It’s that time of year when all the food vendors in the land jump on the festive bandwagon and release a Christmas range of goods. They inevitably vary in quality, from your sad Boots own brand Christmas meal deal, to the more lavish holiday season spreads provided by the likes of Tariff and Dale and The Wharf.
One of these many places is Northern Soul, the cheese toastie site of holy worship that’s nestled just behind the Arndale. All pilgrims that have ventured there know precisely how good their cheese toasties are, including Justin Bieber, who once bought 100 grilled cheeses (bloody Americans) for him and his crew when he was on tour in Manchester.Photo: The Mancunion
All of their toasties start off with the ‘soul’, a secret three-cheese blend that the owners will take with them to the grave. After that, the menu is rife with experimentation, with additions such as mac and cheese in the ‘mac attack’, and, if that wasn’t enough for you, the ‘pig on a lead’, which combines mac and cheese with bbq pulled pork, and has been given the rubber stamp of approval by none other than Man VS Food.
I’ve been a holy disciple of Northern Soul since its opening, as there is nothing more indulgent and comforting than melted cheese and bread, and they are the best in the business. So as soon as the Christmas tunes started blaring on Market Street, I knew I had to give their new range a try.
They have a whopping five new Christmas sandwiches: ‘Brie wish you a merry Christmas’ — The ‘soul’ with ooozy brie, smoked streaky bacon and of course cranberry sauce, for £6.
Then they have the ‘festive feta’, their yuletide option for veggies, the ‘ham amazing grace’, and the ‘pig out of blanket’.Photo: The Mancunion
Then finally, there’s the pièce de résistance: ‘The crimbo dinner’. This is the ‘soul’ with best crown of turkey, pink lady stuffing and cranberry sauce, finished with a gravy-soaked pig in blanket lollipop all for £7 (and you can add a gravy pot as a dip for £1).
I opted to try two, because I have no self-restraint.Photo: The Mancunion
The first one I tried was the massive ‘Crimbo dinner’. Now, I’m a massive fan of salty food, and for me, this was bang on. As my boyfriend, who stole half of it, said: “It’s a typical chain chicken’n’stuffing sandwich, amplified by ten!” However, the price is amplified too — £7 for toastie seems a bit mental. But given its mouth-watering description, I wanted to see if it was worth it.
The cranberry sauce cut through the richness and salty-ness of the meat and the cheese, providing a really nice balance to the sandwich. Unfortunately, the turkey was slightly dry, which was disappointing. I opted to give them the benefit of the doubt, however, as it was the end of the day, and it may have been less so if I’d gotten one when they first opened.
My main qualm with the toastie was that the stuffing, usually the main event of any Christmas dinner, was completely and utterly lost in the strong flavours of the rest of the sandwich. The pink lady stuffing should have had a distinct taste of apple, but it was difficult to locate when everything else was so overwhelming.
I then moved on to the ‘brie wish you a merry Christmas’. Now, this was a toastie I could get down with. The flavours were a match made in heaven (apt given the aforementioned pilgrimage status of the vendor). It was simpler than the ‘crimbo dinner’ but ultimately the flavours were so complementary and delicious that it could only be the better of the two.
Now, these sandwiches had to be washed down with one of their festive milkshakes. I had the gingerbread milkshake — other than the marshmallows being so stale that I almost chipped my teeth, it was perfect. It was as though someone had put Christmas in a cup, as the cinnamon and ginger were in perfect harmony, and surprisingly it wasn’t sickeningly sweet. However, at £5 a pop, it’s difficult to justify at any other time than Christmas.Photo: The Mancunion
My overall verdict? I think the quality of the majority of their ingredients are insanely good and whatever you do to a cheese toastie it’s likely to be comforting, but on a student budget, £7 for a sandwich you could basically get in Sainsbury’s is a bit steep. But maybe I’d be more convinced if I tried the other three…