This was, I think, the sixth time we’ve eaten at Manchester House and the first since Aiden Byrne left as chef. His departure doesn’t seem to have affected the operation at all – still the same modern, open space, still the same friendly efficient servers, still a meal based on 8 or 12 course tasting menus (supplemented by a carte restricted to just two dishes at starter and main course). And, in that, is our growing issue with the place. Now, part of that issue is a feeling that the occasional tasting menu can be fun when it’s really interesting and exciting – but most of the time, I’d rather be eating a traditional three courser. We opted for the 8 course menu, priced at £75. Now, when I say 8 courses that’s because that’s how they advertise it. But note that the first three are effectively canapes and the final one are petit fours to go with coffee (coffee not included in the price). One of us took the wine flight, priced £45 – there were seven really well matched wines, but you are only getting a maximum 50ml pour on each. So, effectively, £45 for half a bottle of wine. It’s rare that I mention prices when I’m writing a review but our final bill, including service charge, was just short of £250 and I’m not convinced that this was good value for money.
As for the food, it was all fine. The three canapes kicked off with the “millionaire’s sandwich” – a pistachio sponge filled with foie gras (or artichoke mousse for my partner who doesn’t eat foie). She liked it, I wasn’t so keen with starting a meal with something quite sweet. Next up, a crisped piece of salmon skin (think the texture of a large Chinese prawn cracker) dotted with salmon “caviar” and wasabi. And, finally, a mini taco of raw beef and habanero chilli (beetroot was substituted for the beef for my partner).
It was now time to pick up the cutlery for the first time to tackle a lovely dish of Iberico pork, Pequillo peppers and a fino sherry dressing – Spain on a plate if you will. Then what I think was my favourite dish of the evening – a single scallop, perfectly cooked with charring on the outside and not quite cooked through in the middle. It sat on ribbons of celeriac and a thin buttermilk sauce and was topped with a little sauerkraut. The final savoury course was a couple of small slices of sirloin steak, a sweetbread beignet, griddled onion and a very well made sauce – the sort of plate of food that you wish was in main course size so you could really get stuck in and enjoy it.
Dessert was a sea buckthorn mousse topping, I think, a very thin biscuit base, decorated with crème fraiche. Good balance of flavours – I’ve had sea buckthorn before and it can be overly tart but not here. And, finally, the petit fours – a couple of chocolate ones, macaron and a fudge.
So, there we are. A good meal but nothing outstanding. It’ll be some months before we think about another meal at Manchester House and would really have to think whether we’d be coming back. We don’t begrudge spending that sort of money on dinner but do hope there’ll be a “WOW” factor in there somewhere.