There is one person who I’ve eaten out with more than any other, a young Mr. Hill. In 2016 we spent 6 weeks in Japan and ate out once, twice, even three times a day. But that’s when we were in the city, the rest of the time we lived in tents at the foot of mountains and shores of lakes.
It’s funny to remember the stark contrast of our indulgent city eating and Spartan camping diet. We had a gas burner and one small pot, for breakfast we only ate rice boiled with a stock cube, like a savoury porridge. We added crunch by picking the wings of beetles, then washed it all down with dew that condensed on palm leaves. Oh Mr. Hill and I saw some things… some say we will see them again one day.
As he was visiting Manchester for the day to see an exhibition, I had the infinite pleasure to dine with Mr. Hill once again.
When reading the canon of restaurant critics in Britain, Dent, O’Loughlin, Coren, Rayner, Maschler, you rarely see anything written about music. Is it not important for them, are they perhaps hard of hearing? Often times the restaurants themselves can seem ambivalent, they put on the radio or a generic playlist, and the whole dining experience suffers for it. But when a restaurant gets it right and whoever is curating the music’s taste aligns with yours, it’s a fine thing.
The newly opened Patron on Oldham Street did just that, an old Nicholas Jaar tune here, some William Onyeabor there. Who knows, maybe it was a Spotify playlist, maybe they have a group of aspirational first year DJ’s locked in a basement somewhere, honing the sounds and subsisting entirely on a diet of Facebook likes and rice. Either way, the music set a wonderful tone.
We drank a 2016 Merlot by Jean de la Roche, which goes for £19 for a bottle or £4.50 for a medium glass. It was gentle, not too strong, sufficiently delicate and very drinkable. We’d come from Common, where we’d been drinking the house ale, and it made me think, if beer is 80mph, then wine is 40mph, but in a far nicer car. This Merlot will get you were you need to go, and at a more comfortable pace.
The menu is split into big and small plates, and between 12-3pm and 5-7pm, 3 small plates will cost you £13.50. This is a really good deal; if you’re out in town and want some ballast whilst drinking, then this is a fantastic way to snack. We had the heritage carrot with red onion, fennel, dukkah, and beetroot. The carrot itself was well cooked, but all the myriad accoutrements stole the show. It was a mixture of charming purees and pickles.
For a meat option, we went for black garlic & chilli shortribs with smoked swede. The ribs were reliable, hearty bits of cow, but I was much more interested in what they were going to do with the swede. We are deep in December and all manner of root vegetables can be found on menus, celeriac, pumpkin, the squashes. But who’s doing swede, who I ask, WHO? Swede tends to conjure images of mixed bags of frozen veg served at school lunches. However, Patron’s swede was presently surprising. It was a soft orange colour with a light texture and sweet taste.
Lastly, we had black pepper tofu with macerated watermelon and cucumber. A classic cooking adage is that you can test a chef a by their eggs, but as Asian food becomes more prevalent amongst menus across Manchester, we now judge chefs by their tofu. It is so easy to have bland and lacking tofu, with a texture that inspires gags. The tofu here was inspired, a wonderful crust on the exterior, complemented beautifully by the cool, waterfall-like refreshment of the watermelon and cucumber. It was really the stand out plate.
The Patron is the latest facet of Hatter Hostel empire. They have conquered a whole block of Stevenson square with West Corner, a brunch joint, a new upmarket hostel, and now Patron. According to the Manchester Evening News, Romin Farahini previously of Hawksmoor, is at the helm of Patron’s kitchen.
We had great service and some genuine personality came through from our waitors. The place has been open two weeks, and it doesn’t really show, as everything appears pretty seamless. Some snag with fish deliveries meant that no seafood was available, but I wasn’t particularly bothered. A venue is opening downstairs in the next few days, so here we have another NQ triple threat of music, food, and drink. But something felt a little different here, the decor was sharp and impressive but it wasn’t overdone. There was no air of pretence, more like confidence in an interior design well done.
All in all, it’s a mighty fine place to be a patron.