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Linen Restaurant Examined

Jonathan Schofield on big flavours at decent prices

Written by . Published on August 3rd 2011.

Linen Restaurant Examined

LINEN has always been a good looking place. It's a big strong-boned restaurant under elegant nineteenth century brick vaulting softened by good modern details and all that linen indicated by the name.

Throughout I was surprised by the ballsy, confident cooking at Linen.

A recent excursion up through Manchester 235, the casino which hosts the restaurant, showed that the food has sturdy qualities too. And it all comes in at decent price. If you had to sum up the cooking in a word, that word would be 'bold'. The kitchen led by Stephen White sends out massive flavours to tickle the tastebuds.

A team of Confidentialistas assaulted the menu over a long lunch. 

The pick of the starters were the smoked salmon hash brown (£5.95) and the black pudding spring roll (£4.50). The former poked me right in the eye with its strength underwritten by the soft and forgiving egg. I could eat it nine times in a row and only be sick on the tenth. The same 'come-and-get-me' attitude was apparent in the black pudding spring rolls that came with a corking rhubarb chutney.

Salmon, egg, loveSalmon, egg, love

Winning dishes with the mains were the roast Szechwan duck breast (£15.95), the black cherry glazed ostrich fillet (£18.95) and a slow roasted belly pork (£11.95). Details with the ostrich such as the sweet potato mash and the cherries, or the red cabbage and red onion rosti with the duck, added grit, proved brain-graft, and displayed panache. The flesh was beautifully timed, never over-cooked. 

A fish main of pan fried sea bass (£12.95) also stood out. This most prolifically served fish was lifted by, of all things, that commonplace botherer of allotments, the humble radish - helped by a delicate but sharp vinaigrette. Soft flesh, bitter radish, zesty vinaigrette - wonderful. 

The desserts are crowd-pleasers, vast, sweet concoctions, where subtlety is ditched in favour of dishing it out large. The sticky toffee pudding (£5.95) is one of the best in the North West. The Malteser cheesecake (£5.95) sounds so wrong, it should have been a horrible disaster, but turned out to be ludicrously moreish. The same goes for the apple and cinnamon tartlet (£4.95). 

I can't score the meal out of twenty as is our usual way, as it was a hosted review, but throughout I was surprised about the ballsy, confident cooking of Linen. This place is very good and very accessible - remember, despite the fact it's in a casino, people can wander in off the street and enjoy the food whether gaming or not.

Sticky toffee pudding                                           Sticky toffee pudding from sweet-toothed paradise

The kitchen does have to be a little careful. Gung-ho cooking like this is refreshing but it can lead to clashes that don't work. The meringue and pineapple tower (£5.95) with coconut ice cream and Malibu syprup was way too much of a riot on a plate. The couscous stuffed piquillo peppers (£10.95) actually scared me. 

Yet with a decent winelist (a Rioja Crianza, Castillo de Clavijo, 2007 proved a big-hearted and merry companion on this visit) and with most dishes providing content and quality, then Linen is definitely worth a visit from foodies. 

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield

Linen is at Manchester 235, The Great Northern, Watson Street, City centre. 0161 828 0345

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

Victoria HandAugust 3rd 2011.

We ate here a few weeks ago with the 50% off on their new menu. It's great - the best food I had eaten in ages! I had lamb which was cooked to perfection. We will definitely be going back very soon!

Tanzir RashidAugust 3rd 2011.

beautiful food i enjoyed tasting it all!

Pedro1874August 4th 2011.

One of the VERY few restaurants we go back to. Love everything about it. The risottos are the best ever.

NorthernGeezerAugust 8th 2011.

I've been here a few times now and generally cant fault it.
Agree with the comments on the ostrich, it was outstanding.
The thick cut chips are a good idea in principal but are cooked with a potato which has too much sweetness and are limp and lifeless.
Thrice cooked maybe a better option.
The puds are probably the best in town tho.

the Whalley RangerAugust 28th 2011.

Brilliant place - never busy though which is a real shame...

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