OK, so once again, Manchester House failed to get a Michelin star. Yes, it’s a travesty and, yes, it makes the process seem a bit silly and out of kilter with the reality of modern eating. It’s our favourite upscale place in the metro area.
It’s fair to say that we’ve lost interest in tasting menus and, these days, much prefer a traditional three courser. So, it was a bit of a surprise to hear, when they rang to confirm the reservation that they were only opening on Mondays for the festive season and that they’d only be serving the tasting menu (we’ll be back next month for the carte). The only decision then was whether to go for the eight courser or the fifteen courser. To paraphrase the John Lewis Partnership, I am never knowingly underfed but it was one of those evenings when we just didn’t think we had the stamina for fifteen. I suppose that, technically, it is an eight courser but when you note that the first course is described as the “bread course” and the final one is macaroons with your coffee, you might think things are being stretched a little.
But, let’s start with that bread course. There’s brioche and a shot glass of chestnut veloute. The bread is beautifully flaky, the soup rich and sweet (but not overly). It’s a delicious combination and, in fact, stood out as our most enjoyed course. That is not to say that we did not enjoy subsequent courses. We did – and they were all good.
Next up, some smoked eel – nice and fatty. It sat in an apple soup which cut through the slipperiness of the eel – but perhaps a tad too sharp. Also in the bowl, a perfectly poached quail’s egg. Then a little bit of just seared foie gras (we had left at home our principles about eating it); there’s also a little bit of poached chicken, topped with crispy skin, a potato foam, flecked with truffle, but overly salty.
The fish course centred on monkfish tail and was perfectly cooked with none of the chewiness you can sometimes get with this fish. There’s tiny squid, no bigger than your thumb nail. And half a small onion, cooked only to al dente, filled with goats cheese. I liked this one a lot.
Then there was very long braised beef cheek, the meat falling apart under light pressure from the fork. There’s roasted Jerusalem artichoke – soft on the inside, crisp on the outside – that was superb. And an artichoke puree. And a little beef tartare which, for me, added nothing of interest to the plate. It was the only plate where seasoning had been underplayed.
And then it was on to desserts. The first one was an apple preparation, involving pressed very thin slices of apple, a calvados cream, an apple crumb, honeycomb and a few blobs of caramel. Then there was a chocolate ganache with pineapple and liquorice ice cream. And, finally, the macaroons mentioned earlier – half a dozen individually flavoured, served in their own box.
Service, as always, was spot on – efficient and “proper” but retaining a casual friendliness. It’s worthy of note that whilst the menu says “all gratuities” go to the team preparing and serving food, this is not actually the case, with the company retaining a percentage of any gratuities paid by card – presumably mainly representing the merchant fee they have to pay. We tipped in cash.