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The Oxnoble is reputed to be Manchester’s second oldest licensed pub. And that’s the thing to bear in mind – it is a pub.
So firstly to the name, where does it come from? Well remove any ideas of beasts of burden from your mind. Formerly The Coopers it is now named for the Oxnoble potato. Not one I’d ever heard of I’ll admit but it would appear it was the Maris Piper of its day and the volume of them taken off the boats at Potato Wharf, barrowed past, and sold over the road from the pub led to the regulars renaming it. And according to Alex who runs the place, they believe they are the only pub in the UK named after a potato. This association and the idea of a traditional pub is what The Oxnoble would like to return to.
Gastropub then? Yes. If by that you mean a pub that takes its food seriously and not a restaurant that has a little bar area. The Oxnoble is still somewhere that you can go and get a drink and not feel like you’re in a restaurant. The exposed brick pillars, the low-lit feel, the open fire and the lack of a television screen help to give The Oxnoble a country pub feeling right in the city centre.
On this visit I was joined by my brother who is no less shy of a good plate of food than me. The Oxnoble has a menu from which you can get a couple of courses for a tenner as well as a selection of Pub favourites. In addition to this, and in an effort to allow head chef Richard Davies the opportunity to play with a host different ingredients, there is the daily specials menu. The freedom to be able to work with suppliers like Out of the Blue or Penny’s when they have a particular ingredient, means Richard can chop and change this menu and keep it interesting.
For example on the menu on our visit was Roast Teal as a starter or Braised Venison Shank as a main course option. Items that you may struggle to find on a restaurant menu. The Teal was served with black pudding mash and chocolate red cabbage which while it all was delicious to taste, a little crispiness on the black pudding would have just added a bit of texture. The Venison was served with bubble & squeak, pancetta, roast root vegetables and a red wine jus. The sweetness of the vegetables countered the ever so slightly bitter jus and the tender venison combined with the crispy, salty pancetta made for a delicious meal.
Having also tried the Mussels Marinieres and the Gressingham Duck, we probably could and should have stopped here, but certainly yours truly does not like to turn down dessert. So on we went….
I opted for the Vanilla Panna cotta while my brother chose the Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake. Both were really nicely presented and were polished off without much fuss.
The Oxnoble then is a pub. A gastropub. But not necessarily with all the connotations associated with that tag. They will also ensure you do not leave hungry, in fact I would advise only opting for two courses unless the portion size is slightly reduced. The mussels I had as a starter (especially when accompanied with four huge slices of bread) would have done as a main and the amount of potato served with the Teal would also have filled up many smaller bellied people than me and my brother. From my own point of view this is not necessarily a problem but I reckon in reducing portion size slightly Alex and Richard might tempt more people into the selection of fantastic looking desserts and perhaps beyond into the selection of cheeses from Saddleworth Cheese Company.
Will I be back? Almost certainly. In fact with a certain wine event happening just across the road in early December I think this maybe the perfect way to end that particular day.