[Manchester, city centre] Mamucium

(John Hartley) #1

Mamucium has been around for just under a couple of thousand years. It was the name the Romans gave to their new settlement at what we now call the Castlefield area of Manchester. And, back in the 1960s, I did Latin at school for a while so know it’s pronounced MA-MOO-KEY-UM (don’t let anyone tell you different) – I’ve waited over 50 years for this to have been useful.

As for the restaurant, it’s a bright, modern space in the style that shouts at you that this is a restaurant in a hotel. The Indigo Hotel and Mamucium opened at the beginning of December but, if there were any teething troubles, they have been quickly resolved. This a slick operation with good service that borders on the overly enthusiastic. But the reason we’d come was the menu. As you might expect, it’s strongly “Modern British” but what had appealed was the obvious commitment to using local produce wherever possible – so, a simple pasta dish uses pancetta made in Cumbria and even the coffee we drank at the end of the evening had had the beans roasted in Salford.

Smoked salmon comes from the Manchester Smokehouse in Cheetham. The Smokehouse is owned by the Hyman family who used to run the now closed Titanic deli. It’s served in chunks rather than the more usual slices. My companion in life, who had ordered it, didn’t think that was an improvement on slices, saying that you would be getting less flavour as there’s less surface area. True about the surface area but I got a taste and liked the different mouth feel of the chunk. What we did agree on was this was an excellent flavour with some really smokiness. Alongside is a decent portion of salmon mousse which was more lightly flavoured and was a good contrast in texture. There’s chunks of cucumber and a beetroot puree. Classic accompaniments. A blob or two of horseradish cream would be a good tweak for the chef to consider.

Cumbrian pressed pork had a decent flavour if suffering a bit from seemingly coming straight out of the fridge (I can sort of understand the kitchen doing that on a quiet Sunday evening). There’s lightly pickled vegetables and a dab of mustard. Oh, and a small oven bottom muffin just to remind you that you’re in Lancashire.

I ordered lamb for a main course. Now, to call this plate Lancashire Hotpot would have had my mother turning in her grave. It’s not so much “deconstructed” but more never even been on nodding terms with a hotpot. But it is a belting plate of food. There’s a generous serving of lamb loin. The online menu later reminded me that this was Herdwick lamb. It’s from Cumbria and, to my mind, is the finest flavoured lamb you’ll find in Britain. They cook it sous vide which, to be frank, isn’t my favourite way of eating anything but it’s fine. But the cracker is a ball of confit leg meat which is then shredded and wrapped in Savoy cabbage leaves. I could have eaten a bucket full of them! There’s arty blobs of carrot puree and a few “pearls” of potato. And a lovely rich lamb jus.

Fillet of cod had been roasted but, disappointingly, failed to have a crispy skin – and who wants to eat flabby fish skin. But, that aside, it’s a lovely fillet cooked to the “just flaking” stage. It comes with crushed potatoes mixed with the elements of tartare sauce – capers and the like – all of which works well. And the fish is topped with “Manchester caviar” – yep, mushy peas. There’s also thin shreds of confit lemon which seemed a bit overly sweet.

We often pass on dessert at this level of restaurant but, as the local influence was still playing here, thought we’d have a try. Blueberry pavlova was a hefty affair. Not overly sweet but out of balance in size with the tiny scattering of fruit. More fruit or less meringue, please. And there was apparently Vimto in there somewhere but it couldn’t be spotted (FWIW, a few months back, we ate at a restaurant in Salford on the site of the original Vimto factory). I suppose Manchester Tart just had to be ordered – crisp pastry, nice custard filling, a smear of homemade raspberry jam and shavings of coconut which had been crisped, presumably in a sugar syrup, a bit like a toffee apple. This was really good – the sort of dessert that sends you off into the cold, damp night with a smile on your face.

A lovely evening and we’ll be back in due course.