Something I’ve alluded to in previous posts is the unwritten rule that “proper food critics” (and “amateur bloggers” alike) should perhaps wait for a few weeks before making judgments on new restaurant openings… I made the mistake of visiting Manchester House on their first Saturday and the subsequent experience was not wholly positive (see here).
I’ve heard some folk argue the facts that Chef Aiden Byrne had spent the best part of a year on menu development; Living Ventures are experienced operators who have spent a reputed £3million and that they are charging “London prices” (whatever they are?), means that everything should be perfect from the off – although my head disagrees with this, my heart certainly hoped it would be the case.
Fast forward to last Thursday and I decided to pay Manc House another visit to try the couple of dishes on the menu which had particularly piqued my interest.
From the off the whole vibe of the place (from hosts, waiting staff, bouncers and chefs) seemed more relaxed. Whilst this may just have been because it was a ‘normal Thursday service’ and not a ‘hectic Saturday night’, my impression was that they had simply learnt from a few opening week ‘glitches’ and started to find their stride… I was even allowed to operate the lift on my own.
Although I went expecting to order a starter, main and dessert, I was glad to discover that there was an option to have an ‘Extended a la carte’ (for £15) which included the Chilled Broad Bean Soup, Razor Clam, Squid & Pepper and the fabulous Braised Snails, Potato & Parsley which I had previously eaten as part of the tasting menu.
Canapés and an ‘improved’ version of the Smoked bacon & onion brioche bread course (with an onion consommé in place of the ‘pea water’ which did not float by boat last time) were also served.
Frogs’ legs Kiev – the presentation of this was sensational; the tree embossed plates are really quite striking. The stars of the dish are undoubtedly the beautifully French trimmed legs; some with black (squid ink and fermented garlic) breadcrumbs and some with white. By contrast, the meaty frogs’ claves are served enrobed in nothing but the creamy garlic sauce. A smear of black garlic, textures of parsley, toasted garlic and delicate borage flowers completed the dish – a wonderful synergy of flavours and techniques.
Roasted Scallop with Pearl Barley – this taster version of the scallop starter was kindly ‘comped’ by the kitchen so it would be questionable of me to overly sing its praises… but particularly interesting and enjoyable elements on the dish included the black pudding ‘granola’ and the, often underused, scallop skirts which had been braised in red wine, port and stock to create what is commonly referred to as “scallop tripe”.
Boddingtons Steak & Ale Pie – this is a dish that caused some controversy when the menu was first announced as many prospective diners could not seem to fathom the concept of a “Boddingtons Steak & Ale Pie” for the princely sum of £24! (As a comparison the ‘Battalia Pye’ I had a Dinner by Heston was £30).
Suffices to say, there was more to it than the description alone implied. The meaty chunks of the ‘pie’ itself were housed in a collar of thyme studded feuille de brick pastry and topped with a potato foam. The ‘salad’ on the side was a delightful array of textures and flavours including ox tongue, bone marrow beignets, shallots, leaves and girolles.
Milk & Honey – I purposely chose this dessert as it sounded the least appealing; my experience tells me that this is usually a good strategy as I often get pleasantly surprised. It would have been easy for the honey to have overpowered the milk but I found flavours were well balanced. Another accomplished dish where the textures and temperatures of the components played an important role in its success.
I didn’t say it in my last post... so, “Welcome to Manchester Aiden Byrne and thank you for a bringing us your fabulous food in a splendid setting.”