Winning a TV show like MasterChef is pretty impressive. Not only do you have to cope with someone slagging your food off every week, but you also have to create amazing dishes with a bloody great big camera in your face the whole time.
Well, Wood owner Simon Wood managed to impress over and over again during the 2015 series, and after winning, the next natural step was to open up his own restaurant at the tail end of last year, with a promise of a premium dining experience in a laid back environment.
Located down at First Street, this elegant and exciting restaurant features a couple of menus to get to grips with, but we were there for Simon’s impressive 7-course Taster Menu (£69pp), with added wine flight of course – would it really be a tasting evening without the damn wine flight? (£39pp)
The whole experience started with a wooden box, some pebbles and a couple of rather large shells. Theatrics aside, this first dish was a combination of Goats Curd, Beetroot and Orange, a whipped up mixture of goat’s curd with tender strips of Mackerel, shavings of beetroot and a slight hint of citrus.
I must say that mackerel isn’t usually ever on my list of things to eat, mostly because it’s a bit “too fishy”, but in this case, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the flavours worked – without the mackerel being too overpowering at all.
The sharpness of the goat’s cheese and citrus alongside the earthy beetroot managed to bring a welcome balance to the dish. I devoured in a matter of seconds.
After a brief wait, we were presented with one of the menu’s stand-out dishes – a Celeriac, Artichoke and Black Truffle Soup. This little pot of winter joy was fantastic, with that characteristic truffle flavour peeking through the dish ever so slightly.
Celeriac Soup is always a winner in these cold, cold times but Simon’s managed to inject a bit of pizazz into it – taking it to a whole new level of comfort food. Again, this was wolfed down a little too quickly!
Another very impressive dish was actually a vegetarian offering, a huge, perfectly cooked Mushroom topped with a Coconut and Chilli foam which certainly packed a punch in the spice stakes. Texture can sometimes be a problem with the humble ‘room but in this case, it was expertly prepared, it was meaty and delicious, packed with some serious flavour.
Scallops are usually something I tend to avoid on most menus, primarily because they are so difficult to get right. A chef that can pull them off and do it with panache is a rare thing, and after eating the following dish – I can safely say that Simon Wood has nailed it.
I was to describe this dish of Orkney Scallops it would certainly be “complex”. There’s a massive range of powerful flavours knocking about, and it’s the kind of dish where you should probably take a minute to brace yourself before tucking in.
The scallops themselves were perfection – cooked with supreme skill and certainly some of the best you’ll find in the city. They were subtly sweet and had the perfect texture – almost like butter – and came alongside a salty crumble of chicken skin, and ‘Salty Fingers’ a slightly bitter plant that tastes of the sea and works fantastically well with the sweetness of the scallops.
Finally, the whole cocktail of flavours and textures was topped off with a Horlicks Malt foam, instantly transporting you to a warm cosy front room in front of the fire and providing a creamy vanilla-wheat balance to the rest of the flavours. Definitely give this one a try.
We were in for a bit of a trip further North next with Wood’s Highland Venison dish which came adorned with blackberries, parsnip crisps and a particularly impressive Haggis ‘Bon-Bon’- a deep-fried ball of Scottish deliciousness.
The Highland venison itself was seared with an impressive amount of skill, perfectly charred and smoky on the outside but with that much sought after meaty pink inside. The sweetness of the winter berries with venison is a classic combination and it is one of those things that just works.
I should at some point also mention the paired wines, but I’m an absolute barbarian when it comes to tastes and flavours and notes – pretty much the whole thing really. I should probably note that each wine was fantastic, and went really well with the courses. I was particularly impressed with the Weingut Otto Görgen Riesling from Germany that came with the next course – the Tutti-Frutti-Pop.
One of Simon’s MasterChef winning dishes, the Tutti-Frutti-Pops are a light and creamy posset with a mix of meringue and the citrus flavours of lemon and grapefruit. There are loads of flavours and textures flying around inside these little beauties, and they’re certainly a refreshing change from many stodgier, heavy desserts that Britain is famed for.
We finished with a chocolatey flourish in the guise of Wood’s Chocolate & Salted Caramel Mousse with an Espresso Ice Cream on the side. Now, I’m not a fan of coffee anything so I gave the ice cream a wide berth, instead concentrating on the fantastically fluffy mousse that just oozed flavour.
Salted Caramel is always a favourite, and the subtle savoury flavours perfectly balanced out the sweetness of everything else on the plate. A fantastic dish that rounded off the Tasting Menu perfectly.
For an evening’s insight into Simon Wood’s entire arsenal of culinary skills and delights, this 7 Course Taster is the perfect introduction.
Wood’s a restaurant that is certainly a very welcome addition to the city’s burgeoning food scene, and certainly somewhere any self-respecting foodie should explore.
Wood Manchester, Jack Rosenthal Street, Manchester M15 4RA
0161 236 5211