I learnt a new expression for ‘pouring with rain’ this week. For years I’ve been using ‘sheeting rain’ to describe the kind of downpour where the water bounces off the pavement and into your face. Living in Manchester, this has been an oft-employed phrase.
But I’d not heard of the Geordie choice of words for a Northern monsoon before. From this moment forward, I shall refer to torrential rain as ‘it’s stotting down’.
I could have done with this language when I visited the Green Oak Bistro in Swinton. Unlike my lunch companion (“I’m wearing my new boots, we are going to South Manchester after all”), I was woefully underprepared for the dash from my Ford Fiesta to the Thai/Mediterranean restaurant on Chorley Road. I hadn’t even packed a cagoule.
As I squelched into the warm embrace of the Green Oak Bistro, I felt my stress levels wane. On a wet and miserable Thursday, this small yet welcoming eaterie ticked all the right boxes. Busy but not heaving, friendly yet not overbearing, fragrant but not overwhelming. And….relax.
Owned by Ladda and boasting a menu replete with family recipes (Moo Tam Tok anyone?), it felt like the perfect place to fill your boots (well, my friend’s boots, anyway). We plumped for the lunch menu (a bargain at just £9.50 for a starter and a main).
While I let Green Oak Rolls melt in my mouth (a special of the house – Thai spring rolls brimming with vegetables and flavour and infinitely more preferable to the chewy spring rolls so often served up in similar establishments), my pal enjoyed warm roast peppers, served with just enough feta to balance the sweetness of the peppers. It all augured well for the main course.
For a lunch menu, there was a surprisingly large choice of dishes including Panang Curry, Massaman Curry, and Green Oak Fried Rice. But the Pad Krapao (Thai Basil) with tofu had caught my eye. Tofu is a tricky one: overcook it and you’ll be chewing til kingdom come. Undercook the bugger and you’ll mistake it for phlegm. Thankfully, this tofu was a nice happy medium, and the light, fresh meal was marred only by the oversized slices of onion which brought tears to my eyes. And the sticky rice wasn’t up to scratch – more of a glutinous lump than fluffy and moist. This was the biggest disappointment in an otherwise splendid two courses. If a Thai restaurant can’t get sticky rice right, what’s the world coming to?
My dining companion fared better with the grilled sea bass, declaring it “beautifully cooked with outstanding veg”. Apparently, the tomato was in “a perfect state of collapse” while the asparagus was cooked properly but retained a “bite”.
Needless to say, we were too stuffed to attempt dessert, making do with tea and coffee. By this time, the rain had abated, allowing an uninterrupted view of the majestic Salford Civic Centre over the road. That’s one of the things I love most about the North. One minute you’re sat having a cuppa in an unassuming row of inner city shops, the next you’re gazing at a neo-classical style building with a clock tower 40 ft up in the air.
I later discovered that work began on the former Swinton Town Hall in 1936 and it was subsequently awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects. Bits have been added to it over the years but the building retains its grandeur and completely dominates this busy thoroughfare – in a good way.
So, all thoughts of sticky rice aside, would I return to this welcoming wee place on Chorley Road? You betcha.