With their undoubtedly talented team and impressive £1m Chapel Walks venue already revealed, all that was left was for Manchester’s newest restaurant to let us try some of the food. So on a scorching day in the city centre we were invited down to Grafene to sample a selection of the dishes it is hoped will breath new life in to the location left unused since Raymond Blanc’s departure more than 6 years ago.
As I alluded to before, it was cracking flags in Manchester so something summery was in order and our first small plate was certainly that. Pickled mackerel, chilled sorrel soup, kohlrabi and apple was cool, light and refreshing. The delicately vinegared fish flaked away, enveloped by that chilled broth with matchsticks of apple bringing their sweet crunch.
The classic combination of scallops and swine got a little twist next, with black pudding arriving in the form of a bread crumbed bon bon then a rich chorizo puree and crisp pancetta. Coiled courgette and apple gel completed a well constructed dish.
Like a pork pie without the pastry, smoked ham terrine with a glistening cider jelly, pickled cauliflower and piccalilli. That’s about as English as it gets, those flavours have picnic written all over ’em.
Having said that isn’t a bit of beef as British as they come? If one picture sends you spinning down to Grafene in a bit of a hurry with a bit of a hunger, I’d bet it might be this one. Himalayan salt-aged ribeye, cooked pink over charcoal, with oxtail terrine, grelot and smoked Winchester custard. And don’t worry, there was a big ‘ol bowl of roasties on the side.
My companion ate another nice bit of meat and veg, Goosnargh guinea fowl, braised leg, hunter’s sauce, leek, onion, carrot and mushroom.
Our first dessert, sorrel posset with creme fraiche sorbet, sumac meringue and granola looked very much a la mode with that ‘lumps and scatterings’ presentation. The white stuff is white chocolate soil, and is probably the best soil I’ve had, seriously.
A similar arrangement but with very different flavours, dark chocolate delice, salt caramel, malt barley ice cream and meringue was all about chewiness and chocolate.
They’ve chosen to add a little drama with an open pastry kitchen at Grafene, and so we had a sneak preview of the production of our final taster. Apple tart with caramel sauce, Madagascan vanilla ice cream. Definitely one for the pastry lovers out there, that crisp shortcrust stole the show.
Plenty to get excited about then, it was no surprise to find out the soft launch all sold out pretty sharpish. Luckily they open their doors for the first time proper on Friday 22nd July, head over to http://www.grafene.co.uk/ to book yourself a table.