Arriving at Tattu, my companion and I were lead up a glowing mahogany stairway, past a stalking tiger captured in vibrant tapestry, and into the dining room to be sat beneath the boughs and blossoms of a full-sized, dramatically-lit cherry tree. From the twinkling bar in the corner of the room, servers slid with trays of mysterious cocktails trailing plumes of ivory fog.
Seriously, stepping into Tattu is a moment unto itself. What could easily seem outlandish instead feels perfectly measured, artful and atmospheric. We sensed we were in for something special.
Our server Tom presented himself immediately to acquaint us with the menu. Built around an expectation of sharing, the offerings are heavy on small plates, dim sum and side dishes designed to keep the chopsticks dancing around the table. Meanwhile, the cocktail menu is plainly built to bait and beguile, each poetically-named installation more evocative than the last: The Qingming Sling, The Art of War, The Elixir of Life.
We told Tom we wanted in on the foggy fun, so he brought us that very Elixir, and it arrived looking convincingly like something concocted to restore one’s essential mana, glowing blue like a liquid lapis lazuli and languidly releasing tendrils of vapour from a broad-shouldered apothecary bottle. The ineffable honied flavours of elderflower and warm vanilla balance beautifully against the bracing Jinzu gin.
Convinced of the sense in sharing, but needing a guarantee against last-bite related squabbles, my companion and I devised the perfect plan: Order an extravagant array of food. As we listed off the many, many dishes that had irresistibly tickled our fancy, Tom — the unblinking professional — patiently wrote them all down, stopping only once to change pens.
What followed was a parade of universally delectable bites, familiar Chinese standards in charming, fully-modern renditions. An easy harmony emerged from a variety of distinctive dishes as classical notes of smoky sesame, salty soy, warm ginger and bold chili resounded throughout.
We certainly feasted first with our eyes at Tattu, as striking presentation leads every bowl, plate & bamboo pot. From crispy rolls decorated with handsome collars of nori to sriracha-soaked dumplings of blazing crimson to ingots of short rib coated to a mirror gloss in a reduction of jus, there was a tremendous bravado on display, giving our salivary glands the workout of a lifetime.
One of the most avant-garde presentations is of the Black Cod: Dumplings of cod, prawn and asparagus stained to a shiny black with squid ink and studded with a single bright green edamame for a sculptural quality that would put one at home 50 times enlarged in the courtyard of a modern-art museum. They’re a bit of a thrill for the palate as well: Lightly fishy with an electric jolt of salt from that deliberately-dotted edamame.
Other standouts in the flavour department include the Duck Egg and Sausage Fried Rice, dark and sticky with soy sauce, perfectly oiled and delectably umami-forward; the Sticky Beef Short Rib with concentrated ginger and caramelized sweetness from the jus reduction set against the dense, fatty chew of the beef; and the Chicken Xiao Long Bao for the powerful heat of the chilli and ginger sauce and the lively acid of the pickled daikon garnish.
There’s more powerful heat to be found all throughout the menu, in the Spicy Pork Wonton loaded with lip-tingling Szechuan pepper, or the aforementioned sriracha-infused Wagyu Dumpling which also boasts terrific texture in the signature chew of wok-seared beef. But we didn’t know true spice until we reached the Chilli Crusted Tofu — the tofu morsels themselves are springy with an earthy flavour activated nicely by the toss in chilli powder, but the accompanying chilli sauce doesn’t play nice at all — just a light dunking was enough to coat my mouth in sharp, oily heat that crawled up my palate and kicked at the back of my eyeballs.
When we needed a break from the heat, it was easy to find. The creamy richness of Tattu’s Peking Duck Bon Bons were the perfect salve for our over-taxed tongues, especially with a slather of tart jam-thick cherry sauce to activate the salivary glands. Duck also finds gamey, succulent expression in the Crispy Duck Rolls while the Wild Mushroom Spring Rolls offer the same exciting crunch with a truffle creme fraiche on the side for fully-rounded flavour as well as cooling relief.
What at first seemed like an unconquerable phalanx of food slowly gave way to our clacking chopsticks and finally it happened: Only one morsel remained. It was a bite of Crispy Pork Belly, a true textural masterpiece, a perfect layering of succulent fat and tender, salty pork beneath a glassy crunch of skin.
I looked to my companion, hoping to suss out her intent, steeling myself for the obligatory back-and-forth of “Take it”s and “No, you”s and “I couldn’t possibly”s that would test our politeness and also our domestic relationship. But she was looking at her phone, so I took the precious pork belly for myself. #noregrets
To close out the meal, we were served something almost too gorgeous to eat: the Baked Lotus Flower, a piped-and-toasted sculpture of warm sugariness whose blossoms part to reveal a silky filling that sings with lavender and tart, multi-dimensional yuzu.
Served amidst a striking, colourful garden of real and sweetly re-interpreted flowers, the dessert was our Tattu experience in microcosm; Artistic & engineered, a compelling, precisely-flavoured demonstration of technique and texture with old-world sophistication and modern flair in effortless balance.
Book your table beneath the blossoms today and treat yourself to one of Manchester’s most exciting and memorable meals. And don’t be afraid to go all-in: Tom’s pen can handle it.
Tattu, 3, 4 Hardman Square, Gartside St, Manchester M3 3EB
0161 819 2060