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Le Mont goes Modern

Jonathan Schofield enjoys Modern life - when he gets in

Written by . Published on January 8th 2008.

Le Mont goes Modern

Le Mont was always an unhealthy mix of pros and cons.

Good food from Robert Kisby followed by service so formal it became farce: an impressive dining space high above Manchester with an atmosphere chillier than the graveyard at nearby Angel Meadows. On Halloween.

I don't come out to feel I've done my part for middle class consciences, I go out for a good meal. I might chat about the big issues of the day with my dining partner but just there, just then, I don’t want to live them.

In the end the downers were bigger than the uppers, so to speak, and Le Mont crashed to earth.

Now it's reborn as The Modern. The name follows on from ex-Factory Music branding maestro, Peter Saville's, tag for Manchester as 'original and modern.' Given that Urbis is located in a building dedicated to Manchester as the first city of the industrial age, this is about right.

The first thing the new team did was soften the look and feel of the place and then split it into two distinct levels. The Modern has background music and soft furnishings. Level 6 is the bar and Level 5 the restaurant. They could have gone further with colour and artworks in the two spaces but it's a definite improvement.

The food comes via head chef Paul Faulkner, previously of OXO Tower and latterly Zinc. It was honest fayre. The mains were an interesting contrast between a complete success and a little too much caution.

The monkfish (£14.50) was just right, a balance between creativity and big flavour. It came with braised oxtails, girolles, spuds and a red wine sauce. This was all about the textures, the rubbery monkfish, the fibrous oxtail and girolles, matching well and perfect for the season.

The other main of lamb (£15) was also perfect for the deep mid-winter. It came with winter veg, parsnips, carrots and the like with a lot of honey roasting. It looked the part but turned out to be steady rather than stimulating, it lacked adventure, in contrast to the monkfish dish, which gave substance plus zip. The lamb in particular was strangely muted in flavour despite being delicately prepared.

Previously the starters had been uniformly good. The Jerusalem artichoke and rosemary soup (£4.50) with chanterelles was a cracker. Earthy, with a subtle hint of rosemary, it was a skilfully mixed dish, which made you just want to slow the day down and enjoy long drawn out spoonfuls. The Morecambe Bay shrimps (£5.50) with chicory salad were worthy of a second glance too. The oysters (£8.50), lovely again, provoked a debate whether one should chew or swallow. I favour the former. I want to taste the sea, so my dirty little secret is that I munch the buggers, preferably as nature intended without the adornment of tabasco.

The puds were like the mains. The parkin (£4.50) with spiced roasted pears was spot on, the steamed marmalade pudding (£4.50) was fine but somehow uninspired, not enough marmalade in there.

There's a good range of wines. We went for the Albarino (£23.50), a white, because I'd been to Galicia in summer and felt I wanted a reminder of one of the few good things I'd found. It was a good match for the mass of fishy products we'd ordered.

The Modern makes for a much more comfortable dining experience than the stifling formality of Le Mont. It has lost the sense of occasion of a restaurant trying to push itself - often straining to do so - but it's an easier affair, a very good mid-range venue with reasonable prices. The service isn't cringlingly subservient either as in the old days - although we were asked once too often if everything was all right. Faulkner needs to make sure all the dishes show flair though.

There is great play of buying locally and regionally. Ticks boxes I suppose, but frankly I really couldn't care less where the food is from if it tastes as plain as that lamb. I don't come out to feel I've done my part for middle class consciences, I go out for a good meal. I might chat about the big issues of the day with my dining partner but just there, just then, I don’t want to live them.

The next step for The Modern is to get busy. That bar with its clever classic cocktails needs to fill with chatter to provide a counterpoint to the tranquil dining space below.

There are two problems here. One, the lift thinks it's inside an Italian bank and moves at its own pace. Two, the entrance is cunningly disguised to look like a window. As all of Urbis looks like a window this presents a problem.

Adam McClean, the manager, talks of a canopy to announce the venue. Neon's the thing, though. The entrance needs a big flashing light saying The Modern in that cool logo they have.

Still this is definitely worth a visit or ten. Relaxing with a good brandy, looking down on the city from the sixth floor will convince you of this.

