[Manchester, city centre] Feast

Feast is a pop-up restaurant operating in the premises previously occupied by “47 King Street West”. We went to the original restaurant in 2013. It was fine but not a place we thought worthy of a return visit, so it was no particular surprise to learn that it had closed recently. The premises have been quickly snapped up by the San Carlo group – the mini chain of Italian restaurants that has its flagship place directly opposite and another, Cicchetti, next door. The group hasn’t yet announced its permanent plans but have opened Feast to run into January. They are in partnership with local chef, Robert Owen Brown. Anyone interested in the Manchester restaurant scene will have heard of ROB, even if they may not have eaten his food. You know what to expect. The menu will be determinedly Modern British, even with whiffs of Traditional British. And there’ll be a strong commitment to local ingredients. So, it was no surprise to read the online menu and see that venison is from Cheshire; the chorizo is made in Chorlton, as is the beer in the steak & ale pie; and there’s a dessert using Vimto.

So, it all read well. When we got there, we saw that the brief online menu had lengthened with the commitment to local provenance loosened. As for the actual execution of the food, I really can’t believe that a chef as skilled as Owen Brown actually had anything to do with dinner.

To start, there was a miserly portion of smoked venison carpaccio although, for the life of me, I couldn’t detect any smoking. Alongside, a little microleaf and radish salad (undressed). It was pleasant enough. The other starter, smoked haddock fishcakes, was also OK.

Lancashire hotpot is the sort of dish that you would expect Owen Brown to turn out perfectly. In fact, this was the most disappointing plate of restaurant food we can recall in a long time. If we’d made it at home, it would have been straight in the bin and we’d have been ringing for delivery from the local takeaway. Most of the lamb needed a good hour’s more cooking, there was too much liquid and the overall flavour simply wasn’t up to much. Pickled red cabbage had come straight from a jar rather than being housemade. To be fair, the server spotted we were unhappy and offered to replace it or replace with another dish. My partner declined that – it means you have to watch the other one eating their meal, and then they watch you eating yours. So, it came off the bill.

The other plate featured long cooked wild boar, in a very decent braising liquid. There was a dice of veg and a couple of light as a feather dumplings. This is the dish that was supposed to include the Chorlton chorizo but I’m sure the lardons were pancetta or bacon and not chorizo.

By this time, we debated whether to have dessert or just cut our losses and go home. Greed won. It was not the best decision we’ve ever made. A “sticky” syrup sponge simply wasn’t – it was a plain, fairly bland but well made steamed sponge, with good custard. It really missed the promised stickiness.

And as for the “artisan” cheese – which, with Owen Brown’s pedigree, you’d expect to be some of the excellent stuff we have in the northwest. Someone was having a laff. This was a selection of fridge cold, bog standard supermarket stuff – a Camembert, goats cheese and a blue cheese. My partner asked the server what they were, to be told “This is a blue cheese……”. “I can see that, do you know which one? “Erm, no”.

If I was the San Carlo Group, I’d close this place immediately before it damages their brand name and that of Robert Owen Brown. Close it, regroup, reopen with your permanent idea – hopefully Feast isn’t it.

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I hope you asked for a reduction of the bill!

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold