You may be familiar with the head chef of Manchester House, Aiden Byrne if you watched BBC’s Restaurant Wars. The program saw him battling against Simon Rogan to gain a Michelin star in Manchester – the first the city will have seen for over forty years. Both are yet to receive such praise however.
The restaurant is on the second floor of what seems like a rather ordinary office block. Inside isn’t quite so ordinary though as there’s a massive open kitchen which gives the large dining room a relaxed, bustling atmosphere; it’s all very casual.
We avoided the costly thirteen course tasting menu priced at £110 and instead went for the also costly a la carte. To kick things off, a little onion brioche served with a seaweed butter lacked any real excitement, mainly because the roll was hollow and the butter was rather watery. The accompanying mushroom broth (or was it a consommé?) served from a tea pot was OK.
To start, I went for the ‘roasted langoustine, carrot reduction and green olives’ (£18). Much like the plate they were served on, the langoustines were utterly beautiful but the rest of the ingredients just didn’t do it for me. The crunchy raw carrots were cold and a quenelle of an unidentifiable mousse was fridge cold – the blend of clashing temperatures ruined the langoustines.
My gentleman companion’s dish was equally not quite right; ‘barbecued leek and lobster, squid ink cracker and baked potato’ (£20). It was served as three individual components which made everything feel disjointed – nothing blended together. There was a potato mousse in a cup which was fine, then small chunks of lobster inside a barbecued leek which had to be cut open by our waitress using scissors and tweezers – awfully faffy. Then a squid ink cracker (which was more like an amuse bouche than part of a starter) looked awfully lonely on the giant plate.
When it came to the main course, a bloke hovered behind us with a tray, then our waitress rather dramatically buried her head into her hands and ran the food back to the kitchen. A forty-five minute wait then ensued before it came back again, with not even an explanation or apology which seemed bizarre – and ever so annoying.
My ‘wild sea trout, avocado and sesame purée, soft shell crab, chicken satay’ (£27) was quite simply terrible. It was so bad in fact I only ate half of it – not that anyone seemed to notice. The fish was inedibly overcooked and lacked any seasoning whatsoever. The soft shell crab was so out of place and was greasy with no real flavour. The de-boned chicken wing tasted like processed chicken and was really unpleasant. I could go on but I won’t.
My gentleman companion’s ‘Cumbrian veal fillet with coco beans and foie gras mousse’ (£34) seemed far too spendy for the portion size. The overall flavour was tasty but it lacked the sort of wow we were hoping for. It was suggested that we order sides (even though they weren’t listed on the menu) so we opted for some triple cooked chips and barbecued kale (£3 each). The kale was inedible – we actually left 3/4 of it as it was so incredibly chewy. The chips (cooked in duck fat apparently) were unappetisingly soggy and greasy.
We went to Manchester House (on my Birthday as well) in the hope of a whopper of a gastronomic feast. The only whopper we got however, was in Burger King afterwards, as I was so bloomin’ hungry. Seriously. It was such a shame, I expected such great things – but that food, along with the shoddy TGI Friday’s service, was simply not good enough. Did we catch them on a bad day? Quite possibly, but I’m not entirely sure….