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MCR Restaurant Reviewed: Renaissance Hotel

Jonathan Schofield finds all hope drowning in a fish pie

Published on November 21st 2011.

MCR Restaurant Reviewed: Renaissance Hotel

IT WAS the busiest Saturday in Manchester's recent history. The Christmas markets were packed, the streets were packed, and at 6pm all the restaurants were packed.

Our stomachs were empty. 

Here's a question. Why did they think it was fine to send out the 1970s' school-dinner mash in a dishwater sludge of salmon and liquid and think it was ok?

I was aiming to review Panama Hattys on Brown Street because Confidential hadn't been for about 5,000 years and we felt it was time. But it was full, so was





Harvey Nichols.

On the trudge back to the cheapest car parks in the city centre, off Greengate, five minutes from Harvey Nichols, we passed the Renaissance Hotel. We'd never reviewed this place I thought. Should be intriguing, might be a little find. 

The welcome from the two young women in front of the partitioned MCR Restaurant area was reassurring even if the name wasn't. One was from Eastern Europe, the other from Manchester, both smiled at us so widely we giggled.

A couple of greasy, flabby house Pinot Noirs later and we should have been on our guard but we were very hungry. 

The decor should have put us on our guard too. It was as if dreariness had been designed in. Maybe 'the look' had been chosen by a group of middle-management telesales staff who'd quite liked the design of Birch Services. We ignored this too because we were very hungry.

But the biggest clue as to what lay in store was the sheer awesome emptiness of the place. On a night when the city centre was buckling under the pressure, there were only two other tables occupied. 

Then the starter of clam chowder (£5) arrived and our hungry world came tumbling down.

It came with a wrinkly skin looking like the flesh of an octogenarian who'd had a bath for a week. Under the skin was a wild stab at a creamy New England clam chowder. But it didn't work, the dish was characterless and colourless and largely free of clam or fish. Aside from some cockles floating upside-down there was an array of unidentifiable mush which may have been dogfish nostril or shark's arse.

Pics 051

My mixed grill (£16) was a little better (see picture at the top of the page) with the sort of quality you'd expect in a good old fashioned transport caff. The lamb chop had been cooked suitably medium rare as requested, the gammon was ok, the egg nicely runny, the sausages chunky, only the scratchy steak was a real failure. In mixed grills they usually are. 

The child's bangers and mash worked well for the child. It was a heavy uninspired lump of food but Ralph liked it. It fitted with all the activity centre, nursery school, theme-pub bangers and mash he'd ever had. At that moment all he wanted was filling and this did the job. Sometimes before the fall from innocence and the maturing of the critical faculty this is all a pre-teen requires.

Pics 055

Then the fish pie arrived priced at the extraordinary sum of £15. It was truly shocking.

It came with a chedder cheese mash and a lot of farmed salmon. We probably got the whole farm. One piece was the size of a fist. There were also about three lonely prawns and one centimetre cubed sized piece of swordfish, otherwise it was a salmon party.

Here's a question. What was going on in the kitchen that they thought that massive piece of salmon was acceptable? Here's another one. Why did they think it was fine to send out this 1970s' school-dinner mash in a dishwater sludge of salmon and liquid and think it was ok? Have they no pride? The fish pie was a watery piss-take. For fifteen pounds. 

Pics 060

Made me angry. 

If there were puddings we didn't want them. We fled.

We fled just as a stag party kicked off in the area on the other side of the partition wall of restaurant and bar.

"I'm going to get fucking leathered," said one man with a Yorkshire accent so broad the salmon in the fish pie flaked from the vibrations. I felt like joining him.

Apparently the Renaissance Hotel is four star. Really? The food is transport caff at very best. At worst it's a slap across the face of the punter. 

The worst thing about the place is the reputational damage it does the city. Thousands of guests to Manchester may have eaten here, convenient as it is for the shops and the MEN Arena. This shocking food memory they may take with them.

The hotel appears on the Marketing Manchester and Visit Manchester accommodation guides (click here). They should really take time to inspect these places and refuse to promote them if this is the level of food people can expect when staying over. 

The only saving grace to the whole occasion was the two young ladies who served us. I'd like to thank them for making the visit just about bearable. 

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL. £1000 to the reader who can prove otherwise, and dismissal for the staff member who wrote a review scored out of twenty on a freebie from the restaurant.

MCR Restaurant, Renaissance Hotel
Blackfriars, City, M3 2EQ, 0161 831 6000

Rating: 8/20
Food: 3/10
Service: 4/5
Ambience: 1/5

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away.

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

Buster OnionsNovember 22nd 2011.

blimey! Thanks for the warning. Although caveat: Since you had so many ideas in mind, and it was always going to be a big fat Saturday for the city, next time you might book ahead.

James SpencerNovember 22nd 2011.

Never mind it will be redeveloped by the IRISH BAD BANK

AnonymousNovember 22nd 2011.

That piece of salmon is full of healthy omega 3 which you could probably do with to offset all the other stodge you eat. Nothing wrong with a salmon pie, as long as its cooked well

RevaulxNovember 23rd 2011.

Jonathan, your pain is our gain. Please keep going to crap places as they seem to inspire glorious prose.

The best fish pie I've ever eaten is cooked by me from Jamie Oliver's recipe. Fiddly, but worth the effort.

AnonymousNovember 23rd 2011.


AnonymousNovember 23rd 2011.

This place is horrendous. AVOID!

Jane WrightNovember 24th 2011.

What a great review - what shocking food - has there been no response from the management team? Maybe they don't care!

Mark T. WainNovember 25th 2011.

"IT WAS the busiest Saturday in Manchester's recent history. The Christmas markets were packed, the streets were packed, and at 6pm all the restaurants were packed."

So? How is that theory that Manchester will be a ghost town once the new parking charges are introduced working out for you all?
It would seem the reports of the death of Manchester have been greatly exaggerated.

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