One thing that definitely couldn’t be levelled at our city is a lack of relaxed options for eating out. Whether it’s hipster burger joints in the NQ, curry in Rusholme, or just a good old fashioned pie and pint pretty much anywhere, we've got it covered. Fine dining’s still probably not something that you’d say is synonymous with Manchester, although of course that’s not for want of trying in recent years.
There certainly seems to be an increasing demand for luxury though, and that extends to the growing number of high end hotels popping up. One place that’s long since already acquired a prodigious reputation with those in the know is The Lowry Hotel, which also houses The River Restaurant. So when I found out they'd just recently relaunched their a la carte offering I put on my best shirt and head down to check it out.
To set things off I really enjoyed the Mexican winter cocktail, made up from tequila, Grand Marnier, cinnamon, ginger bread syrup and a squeeze of orange. It was like a more refined margarita without the sharp acidity, and reminded me of knocking back oaky mezcal with slices of orange in Mexico City.
For starters I went for the scallops, which came layered across the plate with cauliflower and black pudding. It looked beautiful and the blood pud from local butchers Mettrick's was really impressive. It had, I thought, similar richness of flavour to Spanish morcilla, but also got the nod of approval from Lee, and he's from Bolton so should know all about the good stuff. He opted for the honey glazed smoked duck breast, which also had notable depth and smokiness to it, balanced well with sweet confit plums and pungent wasabi.
We both tried meaty mains, first the roasted saddle of rabbit, which I thought was a little dry, but still flavoursome and came with plenty of gravy at least (or game jus anyway). The high peak rack of lamb on the other hand was fantastic. A couple of cutlets, perfectly prepped and primped, Frenched with bones exposed artfully propped on a ball of hotpot wrapped up in a cabbage leaf all sat in a deep, dark almost sticky rosemary sauce. A few proper chips on the side as well.
Puddings brought with them a delicious dessert wine the Maury Grenache Noir, a chilled red with so much blackberry I felt like I should have been drinking it out of a carton and through a straw. We managed to persaude our waiter to leave us the bottle in the end, unfortunately once it was already empty, but at least I got a quick photo of the label.
The pina colada arctic roll came on a floor of tapioca, like a Wintery scene, looking bright if perhaps just a little bleak. It was nice, although not the fairest of them all. If our first dish was Snow White then our other dessert was definitely Alice in Wonderland, a wonderfully mad and magical mushroom arrangement of peanut butter mousse and cocoa meringue that looked straight out of a fairytale.
It's not often these days I'm a little overawed by places, but The River Restaurant has got a feeling of pedigree about it that's a little bit special, stylish and confident like the singer at the grand piano in the bar. You get the feeling the regulars and residents are probably well used to the sort of standard being served up, but I thought it was very impressive indeed in places. There's also a very reasonably priced chef's grill menu that changes monthly, so whether you're staying the night or not, it's well worth an evening by the river.