I love a good page turner, and by that I don’t mean a menu that has you searching back to front then back again for something you want. I’m referring to those meals when each course leaves you excitedly wondering what’s round the corner.
The taster menu at Grenache in Walkden definitely fits that particular bill, coming in the form of seven secret dishes, each one is announced at the last moment as they’re placed in front of you. It all adds a bit of fun to proceedings, something that, let’s be honest, can be missing on the serious side of dining. But like Grenache I don’t want to spoil the surprise so scroll along to see what we ate and how it fared.
I’d had rather light lunch that day so was pleased to be delivered a bit of bread to begin and the rosemary focaccia was soft, and rich from its olive oil. The next plate, or should I say jar, housed some very delicately home smoked trout with watercress, ruby grapefruit and horseradish. I’m not normally one for the funky vessels but it looked quite good, if difficult to photograph! The horseradish could have bit a bit stronger for me but then I’m a big fan of the stuff. The soup course was a lovely bowl of butternut squash, truffle and crumbled goats cheese, a great combination of salty on sweet, smooth and crumble.
I have to admit to not particularly enjoying fois gras the last time I tried it, and perhaps I wouldn’t have chosen it here, but there is no room for preconceptions when the dish arrives unannounced. As it happens this time I really enjoyed the liver, it wasn’t as homogenous as my previous experience and came with some tender confit duck, cherry and crunchy granola on the side to sweeten the deal. Also worth a mention were some ginger crispbreads that were really amazing, like a cross between parkin and Melba toast, I’m really not doing that justice am I?
A single piece of shellfish tortellini coupled with langoustine atop sweetcorn sauce and basil oil was attractive and a good example of one those taster courses you wish you had a whole big bowl of. That said, the best savoury was saved for last with lamb and hotpot, mushy peas, goats cheese and honey comb. We used to sing a song about peas and honey when I was little that said they tasted funny, so I was amused to see them together here, but it worked. Especially with that goats cheese on the side, not to mention a beautifully pink piece of rare lamb. The hotpot’s surely another childhood memory for many, all nostalgia aside it definitely hit the spot.
For dessert we had 2 courses left to enjoy, the lemon posset with macerated blackberries was a sharp, zesty shot glass and palate cleanser of sorts. Finally came first a glass of prosecco, keeping us guessing, then a deconstructed (or should that be reconstructed?) Eton mess. The sparkle in the wine lent a fizz to the sorbet reminiscent of sherbet strawberries and it rounded things off nicely.
The meal felt quite like a ride between the fine, grown up flavours of truffle, goats cheese and fois gras through to those childhood memories of mushy peas, hotpot and sherbet, and was all the better for not having the opportunity to form conclusions before any courses. Our waiter and waitress on the night both remarked on how they often see people enjoy ingredients and dishes they had previously written off.
There’s been plenty of talk of Manchester’s battle for Michelin stars and there are contenders outside the city centre as well, Grenache certifiably being one of them with their 2 AA Rosettes. So you don’t need me to tell you it’s worth making the trip, but here is some advice, take the taster and whatever it brings, you might just surprise yourself.