Mana is Greater Manchester’s first Michelin starred restaurant since Juniper closed in Altrincham in about 2008. It’s taken us a while to get to eat here. Our first issue was the almost impossibility of getting a table. But, secondly, we felt in no rush. Long tasting menus are no longer the way we want to eat. In truth, they feel a bit Noughties and can be something to endure, rather than enjoy. But, when somewhere is almost on your doorstep, you gotta do what you gotta do.
So as not to keep you in suspense, let me tell you this was absolutely a meal to enjoy, not endure. Part of that was the timing of each course – no long delays with thumb twiddling. And it wasn’t just the timing that was perfect but the cooking, as well. There was not a cooking glitch in a single course - they were all inventive, flavours bang-on, perfectly conceived and perfectly executed. A criticism of the small portion of the tasting menu concept is that, when you come across a really good dish and want a second mouthful, there isn’t one. Here, the flavours are so intense, you probably wouldn’t want a larger portion. This is Michelin 1* food, knocking on the door for the second star.
The room is modern, with an open kitchen, so you can watch the chefs work. And it’s one of those places where a chef brings you the dish they’ve just prepared. And it’s almost as likely that a chef will clear the dirty crockery than a front of house member of staff – an absolute team effort at the top of its game. So, front of house are resetting cutlery, keep drinks topped up – and they do it seamlessly. Things happen just as they should.
In other restaurants, I might write in some detail about the food we ate. But I wasn’t taking notes and there were a lot of dishes and all were complex. So, I’ll just transcribe the menu and leave the reader to imagine what might have been put in front of us.
A warm tea of bio-dynamic turnip, turnip leaf and wildflowers
Terrarium: verbena and horseradish
Potato, roasted yeast, and garlic from spring
Retired dairy cow, carrot skin and smoked eel
Fried pigs blood, black apple and neck
Unpreserved caviar, milk curds and sorrel
Oyster, English wasabi and dill
Freshly shucked scallop from the Shetland Islands
Fillets of Devonshire Blue Mussel, garlic cooked for two months
Frozen Banks tomatoes, habanero and coriander
Sourdough and cultured butter
Smoked sea trout, reduced cucumber juice and inoculated grains
100% outdoor raised Dexter beef rump with Celtuce from a nearby field
Beef featherblade salad, broad beans, Queen iceberg and Tunworth cheese
Wild rose soft serve, fermented honey and milk snow
Still hot doughnut, Oban custard
Baked apples, brown butter and oregano.