I have a strong opinion on Northern Quarter bars and eateries, I think that some of them try to do both things but don’t quite manage to do either well enough. I could reel off a list of times I’ve been disappointed with texture-less tacos and flavourless burgers in an underwhelming environment. So, when I had a foodie friend recommend Tariff and Dale to me, I was interested to see whether, finally, somewhere had got it right.
On arrival, the bar looked much like all the others, shabby, lots of exposed brick, and, semi-comfy looking seats. We were ushered downstairs by a trendy waitress and were met with a fairly empty restaurant, possibly due to their January food deals just having expired. However, we didn’t let this put us off as we slid onto the leather benches and made ourselves comfortable.
We settled in easily and the two of us spread ourselves across a table that could have been filled by four. The drinks were priced similarly to the rest of the Northern Quarter, so we had neither a shock nor a surprise when we ordered a glass of Spanish sauvignon and a pint of ‘Outstanding 4’ lager. When they arrived, we took large deserved gulps like we had been undertaking dry January, which by the way, we certainly had not.
Tariff and Dale’s food menu is something that needs a fair amount of time to be fully explored. Its offerings range from classic English dishes under the heading ‘Antipasti’, a sprinkling of Asian options, and, of course, Italian pizza. Despite my guest and I both being appalling at making decisions, we managed to decide on two starters and two mains, oh, and, some artisan bread.
The bread came accompanied with a harsh but pleasant balsamic vinegar and a luxuriously thick olive oil, we dipped and tore to our hearts’ content. Simultaneously, our two starters were brought out and the strange menu options looked even more so when paired together in front of us. On one side of the table we had a rustic lamb and rosemary sausage roll, and on the other, a Thai squid salad. I started by taking a piece of lightly battered squid in my fingers and biting into it, feeling nervous that it may be chewy and inedible. However, in contrast, I was met with the purest perfection. I had never tasted squid cooked so well, even on the shores of Italy and Spain, and I immediately knew I needed to compliment the chef. Underneath the generous portion of beautiful squid, lay rice noodles mixed with strips of carrot and chilli, and large leaves of fresh coriander.
After being so blown away by the hit Thai starter, I wasn’t sure I wanted to move on but the flaky pastry of the sausage roll was rather tempting. The strong deep flavour of the lamb meat was classically paired with rosemary — in my mind a winning combination — and the pastry that encased this marriage was excellently golden and buttery. We reluctantly shared the slices and fought over the spicy burnt onion ketchup that was spread on the plate.
Once we had finished our starters, we wondered how we were going to attack the large pizzas that we knew were on their way. But, we felt relaxed, un-rushed, and comfortable in our seats and eagerly shazammed songs, such as ‘Up & Down’ by Urbs & Cutex, from the playlist that felt like it had been made personally for us. The music was not too loud though, like some of restaurants and bars that offensively blast out songs that nobody really wants to hear.
Our pizzas arrived, and the look of them made our stomachs feel empty and ready to be filled again. The sourdough crusts looked hearty and the amount of gooey cheese and colourful toppings were plentiful. Our pancetta and brie choice was so indulgent we quickly felt our bellies bulging again, but due to sheer love for the combination, we powered on for as long as possible. Our second pizza was topped with mushrooms, truffle oil, and, our added extra of sun blushed tomatoes. The result was, again, outstanding. The mushrooms gave us the earthy flavour we had ordered this pizza for, but the bursting pockets of tomato gave a freshness that took our mouthfuls to a whole new level. We struggled to finish, despite being completely in love with this new pizza heaven we had found, but it just meant we could take some home in cardboard boxes to fight over the next day.