PLY, 26 Lever Street, Manchester, M1 1DW – Visit Now
Stevenson Square in the Northern Quarter has plenty of dining and drinking options but as a combination pizzeria, bar, café and exhibition space, PLY is unique. The main dining room is large and open, the space hedged by distressed brickwork and huge windows which give out onto the always-fun-to-watch human traffic passing by. There are long, sociable tables meant for groups of friends and there are two-seaters for privacy. Above all this is a jungle canopy of light bulbs and low-hanging lamps which make the room feel more homely.
The waft of pizza and the soft music are the final pieces in an atmospheric puzzle that makes it one of the most welcoming pizzerias in Manchester. It’s easy to imagine that this would be an ideal place for a Christmas party, which is handy because we’re here to try the upcoming Christmas menu.
Maybe the most welcoming of all the current pizzerias in Manchester
As with all Christmas events, the drinks come first and at PLY the huge, well-serviced bar in the centre offers a wide selection of wine, independent beers and cocktails like the Melon Blush; a tall, cool thing with more booze than Oddbins and the appealing look of a candy floss jelly bean.
The starters are light but rich, typical Italian salads of tomatoes and vibrant roots doused liberally in olive oil and citrus. The heirloom tomato salad comes at the perfect (room) temperature and it’s as sweet as if the contents had just been plucked from Campania at the end of a long summer.
On the second plate, there are candied and golden beetroots laid out carpaccio style, their earthiness balanced out by the sweetness of maple syrup coated walnuts and umami-heavy goat’s cheese. You could eat it with cutlery but why do that when you can just roll the slices up like tacos? These dishes are a real highlight.
The Fairytale Of Napoli pizza features little roast potatoes and the controversial addition of raw sprouts
The main courses are strictly pizza, but they cover plenty of options – everything from tomatoes and truffle oil to pizza bianca with pears and herbs. We order the fun-sounding Fairytale of Napoli from the Christmas menu, along with a white Colonnata that promises dollops of cheese and some extra fat in the form of pesto and lardo.
Good quality Neapolitan pizza dough should be chewy and charred, aerated with more bubbles than Drake’s table in the VIP. When they arrive it’s clear that they’re going to hit the mark. Both dishes are generously heaped with toppings. The Fairytale features little roast potatoes and the controversial addition of raw sprouts. This isn’t going to appeal to everyone but the concept is fun and it actually adds a nice bitter note. The Colonnata on the other hand groans under the amount of cheese and fruity garlic loaded onto its back. It’s guaranteed to stimulate dreams which make you flail with madness in the night – it’s a serious piece of work.
The Colonnata is guaranteed to stimulate dreams which make you flail with madness in the night
At our waitress’s approving confirmation that the pizza dolce is large enough to share as a dessert, we opt for that, expecting nothing bigger than a slice of toast. What arrives, however, is another full-size pizza with enough Nutella, tart raspberries and delicate mascarpone cream to sink a gondola, let alone feed two people already peaking on a cheese high.
We attack it with gusto though because it’s slathered liberally in chocolate spread and it would be impossibly rude not to. I’ve been sceptical about the idea of sweet pizza in the past, but admit I may have been wrong. In context, this is a fun and delicious way to end an enjoyable meal then roll out like barrels into the night.
While purists may consider it sacrilege, it’s fun and tastes good
The Christmas menu, along with its potentially divisive pizza topping, is available from November, and while purists may consider it sacrilege, it’s fun and tastes good. The menu and the venue both present an alternative to people taking themselves too seriously at the one point in the year when we should all be lightening up. Ultimately questions of whether things are “authentic” are a dreary bit of chicanery – it just needs to be good. And it is.