[Manchester, city centre] Grafene

There was quite a bit to like about Grafene. Nice modern space, comfy chairs, pleasant smiley staff, a wide ranging wine list with several good ones available by the glass and a menu of decent sounding Modern British dishes.

Bread is a chargeable extra but we fancied something to nibble on before starters arrived. It was excellent stuff with a good crust. Unfortunately, that was the high spot of the evening.

There was a Waldorf salad, crunchy with walnuts and celery, and flavoured with a blue cheese dressing. It was OK in the way that salad starters are usually OK. House cured mackerel was fine, although flabby skin is no fun to eat. There was a couple of slices of beetroot, the crunch contrasting with the fish, but the lovage and buttermilk made no significant contribution.

Pork belly had been roasted till it was the consistency of pulled pork, but the kitchen had failed to crisp the skin. And what is roast pork if there’s no crackling? There were confit new potatoes which were no improvement on simply boiling them. Somewhere there was a background note of apple. Across the table, beef rump had been roasted but was overly chewy in parts. The accompaniments of two different cauliflower and kalettes (that new veg that’s a cross between kale and sprout) were fine. Both plates were underseasoned and, to be frank, just underwhelming. The restaurant advertises itself as “offering a modern take on fine British food and dining”. Not on this evidence, I’m afraid. These were the sort of plates that would be just about OK in one of the cheaper bistro type places out in the suburbs.

We skipped dessert and just ordered coffee. It was lukewarm. Then we got the bill, to find that one dish had been overcharged by two quid, from the menu price. It was quickly corrected, of course, but it just seemed par for the course. A disappointing evening.

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

― Jonathan Gold