Food & Drink

Review: Ply @ Northern Quarter, Manchester

Gourmet fast-food is a trend that just doesn’t seem to be running out of steam with restaurants opening here, there and everywhere, boasting that they do the best burgers to hot dogs to ribs.

Ultimately though, 95% of the time you’ll eat at these places and be disappointed, as they simply can’t live up to expectations.

But the team behind the award winning Kosmonaut bar in NQ is looking to change all that, with a dash of modesty and a hint of style, by adding to Stevenson’s Square’s ever-growing foodie scene, with their next offering – Ply.

Ply looks to offer Neapolitan style food in a Scandinavian style setting – but this was no Ikea showroom, far from it.

White-washed walls and cork floors give the place a minimalistic and European feel, but with nods to Manchester’s industrial past with exposed brickwork and to contrast the look a beautiful Victorian exterior Victorian.

And as the name insinuates everything inside the restaurant is made of plywood – most of the furnishings and décor are bespoke and handmade.

The venue boasts a wood fired clay oven and offers eleven sourdough pizzas (£8-£12), with a few specials added to their menu at the weekend.

Ply also does antipasti (£2.50-£8), which aim to compliment the main menu.

Drinks wise they promote a variety of Continental beers, as well as concise cocktail and wine menus, with the most expensive bottle of wine coming to just over £25.

We opted for two cocktails to start us off called Kid in a sweet shop (£6.50 each) – sweet by name, sweet by nature.

It proved to be very nostalgic and tooth numbingly sugary. For some it may seem too much but for anyone with a sweet tooth, such as myself, it was a delight tasting of palma violets and bubblegum.

For food, we started with a heritage tomato salad, which was garnished with sourdough croutons, basil and balsamic vinegar (£5).

Unfortunately the main component of the dish, the tomatoes, lacked any sweet flavour or complexity.

They have been widely perceived to be more flavourful than modern tomatoes, but on this occasion, that wasn’t the case.

On Manchester night of torrential downpour, it certainly didn’t transport me to sun-drenched Italy or even an occasionally sunny summer at home. The lack of seasonality might explain this.

The sourdough croutons were okay, and the addition of the classical basil and balsamic vinegar lifted the dish somewhat, but on the whole it seemed to lack seasoning – a rather underwhelming start.

However Ply look to their pizza to be at centre stage and it didn’t disappoint.

My wife opted for the quirky sounding smoked pig cheek and artichoke pizza (£12).

The pig cheek, quite an underused cut, was smoked and cut into lardons. Smokey, meaty, salty, it was a perfect pairing for the artichokes, which were bursting full of flavour.

Marinated in vinegar, garlic and fresh herbs, it was a delicious mix of toppings on top of the wonderful sourdough pizza base with mozzarella and tomato sauce.

Considering her visits to Italy, she said: “I’d go as far as saying that this is the best pizza I’ve ever had!”

Glowing praise indeed.

I opted for the ‘Nduja pizza (£10.50). The fiery pork paste from Calabria, Southern Italy, ‘Nduja is a wonderful thing on its own.

The chili heat from the sausage, partnered with the classic pizza toppings and fresh, peppery rocket leaves was spectacular.

There were a couple of teething problems, but these should be overlooked considering how new the eatery is.

The staff were friendly and welcoming and were obviously excited about the concept.

After having two cocktails, beers, pizzas and a salad, the bill came to just under £50, which is incredibly reasonable considering the food and service Ply is offering.

In months to come I can only see it growing in popularity and fitting seamlessly into the diverse NQ foodie scene. 

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