We’ve eaten a number of meals at Manchester House since it opened in late 2013. It’s a good place for dinner but, truth be told, I don’t think it’s improving and that must be concern for anywhere aiming for Michelin stardom. One of elements that isn’t improving is the “a la carte” menu. It seems to shorten every time we go. And this time, there’s just two starters and five main courses (three of which are steaks). It makes for a very limited choice. Perhaps that’s the intent and they want to push you towards the multi-course tasting menu.
There’s no amuse bouche as you might expect at places of this level. There’s no bread, either. But you can order the “chef’s snacks” – actually the first three courses from the tasting menu. We didn’t bother as they seemed to be pretty much the same as last visit.
As to the two starters, they were both really good. One, a small fillet of halibut was perfectly cooked and came with a single king prawn and a lovely mushroom broth. The other, squab pigeon breast , cooked rare, as it should be, but it should still be possible to get crispy skin – if I can do it at home, a professional kitchen should be able to walk it. That came with a slice of crispy gingerbread with one of Aiden Byrne’s little tricks that was on the plate on our first visit in October 2013 – it’s what looks like a cherry but is actually a ball of foie in a cherry coating. It all works.
Fillet steak was ordered cooked to medium but came well on the way to rare. We hate having to send food back and didn’t, but many would have done. Also on the plate, an unadvertised halved bone filled with bone marrow and snails. There’s excellent chips – but nothing by way of vegetable or salad. It made for an unbalanced plate of food. The other plate was also unbalanced by a lack of any carbs. Other than that, there was seabass, pan fried but no crispy skin here, either. It sat in a tasty artichoke broth, along with some crisp salsify and cockles. It worked really well but a spud or two was really needed.
We then each ordered cheese. They’ve a good trolley full of cheese in perfect condition and you get to select six. The member of staff, who we presumed to be a supervisor as she wasn’t wearing the usual “uniform” of jeans and waistcoat, served up a generous portion. She did, however, regularly run her fingers through her hair to draw it off her face. We watched, with some concern, to make sure she didn’t then touch anything we were going to eat. The homemade crackers were almost literally light as a feather. Really lovely.
And then on to dessert. One a seasonal pairing of early rhubarb and yoghurt. The other, a sort of “textures of chocolate” dish, with crushed hazelnuts and, interestingly but successfully, a background note of liquorice which countered what would otherwise been an overly rich affair. Both of these were good.
So, a meal of ups and downs which hit another down note with coffee. It came and was pretty much cold. It was replaced (and, to be fair, comp’d) but the replacement was barely warmer.
Have to say that the member of staff who served us (except for the cheese) was excellent and, to our minds, a credit to the business – smiley and friendly but entirely knowledgeable about the food and completely at the top of her game.