The rise of Spinningfields as a serious contender for your precious boozing, munching and general lounging around time is undoubtedly long since done. A moment when the area didn't have loads of restaurants well worth your attention seems like a distant memory now. Although Artisan, which seem to have been around forever, has only in fact been open for four years - it's all happened pretty damn fast.
And in fairness I hadn't actually been to this Living Ventures venue before, so with a new summer menu on the cards it was the perfect chance to check out a place that's become part of the city-centre-food-furniture very quickly.
My first surprise was that the space is massive, much bigger than I was expecting, and the same could be said of our cheese and garlic bread appetiser, which for four quid would be a pretty tasty way to save money that could be spent prudently on alcohol - if you were that way inclined. We were here to eat though, so I somehow avoided the temptation to have too much of it.
Luckily our starters proper were worth that display of will power. Succulent, salty braised chorizo with sweet cipollini onions, cherry tomatoes and some granary toast to mop up. It deserved better bread, but everything else balanced nicely. The other dish was a fragrantly spicy bowl of prawns in a tomato sauce cooked down with garlic and chilli, and sprinkled with a little coriander. It was nice, rather like a fresh homemade curry, but seemed a bit odd as a starter. It was basically like having a little prawn jalfrezi on it's own, maybe we should have saved some of that garlic bread to go with both dishes.
I chose fish for my main course and the paper baked sea bass which came stuffed with wild rice, it was nicely moist and accompanied with a chilli sauce which was much needed as the filling didn't have a massive amount of flavour itself. Our other dish was the salt and pepper St. Louis belly pork rib, which surely jumped off the menu as the most exciting new addition. Nice as that tender piece of meat was though, for me it was all about the accompanying Asian slaw salad. Crispy, light and nutty from a thin peanut dressing and sprinkling of sesame seeds, a real winner, probably the thing I enjoyed most all night.
You can't beat a bit of meringue during these summer months, but it was nice to have one not brought to life by summer fruits for a change. Here it was propped up with Chantilly cream, stuffed with banana and then drizzled with chocolate and salted caramel sauces. Super sweet, but thankfully not at all heavy after a generous three courses. The same couldn't be said of the sticky toffee pudding, which arrived looking rightfully indulgent, our waitress let slip that she'd quite happily have it for every meal if she could get away with it. Anyway it wasn't so big I suppose, in fact it had completely disappeared by the time I first looked up from my dessert, so I'm guessing it tasted pretty good too. I'd let anyone off for inhaling it anyway, that ice cream was melting fast by the looks of things.
The Avenue, 18-22 Bridge St, Manchester M3 3BZ
0161 832 4181