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Just a short train ride from Manchester city centre, Chalk Bar & Grill in Didsbury offers a spectacularly delicious dinner at very reasonable prices.
We kicked things off with a bit of spice and sass, opting to try the cocktails on the menu. Being a lover of all things fiery, I tried the chilli gin and ginger ale and my dining companion had a caiprinha. This was a superb decision on my part, because the combination of gin and ginger ale was like divine fire shot down from the heavens to tantalise my tongue. In short, it was good.
Unfortunately, the food envy started early. Neither of us could decide what we wanted because we wanted everything. For that reason, we agreed we’d pick two things we both wanted to try for each course, and finger our way through it together.
We started with the chicken liver parfait with toast and chutney (my choice). This was rich, tangy and creamy, with the chutney complementing the chicken liver with a fruity kick. I’m a sucker for pates and parfaits (as my review of MCR 42 attests), and I wasn’t disappointed.
The only surprise, really, was just how much of it we got – there was enough here for both of us to share without any other starters. For the price tag, it’s well worth ordering and the chunky chutney (look at the size of those chunks!) was a particular highlight.
Tyler, my dinner companion, opted for the salt and pepper squid on a bed of crispy seaweed. This is something of a favourite of his, too, but here we were especially surprised. The crispy seaweed was seasoned with soy sauce, which added a lovely, salty touch that worked well with the crunch of the seaweed.
Buoyed by these fantastic starters, we were quick to take more cocktails. I wanted something to match the savoury flavours of the upcoming main course, so I opted for the Gin Mare: olives, gin, rosemary and tonic. Because we’d ordered lamb rump, the rosemary was an especially nice touch.
So our mains came, and first up was the delicious lamb rump. This was my choice, and I decided to hoard the dish all for myself (although I gave Tyler a little sliver of lamb to keep him happy).
Tyler, meanwhile, went for another blue fillet steak. But I’ll tell you what, this was probably the best fillet he’d had in months – and, as I’ve said before, Tyler is a pedant when it comes to steak. The meat was tender, and seasoned and cooked to perfection. I also got a sliver of his meat for the purposes of writing my review, and I defer to his superior knowledge of the beefy stuff – this was flippin’ good.
Desserts are not usually my forte. I prefer meat, cheese and butter to pastry, sponge and custard. But I always eat them when doing a review, because I feel it’s a lazy (and underweight) food reviewer that doesn’t try every course for research purposes. A journo should always be thoro’, am I right? So I mulled over the options.
In the end, there was only one contender for the dessert I was just simply going to have to force myself to have: the Posh Snickers. And I’m really glad that this tricksy little delight popped out at me, because it was bliss.
Once, when I was a kid, my dad discovered a bit of metal in a Snickers Bar and wrote to the manufacturers. They sent him vouchers for a whole crate of the stuff, and I remember spending a whole summer pigging out on them while flicking through my dad’s copies of The Viz (I balanced this obviously macho pastime by playing with my Barbie dolls in my bedroom later in the evening). Ever since then, they’ve pretty much been one of my favourite chocolate bars (Snickers and Bounty bars are all I’ll touch).
The Posh Snickers captured everything I loved about that choc-filled summer, but in a far classier package. This is the kind of Snickers you’d eat while reading Vogue, not The Viz. Even writing this I feel like I have to go back to Chalk especially…
Tyler, apparently a creature of habit, ordered the same dessert he usually does (when he can). As such he tried the sticky toffee pudding souffle – a twist on his usual sticky toffee pudding. It fared well compared to his usual haunts, however. The souffle added a slightly different texture and volume to the dish, which was very welcome indeed. This was much better than a mere sticky toffee pudding, by all accounts.
At last, sated and full of cheer, we took coffee and planned our return journey to the city centre. This was a very special evening with faultless service (the kind that’s so seamless you don’t even notice it’s there) and a friendly environment. The restaurant was full of trendy young professional types enjoying evening drinks and light snacks, plus a few stylish couples on posh dates. Plus, the prices were a good deal cheaper than similar bars in the city centre.
For the extraordinarily fair prices, the huge portions, and the exquisite tastes, Chalk is well worth the short journey time from the city centre, and if you live nearby you have absolutely no excuse at all – get yourself down there!
For more information and to book a table, visit chalkbar.co.uk.