Levenshulme residents who remember That Cafe on the A6, will also remember the sense of loss when it closed. It was a wonderful place to go out for dinner that served delicious, locally sourced, seasonal food to Levy residents and diners from further afield.
With the advent of Trove, POD (a deli situated in the old Post Office, which I wrote about in April last year) and Levy Market, it became possible to track down mouthwatering lunchtime treats, and the occasional nighttime special, amongst the endless takeaways that the area is known for. But, your mission would be much more difficult if you wanted a reliable place to eat in the evening.
Until now that is.
Levenshulme residents were dealt a blow when they learned that POD was closing; a particular shame given that it had only completed its refurbishment at the beginning of 2015.
Yet, as the saying goes, when a door closes, a window opens, and a blummin’ exciting window it is.
Neil Buttery, owner of The Buttery, director of Levy Market, and runner up in the Telegraph / Aldi Fabulous Foodie 2015 competition, seized the opportunity and kick started the new year by announcing that, in partnership with fellow Levenshulme resident Brian Shields, he would be managing POD.
Having sampled delectable treats from The Buttery kitchen at a recent pudding club, I was excited and judging by the plethora of supportive comments on Facebook, I was not alone.
The Buttery takeover of POD happened quickly and the new restaurant opened its doors on 12 January. It’s been a quiet and unassuming process; one which would be easy to miss if you don’t have a connection to Levenshulme. But that’s the beauty of it; starting small and building on plans to develop over time.
Aside from a lick of paint and a slight furniture reshuffle, when it comes to the interior at POD, not much has changed. The controversial flowered wall paper has been painted over and there are new pictures on the walls. The post office street names remain. But something has happened to the ambience. It has become a cosy place from which to enjoy the heartiest of food. The boy and I seized a rare free Saturday night to check it out, confident that we would be in for a treat.
The place was full to bursting, but luckily we’d anticipated a wait and allowed ourselves plenty of time. We were happy to prop up the bar, sip our drinks and soak up the atmosphere until a table was available. I happened to comment that the introduction of a bar stool or two would have made the process a little more comfortable, only to be reliably informed that these are soon on the way. The staff went out of their way to make sure we were happy while we waited.
Eventually a family managed to drag themselves away, prompted more by an exhausted child than any desire on their part to leave, and we had our table.
Work still needs to be done to make the kitchen fully operational so, in the meantime, a limited menu is available, which is proving all that is necessary to get people to venture out on even the snowiest of nights. Each dish has been lovingly prepared by hand and stays true to Neil Buttery’s aim of sourcing and creating traditional recipes to showcase the best of British food.
I ordered the 19th century lamb curry. The best way to describe it is a cross between an Indian curry and a hearty stew. It didn’t have the heat that we have come to expect from Indian curries, but offered a gentle warmth and depth of flavour. I asked Neil about it afterwards and he said that the recipe had been developed in Victorian England to bring the flavours of India to our dinner tables.
The boy, nostalgic for our French cycle ride, opted for the cassoulet. I’ve heard cassoulet described as posh stew, which, in my view, fails to do it justice. It’s a typically French dish, characterised by pork, duck and beans. The Buttery version, whilst more blended in consistency than the chunky cassoulet we enjoyed in the heart of France, incorporated pork belly, smoked ham hock and Toulouse sausages, which gave it a delicious, smoky, meaty flavour that was incredibly satisfying.
Despite our filing main courses, we both managed to make room for pudding – separate stomach and all that!
I nabbed the last portion of sticky toffee pudding and the boy, who had wanted the same, settled for the Muscat trifle. If you could call it settling. He said it was gorgeous and I didn’t get a look in.
Sticky toffee pudding is usually a dish that I struggle to finish but this was so light in texture that I could almost have eaten it again. The toffee sauce was rich and sticky and sort of crystallised on the spoon. I unashamedly licked off every last morsel – heavenly.
Despite our meaty mains, there are several vegetarian options available and a vegan sharing board, so everyone is catered for. It sounds like there will be even more choice as the place establishes itself – although I have to say, I like the limited menu. No doubt the food will change with the seasons, which should mean there is plenty to keep us going back for more.
Looking to the future, Neil hinted at the possibility of his pudding clubs and other supper clubs being held at POD once the restaurant has found its feet. And there is already talk of expansion and even a hint of a suggestion of fine dining (I’m keeping my fingers firmly crossed on that front!)
This is, without doubt, a venture to support. Pop in for lunch after a wander round the market (when it reopens in March), get off a stop early from the train in to town and indulge in coffee and cake, or make an evening of it – just make sure you ring ahead to reserve a table.
It’s early days but I sense this place is going to be a hit.
The Buttery at POD: 30 Albert Rd, Manchester, M19 2FP, Tel: 0161 248 7990