There is one place in Manchester I turn to every time I’m unsure about where to go for food and drink, and that is the Northern Quarter. Whether it be for soya lattes at the huge selection of independent coffee shops, a big hearty breakfast, or lunch and dinner with friends in the evening.
Oh, and you’ll usually find me scoping out the R&B music at Terrace, Lost in Tokyo and GBA if I venture to Manchester on a Saturday night!
One place that never fails me is Pen and Pencil, nestled towards the back of the Northern Quarter on the route to Ancoats. I’ve had many a cocktail here, and also enjoyed the bottomless brunch here a year or so ago.
When I heard they had a new menu and I was invited to visit, I jumped at the chance. It always has this friendly, laid back vibe, filled with freelancers in the day and younger crowds at night.
So I took my Mum along with me to give their menu a go for a 1pm lunchtime sitting, to check it out and see what I thought…
As usual, the atmosphere and ambience was lovely. Warm lights, not too busy, and greeted by friendly staff as always. We took to our seats on the long wooden benches and browsed the food and drink menu. We decided to treat ourselves to a cheeky cocktail after our meal, so I went for a Mint Tea to warm me up a little!
They have a more focused and dedicated list of cocktails now, instead of pages and pages which can get a little confusing. But I’ll touch on the one I selected later, which was potentially one of the nicest and unique cocktails I’ve had this year!
I’ve included a snap below of the menu, although it is actually a lot larger than this. But here you can see some of the main courses which act as great options for lunch or dinner.
So I did pick the Chickpea Curry first, which sadly they were out of. Which wasn’t too much of a problem, because luckily I had option B ready. As I always say in my whatemmadid.com food reviews, I’m by no means a vegetarian, but I do love a good hearty veggie dish!
So option B was the Seasonal Vegetable Stew, with onion, plum tomatoes, butternut squash, chickpeas, beetroot and parsley – a good old warming stew dish!
As you can see, the vegetable stew was rich in plum tomatoes and beetroot, giving it this killer deep red colour! I don’t think I’ve ever had a stew so vibrant and bold before.
The taste was delicious – huge chunks of veg, with butternut squash being the hero chunky ingredient – in a rich tasty stew that didn’t taste like anything I’ve had before. Strong tastes of beetroot sweetened with the tomatoes and slightly herby with the parsley.
I ordered a side of Cajun Baked Okra, which come with garlic, lemon juice and cajun. OK so confession time: I’d never heard of Okra before?! Yes, a food blogger who has never heard of Okra before. I’m ashamed!
For those similar to be (shame on you, haha!) Baked Okra is kinda of like long green peppers, they have a similar taste yet a little tougher. When baked in herbs and spices, they are incredibly tasty and a healthier side dish to order over my usual fries!
My Mum always opts for a fish dish if she can, so she was delighted to see the Panfried Seabass with Cheesy Spinach Dumplings, Baby Potatoes and Courgettes on the side. It’s not often my mum raves about a dish, but this one she was overly satisfied with. A huge portion, and a lovely, soft portion of Seabass which she thoroughly enjoyed.
We finished with our cocktails, in which my Mum went for Happy Birthday Mr President – a London Dry Gin based cocktail with triple sec, fruit tea, dandelion and burdock and lemon. A very fruity, sweet one!
As for me, I love anything with a strong coffee taste with a touch of sweetness, so I went for something as close to this as I could get. So up came the It Takes The Biscuit – a strong, short cocktail with tequila, creme de cacao, espresso liqueur and ginger syrup, complete with a toasted ginger biscuit.
I literally raved about this drink to the bartender, who told me this was actually one of his own creations for the menu!
If you go to Pen and Pencil: get it!
A huge thank you to the team for looking after us. Prices are always reasonable, service speedy and friendly, and we had an enjoyable afternoon.