[Manchester, city centre] Mana

This was a return visit to Mana, Greater Manchester’s only Michelin starred restaurant. We came before in 2021. It’s the night out the two of us (both pensioners) call our Office Christmas Party. We like to do something special, usually involving a meal at somewhere that’s not one of our regular places. Last year it was 20 Stories, the year before it was the Michelin 2 star Moor Hall.

Mana has the practicalities of the restaurant customer experience well sorted. There’s lots of space between tables, so you’re not forced to listen to the neighbouring party. Tables are well lit. Seats are comfortable – an important consideration for anyone sitting down to a three hour meal. And service is absolutely spot on – it’s seamless, with everything happening just as it should, without you feeling rushed or, alternatively, feeling the need for finger tapping.

The food is by way of a lengthy tasting menu, so we were prepared for a marathon. As last time, the dishes were all intricate, interesting and, generally, enjoyable but there wouldn’t be a single dish that had a real WOW factor. There are lots of strong flavours, occasionally perhaps too strong. In most of the restaurant reviews I write, I would generally include some detail about what we ate (more for my own records than anything else) but, here, the food is so complex that there’s no chance of me really remembering everything. So, this is just the menu description, with the occasional comment in brackets. The reader will have to guess what we actually ate.

A warm tea of turnips and lemon thyme (served to you as you walk through the door, a lovely and delicious welcome on a very chilly night)

Cured meats

Langoustine.yuzu. Beef/eel. Sunchoke/cep. (served as canapes in the bar area)

Best end of Carlingford Lough Oyster, brassicas (very powerful use of wasabi)

Unripe habanero aquachile, tuna crudo (lots of citrus from lime)

Scottish lobster, preserved truffle and verbena

Gently grilled crab, adobo

Ethical goose liver, laminated pastry, Isabelle Rose onion (croissant type dough, interleaved with the onion. Delish with liver pate)

Cornish turbot, smoked kelp and inoculated grains

Barbecued hogget, orange wine, young miso sabayon (a couple of slices of perfectly pink hogget but we felt it needed a bit more of a garnish than the two sauces)

Aspergillus oryzae (East Asian fungi prepared as a palate cleanser. Didn’t like it)

Mountain apple, local honey and woodruff

Cake, parsley root and hogget fat. Fudge, buckwheat and acidulated coffee. (listed on the menu as separate courses but actually two petit fours which you really want to have with a coffee but, of course, you don’t know they aren’t just ordinary desserts until they come. )

So, we ordered espresso afterwards. It came lukewarm and very “thin” in flavour. As I’m mentioning drinks, it’s worth a note that my partner took the wine pairing and very good it was too.

I don’t usually mention prices. They are what they are. But it’s impossible to avoid the fact that this is a very expensive night out, even by the standards of other northwest Michelin 1 star restaurants. Back in 2021, Mana announced, to a fanfare of local and national publicity, that it was scrapping its service charge. Simon Martin said that a service charge was a “really archaic practice that has never been abandoned. It stems from when hospitality workers didn’t get properly paid for their living and I don’t want those values reflected in my restaurant.” The menu price would rise, as would staff salaries. It was a move to be applauded and, most certainly, one we would always support. So, it was with some surprise to see a 12.5% service charge on the bill, not least as there’s no mention of it on the restaurant’s website. It’s not that we mind paying it but, you know, it’s not really playing straight with customers. It all adds to the costs which, for our two meals, one wine paring, a drink in the bar, water and coffee, came to a total of £669.25, In anyone’s book, that’s a lot of money and, much as we had a nice time and can afford it, I ask myself whether it was worth it.


Wow, stratospheric prices indeed.


Blimey. The two best meals we had in South Africa - ( neither with a set menu and neither with more than three or four glasses of wine admittedly) cost less than sixty quid for two, including tip.