We were last here in February, only a few weeks after the restaurant opened in this guise. We didn’t really spot any teething troubles then but, if there were any, they had certainly been ironed out now. Service flowed effortlessly through the evening. And the food was top notch – sign of a good restaurant is surely that the food comes out of the kitchen at the same quality when the chef isn’t there (as tonight), as when he is. Dinner is still by way of tasting menu – OK, not our preferred way of eating these days but sometimes it’s exciting to do it as you’re going to be eating dishes you wouldn’t normally order. There’s two menus – one vegetarian, the other for omnivores. And both are available as nine courses, or a cut down six courser. The vegetarian menu looked the most interesting. And that’s the nine course, of course.
You kick off with three very small dishes – call them snacks, canapes or amuse bouche as you will. The first is a potato “crisp” topped with a fennel mousse, potato cubes and lightly pickled onion. It’s a lovely start. Then they bring you exactly the same ingredients but done in a different way. The fennel is now a much thinner cream, so you eating it as a soup. And the soup has diced potato and onion. The two way thing is really clever, we thought. There’s then a cauliflower cheese croquette and a truffle mayo to dunk it in.
There’s a “several ways with carrot” next. A roasted one, served warm, whilst everything else is at room temperature. And everything else are baby carrots, roasted so they are caramelised and a bit chewy (in a good way), and a carrot puree. There’s pepperiness from nasturtium leaves and a nasturtium sorbet.
Bread comes next, served as a course in itself – and it deserves to be treated like that. This is a small, but entirely delicious, sourdough loaf, with roasted onion butter. We’re still nibbling on that when what was probably our favourite dish of the evening arrived. There’s cepes, just cooked through , paired with thin, crisp, slices of Jerusalem artichoke and a few shavings of truffle. The plate looks great and it tastes great. Next up it’s back to the finger food with a small slice of brioche, crisped so it doesn’t fall apart as you pick it up and topped with a red cabbage puree and pickled blackcurrants. This is an excellent bit of flavour combination – the rich bread, earthiness from the cabbage and the sweet/sharp from the fruit.
There’s then a couple of courses which are very much in the modern style of using sweet and savoury ingredients to link towards the “proper” dessert. In truth these two divided us. I thought they were merely OK but my companion in life was much more enthusiastic about them. For the first, apple was sliced and diced and presented with spoonfuls of tapioca and dressed with a jasmine “tea”. You can, perhaps, see why this divided us. We had a bit more agreement on the second. Thin strips of compressed beetroot were shaped into a rose. A round “cake” of the beetroot had been infused with something – I think rosewater. And those pickled onions are back – this time given a sweet, fruity blueberry pickle.
If the earlier mushroom dish wasn’t our favourite, then the dessert certainly was. And there’s nothing of the tasting menu sizing here. This is a full-on “proper” dessert. There’s a caramel biscuit base, topped with a chocolate and orange ganache. There’s a quenelle of a miso flavoured ice cream. It could all have been a bit cloyingly sweet but the pastry chef had this absolutely nailed. And I told him so as we walked through the open kitchen area on the way out.
The final offering, served with coffee, were petit fours, including the signature take on the classic Manchester Tart – a two bite cupcake, filled with raspberry jam and topped with coconut.
This had been a really creative and well executed meal. We enjoyed it a lot.