Rating: 14.5/20
Breakdown: 7.5/10 Food
3/5 Service
3/5 Ambience
Address: The Modern Bar and Restaurant
Levels 5&6 Urbis
M4 3BG
0161 605 8282

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17 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

peter ridleyJanuary 8th 2008.

Anon, sorry if you think I'm being lame mate, I don't. Nor do I think your snide comment about taking my mates to the local chinese are helpful. I am sure we will find somewhere to accomodate our outrageous request to take one bottle of wine that was bought for us on our wedding day 4yrs ago, Anon did you think that eight of us were only going to drink 1 bottle, oh how little you know, they have turned away at least £700, I have been in business in Mcr for 30yrs, including owning a pub and if any of my staff turned away that kind of custom they would not last long.Do you work for Modern by any chance, is that why your anon

VaughanJanuary 8th 2008.

Fair points I think Mr. Schofield, particularly regarding the signage. Not sure what we can do to speed up the lift (are Italian bank lifts noticeably slow-moving or is this past emotional scarring?), but perhaps providing live entertainment for the journey might help? The regional food thing isn't so much about being PC as about reflecting one of the core aims of Urbis, which is to promote Manchester (and, by extension, the North-West)--best way of doing this in a restaurant is to go local, surely?

Jonathan SchofieldJanuary 8th 2008.

Vaughan I was once left devastated by an Italian bank lift. It made me miss some telexed money and I had to sleep rough on the streets of Rome. There's the whole Libyan murderer element to that story which we won't go into now. Don't think the Urbis lift will make things happen the same way - I trust. The Modern is good, with people chatting away in the bar, it should sparkle.

peter ridleyJanuary 8th 2008.

Just tried to book at the Modern for our wedding anniversary on the 29th Feb,table for eight.We have a special bottle of wine that was bought for us and wished to drink it with the meal.You wouldn,t think this would be a problem would you?Well it is!!!!I am glad to see that this place can afford to turn away a table of eight and will take my custom elsewhere!

peter ridleyJanuary 8th 2008.

Lounge 10 were happy to take the booking, yes sir no problem with the wine,drop it of a week before to let it settle, absolutely no problem sir.There will however be corkage at house wine rate, very reasonable says I.

UninspiredJanuary 8th 2008.

Went as a party of six, 2 weeks before Christmas. I won't be rushing back the restaurant has real potential but still not a lot of atmosphere. Best things were the Morcambe bays shrimps 9/10 and the Duck which those who ate it said was excellent. Venison was lovely but a miserly portion with a combination of hard and soft veg...is this flair?? I think not. In comparison a party of four went to the Restaurant Bar & Grill the next week and wow what a difference. Great atmosphere, Fantastic food we stayed in the bar afterwards all evening and it was a knockout. Hard to beat the RB&G so try harder Modern!!

BlatheringJanuary 8th 2008.

I'm in agreement with Jonathan the sourcing of ingredients has now gone to far. Coming soon to a menu near you. Pidgeon from the sky above Hansel and Gretal Woods culled with an organic cartridge using a Baretta over and under fired by Colonel Dead Eye Dick Shot accompanied by a green salad from Sainsburys.Surely the most important point of any ingredient is taste and knowing where it's from is no substitute for a bad piece of cooking.

karolinaJanuary 8th 2008.

I recently checked out the Modern for a 'working' lunch with a friend, who suggested the venue to me as she'd heard rumours that we would be in for a real good treat, mmm. And I wasn't disappointed. It was fairly quiet when we arrived and we were allocated (in my view) the best table which presented a 360 degree view of the wintry manchester skyline. Rotating big wheel and all. The decor was formal yet cosy, sophisticated but not intimidating - the dark solid wooden tables and chairs contrasting nicely with the floor to ceiling frosted windows, with a nice clear panel you could see out of to admire the view, thank you very much. Being a huge soup fan, particularly in the winter months (and there's nothing I enjoy more than knocking my own up at home) for starter I opted for the jerusalem artichoke and rosemary soup with chanterelles. It was delicious, smooth, creamy, satisfying and tasted surprisingly healthy too (although I'm sure it wasn't). My friend forwent the starter and straight on to the main course. Pollock, smoked haddock & Loch Duart salmon fish pie, with wilted spinach and of course a side order of fat chips. A suprisingly generous portion, (she struggled to finish) the pie was dominated to her delight by the salmon (all that omega 3) which was perfectly pink and a wonderful texture. I opted for Grilled Goosnargh maize fed chicken,braised leeks and Cheshire smoked bacon & a grain mustard sauce. The chicken was tender with a crunchy jacket, complemented wonderfully by the bacon and the mustard sauce gave it a bit of added va va voom. Resisting desert (but of course trying 'just a taste') of my friends Caramelised quince tart, and vanilla ice cream, which outshone event the artichoke soup. A beautiful combination of sweet and sour, the caramel gave it an added twist that was very moreish. The ice cream tasted home made - which I didn't expect - and had a creamy, custardy texture, which was perfect. With two diet cokes each to wash it down (it was a 'working' lunch after all) it came to just over £ 30, astoundingly reasonable for something quite so thoroughly posh. Marks out of 10 - 8.9 and with the starter and desert both scoring a winning 9.9.

