A new restaurant landed in the northern quarter last week looking rather like a classy pizza place. Walking past I see tables and so forth but no indication of what it's called other than some very squiggly bits of red neon. What does it say? Dougal? Dongh? Dough!
A cold and hungry Sunday evening arrived and buoyed by the shout-out from Sarah Hartley earlier in the day I thought that instead of sitting at home and eating noodles, bacon, veg and peanut butter again I'll brave the cold and go check it out. I dithered at the door and thought I'd pop in to Trof for a quiet drink while I try and rustle up some kind of companion with whom to test Dough. Then I saw a nameless bar. What's this? Oh it's actually part of Dough, but it's a bar. Inside they reliably inform me that it's called Apotheca and that the sign will arrive next week. The bar is dark and classy and typical Northern Quarter, all cocktails-and-kegs. They have a huge photograph of some sheep on one wall and fittings lovingly reconstructed to look like an old chemist. The aesthetic is that characterised by the Mighty Boosh as "elements from the past and the future combining to make something not quite as good as either". I sneer slightly but it's quite pleasant and I look the part with my laptop and pint of Peterman. It's a mash-up!
My search for a companion drew a blank - albeit a blank with a promise to do something else some other time. So it's just me. I sat, chatted with a friend who had walked in looking for a job (though didn't try to entice him into dining as he has a gig next-door) and perused the menu. My mate assured me that the cocktail menu was pretty diverse and that (in his professional experience) you don't just don't get that in many places round here - perhaps in "socio-rehab" but that's it. I remain non-plussed. The food menu by contrast was pretty much pizza and pasta but with one or two interesting twists here and there. Moroccan pizzas, special-dietary versions - gluten or dairy free.
So I want some food. There are big glass doors between the bar and the restaurant however they remain rather closed and with half a pint in my hand all I can do is knock and beckon at a waitress on the other side who acknowledges me and vanishes. Seconds later she emerges from a door and explains that I have to follow her down some stairs where there is another bar, past the toilets and into the restaurant. This makes me realise quite how huge it is as the already capacious upstairs dining area extends into another relatively big space downstairs. Upstairs it now has only two other people in it (excluding staff) and was rather cold. I know it's a false economy to run the heating when there's no-one in a place but however ecologically sound the reasoning might be it's not nice. The other couple still had their scarves on. We all know that an empty restaurant is never a good advertisement for itself particularly when the windows are so big so they've really got to get some bodies in here somehow and keep em warm.
Starters - cured meats in a red wine sauce. Read bits of various hot salami-type-things in a pool of liquid - dirty but nonetheless very very tasty. I must reek of garlic now - could perhaps have done with a bit more bread to soak up that sauce (again there's the European in me coming out) but terribly tasty and enjoyable with the various chunks seeming to have radically different flavours.
Then I had gnocchi with bits of beef. The gnocchi themselves perhaps a little soft but in general very passable with strips of tender beef, sundried tomatoes and a heaping of mozzarella on top. It was pretty heavy, but then it's supposed to be heavy.
Ultimately my verdict is that they need to decide one way or the other as to how integrated the two halves of the place are. On a Friday or Saturday night it may make sense to treat them as distinct entities but on a Sunday when it's quiet there is no reason why they shouldn't open up the doors and let people travel through. And if you're eating it shouldn't be great shakes to put the bar bill on the tab with your food. It's early days yet and there are clearly teething issues to be worked out but if it can run slickly with a few hundred people in there it will certainly fill a gap in the Northern Quarter eatery ecology. Provide them with the bodies they need and check it out.
It's all just one big restau-rant...
- ► 2009 (12)
- ▼ 2008 (8)