Saturday 21 December 2013

Manchester House – Aiden Byrne, Manchester

Along with Simon Rogan’s The French, Manchester House has without doubt been one of the city’s most exciting restaurant openings of 2013. It has certainly been one of the most talked about amongst foodie circles and on social media.

Much of the buzz has been stirred up thanks to owner Tim Bacon’s initial statement of Michelin starred intent – something that has been freshly played down by chef Aiden Byrne (see here).

A recent review by Jay Rayner (here), having enjoyed Aiden’s food, seemed to echo the sentiments of many Mancs who have yet to be convinced by the Living Ventures’ ‘tiresome swagger’ and ‘maddeningly overbearing’ style. 

I have visited Manchester House four times now and feel that the food, service and ‘things that Mr Rayner mentioned’ have improved each time.

During the first three visits, I felt there were quite a few inconsistencies – for example, the snails, which I raved about after my first meal were not so good on subsequent visits and the bread course that initially disappointed has since been perfected. Michelin-like consistency.

I ate the excellent value 3 course lunch menu for £27.50 (with the extended a la carte option for £15). Excellent value for quail, foie gras, truffle and partridge

Onion & Parmesan Brioche with caramelised onion butter with onion consommé and Parmesan foam – on each of my four visits this course has been ‘tweaked’. This version was the best I have had - a Parmesan foam on the onion distillation adding the seasoning and depth that I feel may have been lacking on earlier versions.

Chestnut Soup with cavolo nero oil, charred cavolo nero leaf with duck ham and grated chestnut – a new dish for me that perfectly balanced bold wintry flavours in a beautifully light and silky way.

Smoked Eel Beignet with a smoked apple purée, eel and fennel salad with a rye and fennel cracker – the batter on the beignet was gloriously light and crisp. The smoke, fennel and apple all balanced to good effect.

Braised Snails with parsley purée, potato foam and crisp topped with freeze dried parsley and ox – it’s become trendy to knock culinary foams and espumas; used well I think they have a place in exciting modern food. This one is used well. Great dish.

Set Lunch starter: Steamed Breast of Quail with savoy cabbage, smoked foie gras and quail consommé – since opening Manchester House, Aiden has added many new skills and techniques armoury but it’s his classical cooking and flavour combinations that hits the mark the most for me. Here a delightfully cooked sliver of foie and pink quail ballotine were without fault.

Set Lunch main: Butter Poached Partridge with pumpkin and truffle – another winning dish featuring a beautiful just pink breast with truffly napper and confit leg sandwiched between two potato crisps. The pumpkin purée and dice and velvety truffled mash completed the dish.

Set Lunch dessert: Sour Cherries with homemade goats curd, spiced cake, lemon, basil and black pepper – in the past, I have found the desserts to be strong at Manchester House; I loved the spiced cake but this one lacked a little sharpness for me… a dusting of freeze dried sour cherry or more prominent lemon would have balanced the dish better in my opinion.

Despite its vocal knockers, Manchester House is undoubtedly one of the best restaurants in the city. We are lucky to have a chef of Aiden’s calibre cooking here. If it continues to get better and better it will be exciting to see what 2014 will bring.

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