(Robert Earl Keen)
Cane and Grain is yet another rib restaurant to open in Manchester’s bustling Northern Quarter. It occupies the site of the former ‘Thomas’ restaurant which, I confess, I never tried. It occupies three floors of what is a pretty unimposing building on Thomas Street, which is effectively the backbone of the Northern Quarter.
There are a couple of small tables outside, along with a doorman counting guests in and out.
Inside, I was greeted by a girl who looked like she’d fallen off the ‘Sailor Jerry’ bottle, very retro.
The ground floor is occupied by a ‘skater’ style bar/restaurant which they describe as a ‘Rib Joint & Tap Room’. It’s decorated with, (admittedly up-market) Americana, a tad above the regular junk licence plates you get in other ‘American’ bars.
There’s a bar on the first floor, while the second floor is home to ‘The Liars Lounge’ which describes itself as “the second incarnation of the award winning Tiki Dive Bar and Caribbean Rum Shop”. It was closed on the Tuesday evening when I visited, which is a shame because while I’m sceptical of the whole ‘Tiki’ bar and cocktail scene (there are at least half a dozen ‘Tiki’ bars within a short crawl of Cane and Grain), I am rather partial to a good Caribbean rum.
On the evening I visited, a steaming hot August Tuesday evening, I settled in the corner of the ‘Rib Joint and Tap Room’ and perused the menus. There’s a refreshing selection of draught and bottled beers, along with a small range of cocktails. Food wise it’s a variety of ribs, sauces and accompaniments. Nothing too challenging.
I ordered a rack of baby ribs with a rum sauce (it comes with fries), along with a small side of ‘Truffle Mac and Cheese’ accompanied by a pint of San Miguel lager. The ribs were smoky and caramelised, tender and almost (but not quite) falling off the bone, while the rum sauce was a sweet and sour delight. I bought myself a barbecue/smoker last summer and these are the ribs I will be aspiring to.
I’ve never understood the idea of ‘Mac and Cheese’ as a side dish, and have experienced some pretty horrific stodge served in the name of ‘Mac’ in the past, this, however, was simply delicious. A half-pint enamel mug of macaroni that was almost ‘al dente’ – not soggy and over-cooked – with a light cheesy sauce that had hints of earthy truffle, topped with a cheese crumb and lightly grilled. It was so delicious I almost drank the remaining sauce after I’d devoured the macaroni. Perhaps I should have, maybe that’s why they serve it in a mug?
You know how it is when sometimes you site in a bar or a restaurant and think ‘hmm… if my six numbers came up, I’d quite like to own a place like this’. Well this is one of those; my only regret is that I won’t be spending as much time in Manchester in the future.
Otherwise I’d be a regular.