Once upon a time when the north of the city was Piccadilly, when the Left Bank was in Paris and public gardens had trees, it was difficult to find sophisticated eateries round here. Now you pretty much trip over them.
Sandwiched between the prawn cracker of Sweet Mandarin and the wholemeal loaf of The Market, TNQ (The Northern Quarter) is a bright and airy place for a bite.
I went there on the recommendation of FFF (fussy female friend) and it came up to her exacting standards.
The early bird menu at £9.95 for two courses offered a good selection but still FFF went for the greek salad – as usual. What can you say about Greek salad? It had feta, it had toms, it had olives and was, apparently “nicely seasoned”. Great.
I found a far more interesting experience in the garlic and almond soup.
This had the texture of super runny porridge but a sweet and sensual taste which neither ingredient ever hints at in its raw state but, when cooked, makes a divine partnership. Every drop was savoured.
Sadly the accompanying strong blue cheese toast wasn’t too my taste being too overpowering.
FFF finally got some pluck and plumped for the adventurous sounding kaffir lime, chilli and ginger kohlrabi which proved to be a delicious combination of flavours faintly similar to Thai green curry but more delicate and a fine way to treat a turnip. (The lighting was a little subtle as you can tell from the picture).
My sea bass fillet was succulently pan-fried, if a little on the small side, while the lemon and chive mash with the accompanying tangy lemon moat of what I can only describe as relish (perhaps its marmalade – what’s the difference?) was a joyous dance of zestfulness.
Verdict: While the menu offers good value food in pleasant surroundings, the final bill revealed quite a heavy price for drinks at £10 for two glasses of wine. Even so TNQ is worth a visit and the early bird menu is a good introduction to what it has to offer.
TNQ is at 108, High Street, Manchester M4 1HQ