Having been to their Northern Quarter outlet 57 Thomas St on a number of occasions and regularly purchased their bottled beers from my local offy (The Bottle Stop, Brahmall), I have intended to visit the Marble Brewery’s mother ship, The Marble Arch Inn, for quite some time.
I desperately wanted to like it, and I did… in a way.
With its Victorian fixtures and fittings, the pub itself is fabulous. Period features includes the charmingly precarious sloping mosaic floors, inlaid with red roses and the stunning barrel-vaulted, burnished brickwork ceiling around which a decorative frieze of illuminated letters lists the onetime favoured tipples of the house, including “BRANDIES” “GIN” “CORDIALS” and “WINES”.
Of course, these are still served but most come to The Marble Arch Inn for its excellent ale selection. The bar boasts, eleven hand pulls that dispense Marble’s own beers and those from “respected guest breweries”.
There is also an excellent bottled selection – my wife decided to go Dutch and shared an ‘Emilesse Imperial Russian Stout’ and an ‘Emilesse TIPA’ (Triple India Pale Ale) – two strong, characterful ales.
I’m certainly not a big beer drinker but I can appreciate a good craft ale. For those not familiar with the Marble Brewery, check their website - here; current offerings include quality beers with delightfully straightforward names, such as: ‘Best’ ‘Pint’ ‘Summer’ ‘Stout’ ‘Decadence’ and ‘Manchester Bitter’.
The same cannot be said for the dishes on the ‘Summer / Autumn Menu’ which featured some of the longest descriptions I have seen for some time.
My wife and I both ordered the fresh, summery sounding “Tea Smoked Mackerel and Burt’s Blue Cheese Roulade, Cucumber with Four Taste Sensations and Rocket and Pea Salad” to start. For mains, I had the “Spatzle – German pasta tossed with Browned Butter, Spinach, Toasted Vine Tomatoes and Shallots finished with Nutmeg and Parmesan” whilst my wife went for the “Rack of Lamb Sous Vide, Lemon Purée, Artichoke, Pommes Dauphine, Beetroot and Raspberry Lollipop, Caper Dressing”.
Tea Smoked Mackerel and Burt’s Blue Cheese Roulade, Cucumber with Four Taste Sensations and Rocket and Pea Salad - or us, this dish was a complete catastrophe! Actually, that is a little harsh… forgiving the shrivelled nasturtiums, the pea and rocket salad was acceptable but the unappetizing grey roulade just tasted of soggy tea bags with a fishy and cheesy undertone. The cucumber ‘lollipop’ with “four taste sensations”, of which salt bellicosely subdued the other three, was jarringly odd in such a setting.
It was at this point that I looked around to see how other diners were getting on with their food… everyone seemed to be getting along fine with their chosen meals of Burgers or Fish & Chips. Out came our mains:
As mentioned, my wife opted for the Rack of Lamb Sous Vide, Lemon Purée, Artichoke, Pommes Dauphine, Beetroot and Raspberry Lollipop, Caper Dressing (£18.95) – the lamb itself was great quality (W.H.Frost, I believe) and cooked well (sous vide). Also good: the incredibly fluffy pommes dauphine, artichoke and the caper dressing. With a suitable level of sweetness, the beetroot and raspberry lollipop was more successful than the one on the starter – my only criticism, perhaps the abundance of lemon purée was one flavour too far?
My Spatzle – German pasta tossed with Browned Butter, Spinach, Toasted Vine Tomatoes and Shallots finished with Nutmeg and Parmesan could have been a very good dish had the powdered nutmeg scattered liberally over and piled at the side not been so overpowering.
I’ve since looked up a number of Spatzle recipes including, this one by Wolfgang Puck… most suggest between ¼ to ½ a teaspoon of nutmeg when making enough for 6 servings – I’d estimate my plate had in excess of this sprinkled on top alone!
The mains reminded me that less can sometimes be more… with this in mind, note the menu description for the burger that everyone else (those in the know?) seemed to be enjoying: “Marble Burger with Chips”.
Wanting to be able to say good things about The Marble Arch, in lieu of a dessert, I decided to order one on the burgers… it was ace!
No lollipops, no “taste sensations”, no gimmicks… just a straight up ground beef patty, served mouth-wateringly pink with fresh salad leaves, crispy bacon, melted cheese and a squirt of mustard - all set within on a toasted sesame seed bun. On the side, a smoky barbeque sauce, pickled gherkin and excellent chunky chips.
I don’t want to knock the Marble’s chef for trying to be creative and stand out from the crowd but I couldn’t help feeling the ales and the building itself should do the talking here… if I hadn’t have had the burger there was no chance I’d have returned to the Marble Arch Inn for food.
For the simpler fayre, I’ll definitely be back and hope that they soon realise that a pub can produce great food without resorting to wacky flavour combinations or gimmicks.