There's a fair few taster menus knocking around Manchester right now, as you may have seen on these very pages, but none as keenly priced as the offering from James Martin's restaurant at Manchester235, inside the casino. At only £30 a head it seems a bit too good to be true for 6 courses, but then what else would expect from one of Yorkshire's most famous culinary purveyors, other than perhaps lots of butter? It's been nearly 2 years since the Saturday Kitchen chef took over the space previously occupied by Linen, so we thought it was high time to check out what was on the menu.
A stroll past the craps tables isn't the usual precursor to a fine dining experience but, once inside, the layout of the place is nice, and seated by the windows of the Great Northern we got a great view back in to Manchester city centre. With the evening Summer sun spreading through the curtains we started off with scallop cerviche with kohirabi ponzu, fittingly fresh flavours that were well matched with a lovely Sancerre.
As the courses moved through fish and red meats we decided to drink wine by the glass. The Saint-Emilion from Bordeaux was beautifully well rounded and looked altogether rather posh alongside the following dish of rabbit pasty and plum. Next up was caramelised cod with edamame, asparagus, pea and samphire. A truly impressive plate of food, wonderfully presented, that got me wondering, not for the first time, how each of these courses were being served up for on average £5 each.
Wagyu ox cheek, celeriac, aubergine, caramelised onion and pea shoots was the other real star turn. Fantastically tender beef turned out with well cooked veg and plenty of gravy is tough to beat on any stage, and as down to earth as you'd expect from Mr Martin.
...as anyone from Yorkshire will tell you, it's one thing to have a story about eating good food, but even better to have one about a bargain...
Things got a bit more ornate and 'cheffy' again for the desserts as we enjoyed first, champagne strawberries, elderflower jelly, and meringue pieces. A pretty array of sweet things and an interesting combination of textures. That was followed by a slice of mandarin and olive oil cake topped with mango ice cream, moist as you like, and a deserving end to the evening.
As it was though we plumped for the cheese taster course, just to finish things off, and were not disappointed. Five cracking British things including Garstang white, an oozing Brie style lump of loveliness and the ash-rolled, award winning goat's cheese Kidderton Ash. These were served up with a Pinot Grigio Blush, I'm not normally one for rose but full marks to the waiter for the recommendation there. The service, in fact, was immaculate and affable throughout, it's always nice to see staff enjoying themselves.
We had a great time too it has to be said. I've been lucky enough to sample a few tasters of late, and this one was definitely up there. You'll find something interesting about each dish, there's generous variety, but also a continuity between courses that displays the best facets of modern British cooking. And with that relatively modest price tag I walked away nicely impressed, as anyone from Yorkshire will tell you, it's one thing to have a story about eating good food, but even better to have one about a bargain.