When the days are short and cold with a peppering of that freezing precipitation Manchester is so famous for, the only thing to keep us going is the promise of something delicious.
There is nothing quite like some food to warm the cockles, and in the wintertime, we want strong robust flavours and lots of carbs to comfort our chilly souls.
What we also want, is a bloody good deal, and it looks like I found one at Harvey Nichols – home to a stunning new Winter Dining menu. We all know that the Harvey Nichols Second Floor Brasserie is a real contender on the food scene here in Manchester, and I personally am never disappointed by their sophisticated approach to seasonal eating.
I popped down one snowy afternoon this week to try the new Winter Menu which is available up until the end of February. The deal is a corker which offers two sumptuous courses for £18 with a cocktail, or three for £22 – which is just what you need after the damage left in the wake of Christmas.
Walking into the bright interior of the Second Floor restaurant, I am always relieved by the instant calmness. The interior is simple and minimalist which allows the stunning view of Exchange Square to be the real star of the show.
We began the meal with the complimentary cocktails included in the price. Vanilla Swing was my weapon of choice, made with Vanilla Grey Goose vodka, Catron Vanilla Liqueur, orange juice and topped off with a little lemonade. It was delicious and tasted like a dessert in a highball glass.
Paloma was the other choice which was equally delicious if you are a fan of tequila. It was less sweet than the Vanilla Swing, with notes of Patron Silver Tequila, agave syrup, pink grapefruit juice soda water. This drink makes a perfect aperitif for those of us who favour bitter over sweet.
The Winter Dining menu is split into three sections with three options for each. I like this. There is nothing worse than a gargantuan menu filled with dishes from every corner of the world, and I think there is a certain confidence in presenting a handful of dishes that the chef is certainly confident of.
We kicked things off with Ham Hock Terrine and Whipped Goat’s Cheese and Beetroot. The former was one of the prettiest dishes I have ever seen, and it was a really good example of how Harvey Nichols can take simple, homely dishes and inject them with a liberal dose of elegance.
This came served with a piccalilli sauce, pickled onions and charred cauliflower for a bit of tang and texture, as for the terrine itself it had a great consistency without being gelatinous and was perfectly seasoned which is a challenge for any chef when it comes to ham.
The latter was attractive too and came served as a milky dollop of goats cheese with ruby red blocks of roasted beetroot, pickled walnuts (which I haven’t seen on a menu for ages) and sourdough crisps for a bit of crunch. The entire dish tasted of the forest – and I mean that in the best possible way.
Whipped goat cheese is a dining fad that I’m just not bored of yet. It is a classic flavour combination that is perfect for winter and perfectly executed at Harvey Nichols.
On to mains and we ordered the Braised Lamb Breast and Salmon Rockefeller. The lamb came with smoked mash onion soubise, caramelised shallots and a deliciously rich gravy. The meat itself was perfectly cooked, and due to the layers of fat wrapped up in the ballotine roll, it was also full-flavoured and tender all the way to the middle.
The smoked mash was a bit of an acquired taste, but I liked it. The onions were a silent hero too which were glossy, buttery and charred all at once and brought another delectable element to this dish.
On to the salmon, I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. Although I am a big fan, it is not something I often order because it is so easy to overcook and is often a boring, uninspired choice on a menu. This dish, on the other hand, was exceptional.
The salmon was cut into small sections which were far from undercooked with a delicious crispy skin. This was paired with a garlic-spiked parsley and potato cake, steamed kale, and emerald green chive oil which sat in little boats of silverskin onions.
The ‘Rockerfeller’ bit came from a dusting of onions, garlic and breadcrumbs cooked in butter which sat alongside the fish. It was just beautiful, and the whole dish looked like it belonged in a coral reef.
I don’t know how, but somehow I managed to squeeze in dessert. We opted for Parkin with spiced crème anglaise and date which reminded me of bonfire nights when I was a kid. If you haven’t had parkin, it is basically ginger cake which is dense and sticky and delicious.
The Harvey Nichols version sat somewhere between this and sticky toffee pudding, which I had zero problems with. The crème anglaise on the side kept everything moist and it was sat aloft a little puddle of sticky date sauce which tied it all together. All in all, this was the most comforting dessert I have had this winter.
The other dessert we ordered was a bit of a crowd pleaser- a salted caramel chocolate pot– which was as good (and as naughty) as you might think. If you love chocolate, you are going to love this dessert, and the hazelnut shortbread on the side was the star of the whole dish.
Harvey Nichols Second Floor Brasserie never fails to let me down. Their plates are works of art, and I adore their approach to British seasonal eating. The Winter Dining menu is more than just a good deal, it is a great example of what good food actually tastes like, and I assure you, I will be back before springtime.
Winter Dining at Harvey Nichols
2 Courses for £18 and 3 for £22
Venue: Harvey Nichols Second Floor Brasserie and Bar
Date: 2nd January – 28th February 2018*
Times: Monday-Friday from 12 pm // Saturday from 5pm
*Excludes 14th February
Harvey Nichols, 21 New Cathedral Street, Manchester M1 1AD
0161 828 8888