Despite undoubtedly serving some of the most skilfully created, artfully presented and ambitious food in Manchester, it has been ten months since I last visited Manchester House.
The reason for this comes down to the fact that, no matter how good chef Aiden Byrne’s food can be, something about the whole ‘Living Ventures’ restaurant experience has never quite ‘sat right’ with me.
Mercifully, thanks to my recent lunchtime visit, I think I’m finally over whatever has been bugging me. With an all round more relaxed feel and maturity, the place seems increasingly slick and, quite frankly, “less up its own arse”. Even the front of house staff now appear as if they have been hired for their skills and not just for how good they look in their jean and waistcoat combo.
With that out of the way, let’s get down to the best thing about Manchester House… the food! (I opted for the six course lunch with the ‘extended a la carte’ option.)
Turnip soup, chestnut mousse & confit chestnut with Goats cheese brioche, whipped goats butter and shaved chestnut – I loved this, resembling a cheesy ‘fondant fancy’ for grown ups, the dinky Goats cheese brioche with its whipped goats butter centre was both flavoursome and playful.
Warm Comté soup, pear purée & barbequed blackberries – the Comté ‘soup’ with blackberries was a interesting flavour combination that I enjoyed; the accompanying ‘black pepper meringue’ however was less successful, it was far too cloyingly sweet, which made worse by the pear purée.
Deep fried frogs legs, parsley & garlic – I loved this creative and quirky dish when I had it previously, and it’s still a favourite; with flavours and textures that work so well together, it’s a real joy to eat.
Oysters & caviar, Vichyssoise & potato – the components of this dish were good. I enjoyed the bursting liquidity of the spherification and the flavour of Vichyssoise but was not convinced that they fully flattered the oysters and caviar; the dish lacked a little acidity for me, which the salty, richness of the caviar would have enjoyed.
Crisp langoustine & suckling pig with seaweed salad – as in the frogs legs dish Aiden’s classical skills shine with the suckling pig elements of this dish; the puffed rice and use of seaweeds show the clever contemporary edge which is ever evolving as Aiden strives for Michelin stars.
Cured duck, foie gras mousse, celeriac, sourdough & pennywort – the next dish was a cleverly textured dish with deftly balanced layers of flavours – the petri dish married blackberry, celeriac and pennywort with a foie gras mousse and smoked foie; the duck fat toast bore more foie gras mousse, a fine dice of celeriac and duck ham with delightful morsels of duck, including tongues and caramelized wings.
Monkfish tail, white onions, anchovies & wild garlic – mainly thanks to the acidity of the anchovy fritters, this, was my favourite dish of the lunch. Enrobed in Jabugo ham, the monkfish had been delightfully cooked.
Longhorn beef sirloin & cheek, new season truffle potato soup – although not as creative as some, this dish featured prime ingredients and flavour that packed a punch.
Beetroot, hibiscus, rhubarb & Greek yoghurt – a visually stunning dish with flavours to match.
Walnut ice cream, pear, orange & fennel – another beautiful dish with innovative with combinations of flavours and textures; I particularly enjoyed the fennel.