They say out of sight out of mind, but James Martin’s decision to step down from hosting Saturday Kitchen clearly hasn’t affected the chef’s reputation in Manchester, his restaurant over at the Great Northern seems as popular as ever. It was pretty packed out when we went down there last week anyway. Those full tables could be due in part to their new Spring Pickings five course taster and a revamp of the a la carte menu that’s seen a load of exciting new dishes added. Having already sampled the great value taster last year, we were invited down to try the latter of the two, a slap up 3 course dinner.
After a bit of bread and butter we enjoyed an attractive little appetiser of asparagus with a slow cooked egg yolk, like a riff on eggs hollandaise. We then shared a couple of starters and were both particularly impressed with the halibut carpaccio. A fish that can easily be overcooked was delicious raw with passion fruit, capers and pickled fennel.
The 50 day aged beef didn’t quite hit the same heights. As good quality as the meat was I’ve never seen jerky used in a dish before, and can probably see why, it’s dry chewy texture didn’t quite work for me.
Being the pair of red blooded males that we are, we were both drawn to the meatier options for mains. In truth my companion was inches from ordering a steak but we thought it maybe best to try some things a little more interesting. I plumped for the slow braised wagyu short rib, a juicy tender fatty cut that lent itself well to what was rather like a deconstructed steak pie. The beef had little onion bowls topped up with stout gravy, beef dripping short crust and salsify arranged around it, and we thought it best to have a pile of chips on the side too. The Himalayan salt-aged lamb centred on a similarly alluring hunk along with braised neck terrine, grape, leek grass and a red wine sauce. A couple of interesting ingredients aside it all felt like proper satisfying British fare, no complaints here.
Aside from his Yorkshire roots bringing expectations of traditional cooking, the other thing you expect from Chef Martin is impressive desserts, he’s written books on the subject after all. To finish up we chose the caramelised muscovado sugar tart, smooth sweet and rich alongside a sharp citrus and rum sorbet. Even richer was the hot sticky toffee pudding, which was almost treacly in colour and flavour, it felt like a proper grown ups version of the classic, a slightly savoury salted caramel ice cream kept with that theme.
All in all there’s much to praise. If you haven’t checked out James Martin’s yet they run a pretty tight ship, the service is great and the food skates the line of traditional with modern twists well. And if you’ve been before and know this much already, that new menu provides plenty of reasons to visit again.