smartmcrJanuary 8th 2008.

Sounds like a definite improvement over Le Mont - this review has certainly inspired me to give Modern a go very soon! All credit to the restaurant for stressing the use of local and regional produce - this is a definite selling point, as it is surprising how many restaurants either use bog-standard produce of unknown origin (look out for the 3663 van parked outside) or, at the other end of the spectrum, waste money on shipping in produce from New Zealand unnecessarily. I don't think it's about salving middle-class consciences but more to do with showing what can be done with great regional produce we have in this area. Local lamb is a little bit hit and miss at this time of year (covered in fat I would imagine).

PJanuary 8th 2008.

I went to The Modern before Christmas & was pleasantly surprised. The food was great & the setting was spectacular. I did have a niggle thought... why is the menu stuck up on the lift walls? As a fine dining restaurant are we seriously meant to be able to give the menu proper consideration within this context?! Admittedly we were given the menu again once we arrived in the restaurant but I felt that this just cheapened the experience & lowered my expectations from the start. Would it not be better to have some information there instead about what The Modern is all about & what you are hoping to achieve?

DavidJanuary 8th 2008.

I went for my Birthday before Christmas and felt they got it just right for Modern British. Price point was good and it seemes to hit the spot in terms of classy without the capital "C" for "Cheshire" which similar restaurants in town can suffer from.

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2008.

Peter. Just off Deansgate, Bridge Street in fact!

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2008.

I think Peter is right in having a gripe. Any decent restuarant, local Chinese or local fine dine, should make exceptions once in a while to for people who wish to bring a special bottle of wine - it's up to them if they wish to charge corkage, nothing to do with the licencing regulations. I occasionally have individuals such as Peter in my restaurant celebrating a special occasion and I don't have a problem with a request to bring a special bottle of wine. Likewise, I have wine merchants and producers who bring in several of their own bottles to try with dinner and as they are in the business so to speak, they generaly make up for not spending on wine by spending much more on food. Morte importantly, these customers return time after time. I'm not saying that all restaurants should bow to every such request but Manchester is a competitive city in which to run a restaurant, not to say the hardest in the UK for an establishment to stay in business. If there were more restaurants that listened to what the customer wants, rather than being so far up themselves in chasing a Michelin Star, the city would be better for it.

mJanuary 8th 2008.

I like the regional food idea. I'd much rather buy local-independant than fair trade or an organic tag I have no faith in. The signage is the number one problem and nothing will do particularly well in here until its sorted (I've been to the museum and to lectures in it but yet I'm still unsure as to how I would get to 'The Modern'). By all means go for the canopy and signage but please try to not make it look like a cancerous growth on the side of one of my favourite buildings.

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2008.

Peter, you are being a bit lame griping like that. They have a licence and perhaps it does not extend to you bringing your own booze. Have you found another restaurant of equivalent culinary stature to the modern that will accomodate you and your bottle of plonk or are you now taking your missus and your mates to the local chinese that doesn't have a booze licence and will charge you corkage for opening your own bottle (which no doubt you will gripe about as well ...)?

GorJanuary 8th 2008.

I enjoyed my vist to the Modern just before xmas but my main course was over cooked. I would probably go again if Lounge 10 was full...

peter ridleyJanuary 8th 2008.

Thank you anonymous2 ???Why is everybody bloody anon!!!Where is your restaurant?

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