Saturday, 9 July 2016

Manchester House, Manchester

Manchester House, Manchester
Way back when, I was an avid viewer of the Great British Menu. We had watched it from the start, but as fine dining exploded in popularity, the contestants got more and more interesting. In 2009 they pitched a chap called Aiden Byrne against one of our faves, Nigel Haworth of Northcote. At 22, Aiden was hailed as the youngest person ever to win a Michelin star, and was destined for great things. We fell in love with his cooking style, and became regulars at his gasto pub, The Church Green in Lymm. 

In 2013, Aiden opened Manchester House with those of the Midas touch, Living Ventures. The hope was for Manchester's first Michelin star since the 1970s. Simon Rogan reopened The French at a similar time, yet unbelievably, neither have convinced the Michelin inspectors that they are worthy of the title of 'very good cooking in (their) category' - yes, it really is that vague. 

Despite having been to Manchester House many times for different reasons, I have never actually eaten in the restaurant. To be honest, we did so much fine dining over a number of years, that we almost got bored of it. We went from flying to Girona for dinner, to just fancying a burger. However, a suitable amount of time has passed, and curiosity got the better of me. 
Manchester House, Manchester
The dining room is decked out in the typical opulence that you would expect from Living Ventures; everything has its place and nothing is there without careful consideration. The open kitchen allows you to watch the team of chefs beavering away, and the dark denim and tweed of the front of house team seems smart, yet welcoming.

I was driving, and experiencing a 'minorly-mard' bottom lip at the thought of not being able to drink cocktails in my favourite bar in town. However, when this was explained to our waitress, she quickly pointed out that they have mocktails for just such an occasion. The alcohol was not missed. Whilst Paddy enjoyed a few craft beers, I opted for a Kiwi Cooler (kiwi, lemon juice and apple juice, topped with lemonade) and a Raspberry Lemonade (raspberries and lemon juice, topped with lemonade).
Manchester House, Manchester
We had decided to try the three course lunch menu, so as no to overdo it. In my experience, three courses very rarely means three in the world of fine dining. There was once an incident where a nineteen course tasting menu at Royal Hospital Road ended up being twenty six, which was wonderful and tragic in equal measure, seeing as the three course at Maze in the same afternoon was actually eight. There's always extra goodies, which I am sure are sent to test you. I couldn't take my shoes off.

So, on to the food.

Nori rice cracker, sweet peas, lemon and goat's curd: So so pretty, yet frighteningly tasty.
Manchester House, Manchester
Carpet clam with lam tartare, broad beans and lovage: The thought of seafood used to send me running for the dunes, however mixed with the raw lamb, this was just beautiful.
Manchester House, Manchester
Crisp chicken skin, foie gras mousse and aged Parmesan: These onions look so unassuming, but I assure you, they are the standout part of this already fantastic dish.
Manchester House, Manchester
Ribblesdale goat's cheese and onion soup with Jabugo ham jelly: It was unbelievable. I don't have words to describe how much I loved this dish. The theatre of its presentation detracts nothing from just how wonderful it tastes. My favourite. 
Manchester House, Manchester
Cured mackerel, dill, turnip and caviar: Look at this! Pretty dishes seem to be their forte at Manchester House, but never at the expense of taste.
Huntsham Farm long horn beef, cepe mushroom and roast onion purée: We saw a massive piece of this beef in the open kitchen when we walked into the dining room. There was no way in hell that I was missing out, none whatsoever. It really did not disappoint either. So rich, but the depth of flavour that came from that jus and the onion purée that accompanied it were just perfect. Massively filling for something which looks so small. Beef plus. 

Wild sea trout, artichoke, prawns and broad beans: This one was Paddy's choice. How can something that looks so small be quite so filling? Magic perhaps. 
Manchester House, Manchester
Caramelised white chocolate, blueberry, yoghurt and lemon verbena: This is where things got interesting. Although this was Paddy's dessert, I have to admit to stealing a considerable amount of that caramelised white chocolate! Too good.
Manchester House, Manchester
Poached raspberry meringues, pistachio sponge and cucumber ice cream: I challenge you to find me a more beautiful dessert than this. Go. Not only is it stunning, but it tasted like an actual dream too. Mix the two desserts together and you have my idea of bliss. Or give me both. Do that. 
Manchester House, Manchester
Macarons and madeleines: Gee whizz. I just want them to bake for me all day long. They have some sort of baking witch in the kitchen, who I feel I need to befriend. I'd happily pay for a big plate of these to come with my cocktails upstairs. Please take note, I will be asking for this next time I visit the lounge.
Manchester House, Manchester
Manchester House, Manchester
Cake ache and food fatigue had set in. Remember what I said about the fallacy that is the three course fine dining menu? See what I mean now? Even the tea and coffee comes with a choice of home made chocolates. 
Manchester House, Manchester
We had such a lovely afternoon at Manchester House. How they haven't got that elusive star is utterly beyond me, and adds fuel to the fire that Michelin are out of touch. I've been to some restaurants that have had a star for donkeys' years, yet are nowhere near this standard. Regardless of awards and accolades, Manchester House is a lovely little place to spend the afternoon, and I'll definitely be returning.

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