First Street is steadily filling out, there's more than enough round there to keep you occupied for an evening these days, and now the area has a fine-diner to call its own too with the addition of WOOD Manchester.
The newly opened modern British restaurant from locally born Masterchef 2015 winner Simon Wood aims to bring a premium dining experience in a laid back environment, so we went to see how they were getting on by sampling their a la carte menu.
In my experience, a bit of bread brought to begin can often suggest you might be needing a bag of chips on the way home. As it happens that didn’t prove to be the case here, but the warm, doughy mini herb and cheese rolls were well worth a bit of stomach space anyhow- especially with a bit of salt crystal topped, whipped butter melted on to them.
An autumnal themed menu offered up plenty of game so first we picked the pigeon. Plump, pink goujons from the breast of the bird were delicately livened with soft, sweet fig and leafy endive. Crisp bacon lardons added crunch and a well-judged balancing layer of savoury flavour.
Our other starter was pure belly pork heaven. Cooked low and slow at 82°c, the crisp, textural fatty chunks of meat were seriously swoon-worthy. Sharpness from granny smith apple shards, floral sage and onion dressing plus the crowning crunch of crackling pieces completed a perfect dish. This is the one you’ll be still be dreaming about a week later.
Both mains brought that seasonal theme of game and dark fruit to the fore beautifully. First with venison, blackberry and a trio of parsnip – roasted, pureed and fried in strips, non-lovers of the sweet root vegetable need not apply. It has to be said that all the meat we enjoyed was cooked to an exceptional level of accuracy – seasoned and seared unerringly – seriously impressive stuff from a restaurant only open a couple months, there seem to be no teething problems on show at all.
And the duck was no different. This time plum provided the fruity foil for another lovely meaty morsel. Sweet, earthy hazelnut and the bitter green notes of chard made for a perfectly balanced bit of meat and veg. True there seems to be little desire to reinvent the wheel with these dishes, but artistry is demonstrated nonetheless by the confident purpose of everything on the plate.
Dessert descriptions were of a more cryptic nature than our previous courses but in fact the food was no less complex. Milk & Cookies combines the dairy-fresh flavour of milk ice cream with buttery, flaky little bites of chocolate chip cookie and airy chunks of golden honeycomb. I can be a little turned off by scattergun afters that look more like petit fours than a proper plate of food, but this combination genuinely worked well.
Fittingly, we finished with a taste of the pud that brought Wood his Masterchef crown back in 2015, Citrus Tutti-frutti. The delightfully-light lemon posset is certainly as good as any I’ve ever had, perfect consistency with rich creaminess and sharp citrus working in harmony. A bittersweet topping of grapefruit and the accompanying slender shortbread finger complete a excellent demonstration of simplicity in result following real skill in preparation.
Something that Manchester has got pretty used to in recent times is brand-new restaurants. If you’re in to your food then these are exciting times in the city, with new ventures and experiences popping up on an almost daily basis. It’s got to be said though that not everywhere hits the ground running, so it’s impressive when you visit a recently opened place and they get very little wrong. There’s nothing fussy about the relaxed environment at WOOD but the attention to detail is evident through everything we tried on their impressive, well-pitched seasonal menu.
Jack Rosenthal Street, Manchester M15 4RA
0161 236 5211