At the risk of sounding like a bit of a fanboy I was proper excited about eating at Manchester House. It’s somewhere I’ve wanted to go for ages. That fact was probably quite evident on my arrival as well, seeing as an early evening shower had me turning up looking a bit soggy and flustered in a cagoule. Think somewhere between a trainspotter and one of those people who camps outside Piccadilly Records all night, waiting to get their hands on that exclusive reissued vinyl. Anyway I composed myself whilst enjoying a drink with a view at the bar on the 12th floor, psyched myself up and got ready for the ten course feast that was on its way.
Our first platter was a trio of appetisers, most substantial being a nori rice cracker, topped with tiny pickled mushroom, smoked anchovy and seaweed, like an oceanic micro salad, it felt like a real taste of Japan. Next I tried the crisp chicken skin with foie gras mousse and parmesan, the mousse was so light as to almost taste like whipped cream under that parmesan. The lightness of the bite certainly belied its rich ingredients and the beautiful Long Beach Chenin Blanc from South Africa cut through what was left. Finally a razor clam with lamb tartare and lovage made up our first threesome.
The next dish was made up of scallops poached in a chicken stock and garnished with chicken wings. I’ve always had scallops pan fried so it was interesting to try them done in this way. In the manner a poached egg differs from fried they retained a more true flavour and feel, crisp chicken skin was on hand to give the dish that missing tingle of umami.
So far so delicate, and this continued with the rose veal tartare. Tender little pieces of meat hidden below fermented turnips, truffle and jellied watercress cubes. The dish brought with it our first red, a delicious German Pinot Noir, this followed a lovely Riesling and we were told in doing so it broke the first rule of wine flights – do not hit the same country twice in a row. News to me, but we agreed those spicy cherry notes were well worth bending the etiquette for.
Nothing says spring quite like asparagus, and this next dish was all about the stuff. Sourced from the Wye Valley and served two ways as a cool gazpacho and in crisp slices it was beatifully fresh, almost cleansing. There was also a perfectly pearly white piece of poached turbot too, adding its succulent flaky structure to proceedings.
Sometimes these taster menus can hold the fear for me that sweets will arrive before I’m done eating savoury. I was a touch worried but then the spring lamb turned up. Nutty, Moroccan spiced giant cous cous filled the gaps between carrots and nasturtium, and that pink lamb paired with the Matteo Correggia Roero Nebbiolo would melt any heart.
Maybe it’s just me but I find it hard to eat good desserts without being reminded of my childhood, I was a bit chubby I suppose. Eating the first of three puddings, a beurre noisette parfait wrapped in an orange sheath surrounded by sweet crumb, it felt like I had too many different memories trying to get in at once. Marmalade, jaffa cakes, jelly and ice cream, crumble topping all sparking. My palate is probably over simplifying the complexity of it all, but the dish certainly put a smile on my face.
A tough act to follow, though our second dessert of Madagascan wild vanilla, chocolate mousse, mango and lychee gel brought with it another array of artfully arranged texture and perfumery. The last departure on our wine flight was to New South Wales for a glass of the powerfully peachy De Bertoli Noble One, it was all bit much for Lee as he got to talking about starting his own wine cellar.
To finish, macaroons, like little fruity full stops, coffee and madeleines and a chance to discuss what we’d just eaten. There’s not many places in Manchester that even try to compete with that level of conceptual cooking, but there’s still no room for manoeuvre really. Ten courses can be nothing but frustrating if it’s not done right, and there are plenty of pitfalls serving so many different dishes. For me the hardest part of it all is getting the pace, balance and sequencing of it all right, and at Manchester House, I think they’ve nailed it.