Last time I visited ABode (see here) I criticised some of the furnishings for being ‘shabby’ and mocked their ‘champagne bar’ by saying, ‘They may as well have put a tail on it and called it a weasel.’ I felt most of the dishes had ‘seasoning issue’ and the waiting service was found to be ‘lacking’.
The best part of a year had passed before this revisit - in this time I had the great pleasure of meeting Mr. Caines at the Hospitality Action Charity dinner along with Paul Heathcote and Nigel Haworth (see here) and got to taste one of the dishes from the menu at his two Michelin started Gidleigh Park, which, for me, was the stand out dish of the evening.
Since my less than enjoyable previous experience at ABode I am aware that Michael Caines’ has been up to visit the restaurant – so I was naturally expecting, and hoping for improvements… overall, I think I found them.
What they say: ‘The Michael Caines Restaurant and Champagne Bar at ABode Manchester, located in an atmospheric lower level dining room, serves exciting and innovative European cuisine utilising the best local and regional produce and ingredients from Manchester, Lancashire, Cheshire and surrounds. Executive Chef Mark Rossi, in consultation with Michael, has created an exciting range of menus for you to enjoy, including grazing, a la carte and tasting.’
The Michelin Guide says, ‘Large, lively modern restaurant in a hotel basement, featuring subdued lighting and a sophisticated style. Contemporary British cooking has some Mediterranean influences.’
What I ate:
I ate from the ‘Amazing Graze’ menu, which offered 5 courses for £19.95 (and supplemented a six course, the sweetbread starter).
Gazpacho soup – goat’s cheese mousse, basil, cress. I love a good gazpacho but sadly I did not find the flavours in this example particularly exciting or vibrant.
Breads - Tomato & Black Olive Bread, White French and Wholemeal.
Veal shin raviolo – celeriac purée, celeriac fondant, truffle jus. Flavours this time were good and the seasoning correct for my taste. There were a few gripes relating to temperature: the centre of the raviolo was barely warm and the rest of the assembled dish was served at practically fridge temperatures – a far cry from the excellent raviolo cooked by Michael at Heathcote’s.
Salad of lamb sweetbreads – French breakfast radishes, caramelised cauliflower purée, capers. Things really started to look up with this dish – the sweetbreads were perfectly cooked, well seasoned with a great synergy of flavours from the lightly pickled radishes, plump caper berries and sweet caramelised cauliflower purée.
Wild mushroom tagliatelle – fresh parmesan and truffle oil. The tagliatelle itself was perhaps a little overdone but there was a generous amount of mushrooms and the overall rich truffley flavour with the pleasing surprise of a slice of fresh truffle on the top - another strong dish.
Pan-fried hake – olive crushed potatoes, sauce vierge. I enjoyed this dish too… especially the olive crushed potatoes and braised celery. It was a small portion but I suppose when you are paying an average of £4 per course, you can’t really grumble.
Apple tarte tatin – vanilla ice cream. A simple dish, executed well… decent ice cream and great caramelisation the tarte tatin.
Food high points: I found two out of the six dishes to be a little disappointing; two were good with very good (bordering on excellent) sweetbreads and tagliatelle.
Food low points: the gazpacho and sadly the veal dish that would have been better if served at a more pleasing temperature.
Décor / ambience: I went directly to my table so did not get to see if the Champagne Bar had been ‘improved’ since my last visit. Little things like wiping the cutlery before setting the table to remove dishwasher water marks still need to be addressed.
Service: service from the wait staff was much improved - young lad presented each dish to me and took the time to explain each one without just disinterestedly rattling off a list as had happened on previous visits.
Verdict (Would I return?): I’m definitely keen to go back and hope that, with consistency, Michael Caines at ABode will once again become a place that I can recommend to others with confidence.