I normally venture to the Northern Quarter for Breakfast/Brunch/Lunch types of meals and so I was very excited to actually visit this part of Manchester for dinner and try out the new evening menu at Pen & Pencil. I had a quick sneaky peak at what was on offer beforehand, because I could probably class reading menus as one of my favourite hobbies, and was taken by the delicious sounding fish and sea food options. Comprised of a collection of both ‘small plates’ and ‘large plates’ you can opt for the traditional starter and main course combination or alternatively a selection of different ‘small plates’ in a tapas style. I will apologise in advance that my photos are not up to scratch but the lighting – which was perfect for an evening meal out- just wasn’t great for photo taking!
When we first stepped inside the restaurant, the loudness of the band was slightly overwhelming but we were shown round the back to the restaurant area and it become a little less dominating. Going for an evening meal at a place that is also a popular bar (especially on a Saturday night which is when we were there) can mean that noise is an issue so it was nice to see there was a separate restaurant section. With the faint beat of the music drifting in and out of ear shot and the excited chatter and laughter than filled the room, the vibe was perfect for a relaxed evening and it set the mood brilliantly for a lovely, chilled out evening meal.
We started by ordering ourselves a cocktail. I felt in need of a bit of a pick me up so I went for The Fixer Upper, which is the Pen & Pencil’s twist on an espresso martini. It came beautifully presented with chocolate shavings on top and looked just like something you would order in a coffee shop. It was delicious. Tom went for the Benton’s Old Fashioned which was comprised of smoked Buffalo Trace Bourbon, maple syrup and chocolate bitters. I have an extremely sweet tooth so I absolutely loved the addition of the syrup. The drink also came with a bit of a twist… a slice of bacon! But if you love the bacon and maple syrup combo then this was a brilliant idea.
I was really tempted to go for lots of tapas style plates but I also wanted to try something from the main menu so we opted for starters and a main. I went for the Crab and Avocado to start. I will 99% of the time opt for crab if it is on the menu and avocado is always a winner. The dish came beautifully presented with some rye bread on the side and the flavours went so well together. It was a lovely, fresh starter and my only critique is that it was perhaps a little on the big side. If you’ve a large appetite though then the portion sizes would be spot on. Tom went for the Lobster Bisque. It came in the cutest little pot with bread to dip in.
I went for the Spiced Cajun Chicken dish which came with a mixed leaf salad, avocado (yes more avocado :D) and smoked feta. It was really really delicious and the spiced Cajun and smoked feta flavours went well together whilst being accompanied by the more subtle salad flavours. Tom decided to try the Buns of Anarchy, which was three mini burgers – a Beef and Mozzarella, King Prawn and Asian Style Slaw, and Grilled halloumi. They looked fantastic arranged together on the board with a side of fries.
Our meal at Pen and Pencil was the perfect relaxed Saturday Night activity complete with delicious and hearty food and a brilliant menu of options. I think it would make a great place to come with a group too. I will also note that The Pen & Pencil is a lovely place to come for food during the day too. They do a fantastic brunch which I would highly recommend!