Oh dear, what has happened here? The Bridge has had something of a changeable existence in my experience. When I first visited years ago it was to attend a private party in the upstairs function room where you had to cut through the smoke in the bar with an axe and fend off drunks on the way to the toilet before tucking into a watery, carrot-floating hot pot.
More recently I enjoyed a lunch of well-cooked game served in an almost hushed dining room after making my way through a bar full of television types talking about city centre property prices while feasting on beef and horseradish sandwiches.
But if my visit this weekend is typical, we now seem to have an unholy alliance of those two extremes.
Making our way through the now smoke-free bar it was a case of sit anywhere in the empty dining area which also seemed to be doubling up as a well-trod highway to smoking heaven out the back.
The menu might have shrunk radically with just a handful of main courses – but the prices haven’t diminished alongside the choice.
Expect to pay around £15 per meal.
The selection was a bit ordinary – steaks, chicken, fish and a vegetarian option. I broke my cardinal rule of buying chicken which didn’t come with a full history of its source for the first time – then promptly regretted it.
Chicken supreme with vegetable cous cous was promised. What was delivered was a chicken portion with sauce which reminded me of Uncle Ben’s – sweet, shallow, luke-warm and most certainly plonked onto the overcooked chicken at the last minute.
But at least the chef gave me cheery smile as he sloped off through the back door for a smoke though and the cous cous was good.
Himself’s medium cooked steak (a predictable choice) was cooked well enough but what about this for an onion ring? Huge and slimey they also featured some sort of seasonings and were quickly rejected.
Not having enough of an appetite to continue onto another course, watch another round of smoking interruptions or listen to the drunk woman who kept moving into the dining area so that she could speak a bit more loudly while she slurped her alcopop, we decided to make a move.
I only hope those behind this venture can get a grip on it before the signs extolling the virtues of the old gastropub begin to look incongruous – we have few enough great eateries without losing one of the best.
Was my experience a one-off? Let me know how you’ve found The Bridge by submitting comments below.
The Bridge, 58 Bridge Street, Manchester. 0161 8340242