have some form of cheeky sides that are perfect for tucking into while drinking a fancy cocktail.
So, what is new then? Well – they’ve expanded some areas of the menu, tweaked here and there and added some brand-new bits to keep it all fresh and relatively exciting. They’ve expanded their nachos and fries considerably, added a couple of new starters and sides, as well as re-introducing the classic hot dogs after a couple of years away.
There’s a lot going on so we endeavoured to try as much new stuff as possible and the list of things we got through was pretty impressive. To start things off we opted for the Spare Ribs and a one of their new, swanky Flatbreads – in this case the Sweetcorn, Red Onion and Pepper one.
Now I should probably get this out there first – I wasn’t expecting too much from the Spare Ribs. With the likes of Cane & Grain just around the corner banging out juicy Baby Backs and St. Louis’ all over the shop, anyone looking to do ribs better make sure that they’re bloody good. I was pleased to discover that Black Dog pretty much smashed it out of the park.
The ribs were not only massive but they were so meaty that I struggled to finish one, never mind the 3 that you get on your plate. The meat was soft, tender and juicy – exactly what you want from your ribs, and the sweet BBQ sauce that they were smothered in worked perfectly with the smoky meat. They were a revelation and one might be bold enough to say that they were better than what you could find at Cane & Grain. If one was bold enough that is.
The Sweetcorn, Red Onion and Pepper Flatbread showcased the kitchen’s ability to create a chewy, crunchy, delicious bit of dough that their pizzas have been packing for years now. More in keeping with the New York style of base, the dough isn’t as ‘doughy’ as you’d get in places like PLY or Rudy’s – it’s crispy on the outside, chewy in the middle and with that characteristic semolina crunch that you’d expect from an NY base. The veggie filling was sweet and fresh and worked well with the dough – perfect for ripping and picking at while having a few drinks.
Next up were the fries, where we went for Halloumi, The Northern and Peppercorn Steak. Halloumi fries are exactly how you’d expect – proper fit and proper naughty. Their ‘Loaded’ fries come with a choice of 7 toppings and 4 types of chip (Waffle, Sweet Potato, House and Thick Cut). Stand out here were The Northern fries, which is basically chips, cheese and gravy which, as you’d expect, goes perfect with the thick cut variety of fried potato.
The gravy was rich and thick, the cheese sharp and stringy – these beauties were brilliant. One thing that can be a danger with thick cut chips is the odd rogue un-cooked bit that ruins the rest – well we didn’t have that problem here. The chips were crispy on the outside and light and fluffy in the middle – I just couldn’t stop eating the bloody things. If you only order one bit of food at Black Dog – make sure it’s these.
Next up was the Goats Cheese & Mushroom Burger which comes adorned with a proper slab of Goats Cheese alongside a big portobello mushroom, bun and a bit of what tasted like a lovely sweet red onion chutney. We decided to go for this veggie option, not only because it’s new but because we love cheese.
Well this beaut doesn’t disappoint and it acts as an excellent alternative for vegetarians who still want some burger action. They also offer a lovely sounding Curried Chickpea Burger which comes with halloumi but we didn’t try it because we were rather curried out from a previous meal. Next time though!
Finally, we tucked into the Ruben Hot Dog which was rather substantial in both length and girth and came topped with caramelized onion, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and a sweet relish. Black Dog took hot dogs off the menu for a bit but I’m glad they’re back – this was very messy but very good with the 100% beef smoky sausage working perfectly with the sweetness of the relish, with a satisfying salty crunch of the sauerkraut and Swiss cheese at the end. Lovely stuff.
By now we were too full to try anything else but let me assure you that the menu is impressively varied and impressively delivered. There’s something for everyone really but if you’re struggling, here’s my recommendation: get those fit Northern fries, some Spare Ribs and a few cocktails and you’ll have the best of times.
Black Dog Ballroom NQ, 52 Church St, Manchester M4 1PW
Black Dog Ballroom NWS, 11-13 New Wakefield St, Manchester M1 5NP