I've had more than my fair share of tasty things at James Martin's Manchester venue over the course of a few visits so it was a real pleasure to pop down the other night and see what was new. Previously, for me at least, the modern British restaurant has excelled with the more traditionally meat-and-two-veg style dishes, but there's always been flair too, and I was keen to try a few bits from what looked like an interesting menu.
To begin with our cerviche was beautifully delicate, if you're not keen on the idea of raw fish this could be a good way in, as the slices of monkfish were razor thin. Toasted pumpkin seeds were a nice textural additional as well as offering nutty notes, the bite of pickled kohlrabi then brought it all together with its acidity.
Charred, fanned out hispi cabbage looked fantastic pressed up against the salty chunk of maple glazed pork belly and poached egg. The presentation has undoubtedly gone up a notch here for me, all the crockery (if you're into that sort of thing) was weighty and well matched to the courses, and there were some really stunning looking plates. The belly pork was quite heavily cured and matched our accompanying Peter & Peter Pinot Noir beautifully, a deliciously light and refreshing red that quenched the palate after mouthfuls of gammon and egg.
The most impressive dish, for certain visually and perhaps altogether, had to be the octopus. Slices of pulpo arranged alongside heritage tomatoes and red pepper then crowned with a crisp, fried, curled tentacle. It was impressive to look at and tasted great too, simple but effective, an ideal starter.
You can't come here without a proper lump of British red meat, the Herdwick lamb was cooked perfectly pink and joined on the plate by Israeli couscous, fragrant herby pesto and a scattering of broad beans. That might not look like many beans but, speaking from frustrated experience, it's probably a few pod's worth. I thought this dish was slightly overpowered by the lovage sauce, there was no need to have so much going on with such a lovely bit of meat. To drink, a glass of Vitti Malvasia Nera was exceptional - spicy, heavy and with just enough fruit for the lamb.
My favourite of the two starters was apparently just a palate cleanser, but then I don't have the sweetest of tooth these days. This dish was unapologetically rhubarb. Poached slices, sorbet and a sugar crisp, this was a rhubarb-three-way with just a flowery dusting of hibiscus. If you like the stuff you'll love this, fantastic stuff.
Our final dish was very close to bang on, but a touch too much for me. I enjoyed the cream and fruit, roasted peach and fresh raspberries, but I found the brandy snap style sugar layers a bit too thick, they should've been a bit more dainty.
All in all impressive stuff across everything we ate, as well as clear improvements with the presentation and a little more adventure with ingredients too, as ever, well worth a punt.
2 Watson St, Manchester M3 4LP
0161 828 0345