Jonathan Schofield has a fine time reminiscing in Cutting Room Square
NAM is an ideal neighbourhood restaurant. Ancoats is becoming the ideal city centre neighbourhood. Ancoats and Nam should get on very well.
The restaurant interior is as sharp as a pin, especially on the ground floor, with the long horizontals of the bar and back bar taking the eye to the windows and out to the charming Cutting Room Square.
The Vietnamese food from Vietnamese owners is equally as sharp, although I’m no authority on Vietnamese food. The closest I’ve ever been to Vietnam is Apocalypse Now. Or maybe that occasion about fifteen years ago when, in my role as a tour guide, I took round a man who claimed to be a Vietnamese cabinet minister.
The 'minister' was in a private minibus, with a translator, and there were three other lackeys who looked like they could look after themselves, plus a bewildered British driver. There was no name attached to the ‘big man’, as the translator called him, which amused me because the ‘big man’ was five foot nothing. The job had been booked through third parties and the fact he was staying in the Britannia Hotel, that doss-house on Portland Street, made me suspect the guy wasn’t all he seemed.
This was best expressed when, after half an hour of the tour, he sighed and said something to the translator who said to me: “The big man wants to know where he can find a girl?” I knew what he meant, but played dumb. “What type of girl?” I said. “A prostitute,” said the translator with a frankness I sort of admired.
“I don’t do those sort of tours,” I laughed. “Tell him that he and his team will have to sort that out themselves.”
The crowd were all locals from the new flats in Ancoats
The translator stared at me and then shouted over to the bewildered driver, “Where can the big man find a prostitute?” “I’m from Chester,” replied the driver, “and I don’t know anything about prostitutes over there, never mind in this city.”
Aside from the whore advice line the ‘big man’ seemed to approve of the tour. The driver whispered to me as it finished, “I’ve been driving them for three days and they ask the guide the same question every time. I don’t know what type of government minister he’s supposed to be.” “Maybe the minister for internal affairs,” I joshed.
I’ve wanted to write that story down for years, so thanks for reading it and now let’s do that review thing. The menu is simplicity itself with vermicelli noodles, salads, spring rolls, summer rolls, and pho.
The pork and prawn summer roll (£5) was superb, loads of flavour through the main ingredients but all freshly encased in a great roll with zingy mint and cleansing lettuce, cucumber and all. The dipping sauces made the summer rolls complete, with the peanut sauce the best by far. Make sure to get this dish.
For mains we went for the friendly phos, chicken and beef (£8). Both broths did the job, packed full with noodles, veg and meat. The stock is gentle so needed the sauces, such as the hoisin, plus the coriander mixed in (the staff advise you to do this). The result is a fabulous filler that mingles subtlety with strength and gives a real lift to the palate.
The service is unfussy, but friendly and full of advice. Nam will do well, and was doing so on this Tuesday in August (even if the sign on the window makes you think they’ve spelt ‘man’ backwards). The crowd were all locals from the new flats in Ancoats, appreciating the value and the smart urban feel of the place.
Cutting Room Square and its environs keep getting better. On a warm summer’s night it was the very picture of a modern European Square, slightly too cluttered with street furniture, but alive with people and all the better for being surrounded by a dense network of buildings.
Nam, 33 Blossom St, Manchester M4 6AJ. Tel: 0161 637 2720.
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Summer roll 8, chicken pho 8, beef pho 8
Lovely atmosphere in a clever design