As central Manchester becomes bigger, bolder and more Dubai-like by the day, it’s time to start looking further afield for those charming, independent venues that used to define areas like the Northern Quarter a mere decade ago. Inventery is exactly that. (That spelling mistake in the name is intentional, it’s a portmanteau of inventive and drinkery.)
The menu is small but punchy, like Stockport’s own Ricky Hatton
The venue itself is beautiful, all cosy nooks and open spaces, perfect for romantic dates and group outings alike. No surprise considering the people behind it are big cheeses in the architecture world, according to the young but marvellously clued-in manager we spoke to during our visit.
Speaking of well-respected Northerners, the new head chef is a local lad who cut his teeth working at The Jane Eyre, the exceptional restaurant-slash-bar in Ancoats we checked out a few months ago. And that’s the standard you can expect here, except with a lot more elbow room.
The cocktail menu is pretty special, and the eager connoisseur could easily spend a good few dozen happy hours working their way through the entire menu. As it is, I opt for the What Rhymes With Banana, and hereby declare it the finest cocktail I’ve had in months. A zero-waste concoction of banana peel-infused Diplomatico rum, banana demerara, Banane du Bresil and cocoa bitters, it somehow tastes like an elegant booze-addled version of that banana sweet that food boffins claim tastes nothing like real banana. Magic.
As for food, the menu is small but punchy, like Stockport’s own Ricky Hatton. There are vegan, veggie and gluten-free options, alongside the meat and fish plates, split across small plates and bar snacks, plus there’s a separate breakfast menu that I intend to return to explore.
From the very affordable bar snacks section, the pan con tomate is a hearty treat. Fresh crushed tomatoes and herbs, spread across a thick crunchy slab of bread. It’s a fine addition to any day of drinking, as are the fried potatoes and aioli, a mightily filling vegan dish, all delicious little crunchy tendrils and piping hot potato flesh.
As good as they are, things shift up a gear when you dig into the small plates menu. The pork belly is glorious – soft, flakey meat, topped with an impressively thick layer of crackling and lying in a pool of close-your-eyes-and-groan-with-pleasure fennel and burnt onion gravy.
The buttermilk chicken thighs are basically the best pieces of fried chicken for miles around. The gochujang mayo is a treat, but dip them in the pork belly gravy for the ultimate double-meat taste receptor explosion.
Need a break from all that meatiness? The chargrilled hispi cabbage is a mighty vegan plate, full of flavours (harissa, lime dressing and hazelnuts) and crispy and soft textures. It doesn’t just look awe-inspiring, it tastes it too.
If you’re hankering for beef, the 6oz sirloin steak is a crowd-pleaser. Served pink with an appealing dark crust, it comes with a drizzle of aji verde, aka a spicy Peruvian green sauce, made with coriander, chilis and mayonnaise.
There’s only one dessert to pick but fear not, it’s a winner. Bread and butter pudding, made from leftover croissants and pastries, topped with a silky smooth dollop of vanilla ice cream. It’s a soft, bouncy, springy take on the British classic, and possibly the best in the North.
If Inventery was in Ancoats, you could guarantee it’d be abuzz with London-based broadsheet food critics declaring it one of Manchester’s best venues. Of course, these lazy big beasts rarely venture more than five minutes from Piccadilly train station, so expect it to remain one of Stockport’s best-kept secrets for the foreseeable. If you’re a fan of the cleverly-crafted modern European dishes available at restaurants like 10 Tib Lane and Another Hand, this is one for you.