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MacDonald Manchester Restaurant

Susan Hall is neither shaken nor stirred by a hotel meal on the fringe of the city centre

Published on May 15th 2008.

MacDonald Manchester Restaurant

If there was ever a decade whose slogan had to be, 'What could they possibly have been thinking?' that decade must be the 1970s. And practically no building in Manchester encapsulates that slogan better than the architectural gem which is now the Macdonald Manchester Hotel; a building which most Mancunians still think of as "those daft-looking BT offices on the wrong side of Piccadilly Station." Although it does this in a good way.

Sadly the Macdonald Manchester Hotel is stranded in one of the most ill-conceived spots for development since the Romans decided that Vesuvius would make a fabulous scenic backdrop to their speculative beach-front developments at Pompeii.

Apparently the building was originally planned as a hotel, but the tax-rules changed while it was still under construction, so that its bold modernist curves and stunning glass lines had to be pressed into service as offices. As a result, it became more dog-eared and pathetic as the years passed. Now the Macdonald Hotel group's reputed £33m spent on restoring this building means its original glory can at last shine out.

Sadly the Macdonald Manchester Hotel is stranded in one of the most ill-conceived spots for development since the Romans decided that Vesuvius would make a fabulous scenic backdrop to their speculative beach-front developments at Pompeii. What surrounds the Macdonalds Manchester hotel is the A6 - here three lanes wide - a railway line and the hotel car-park, its seven-foot metal-and-wire fences providing its own commentary on the locality.

Anyway, enough of the building. What about the food?

Over the course of a professional career which has involved staying in an awful lot of hotels I've evolved a useful rule of thumb about their restaurants. The quality of the food is inversely proportionate to the number of bedrooms the hotel possesses. For example, there’s a hotel within 25 minutes of downtown Washington D.C which is listed as one of the 500 best hotels in the world, but costs about £20 less per night than the big chains. That hotel has 45 bedrooms and its restaurant is awesome. But I digress.

For a 338-bedroom hotel the Macdonald Manchester comes out significantly ahead of the game. On our waiter's enthusiastic recommendation I started with the seared Scottish king scallops with herb risotto and lemon and chive dressing (£7.95). Nicely flavoured scallops, if a bit smaller and flatter than I'd been expecting. The risotto on which they rested had a good degree of bite in the rice, and an intense citron flavour, enhanced with spring onion and chive; possibly a little overpowering given the delicacy of the scallops with which it was intended to contrast. My partner passed on the starter. Since the portions here are generous, by the end of the evening I thought his opting for two courses rather than three was definitely the better part of valour.

Russ chose sirloin with peppercorn sauce for his main course. (£19.95 for steak plus £2.25 for the sauce). He asked for it to be cooked 'medium'.

If the European Commission wanted to make itself useful for a change they could work on producing a standardised, EU-wide steak scale.

'Medium' in some restaurants means 'a steak which has been shown a photograph of the pan in which it would have been cooked', or at the other extreme 'charcoaled to within an inch of its life'; other restaurants believe 'medium' means 'left vaguely pinkish in the middle'.

The Macdonald Manchester inclines towards the well-done end of the steak spectrum, but Russ seemed pretty happy with the result. My own main course, outdoor reared pork fillet and belly, fondant potato, carrot puree (£16.50) included beautifully flavoured, well-chosen meat, but also distinctly overdone and presented in a way which was too heavy for a warm May evening.

The desserts were the real highlight of the meal. Russ chose Scotch pancakes, orange and Cointreau butter sauce with ice cream (£5.50) and I went for the Chocolate and praline fondue (£5.50) which made me wish I'd left more room earlier; I’m a sucker for chocolate fondues and this was a particularly good one, the chocolate sauce made more interesting with crushed hazelnuts and a fine range of fresh fruit and shortbread for dipping.

Bearing in mind this restaurant is mainly aimed at hotel residents who – given the location – I imagine are mainly business travellers on their firm's expense account, the wine list is predictable: short, young, medium-priced, mid-range, and nothing to frighten the Company accountant. The Dos Hermanos Curico Valley Fairtrade Sauvignon Blanc (£26.95 by the bottle, £9 by the large (250ml) glass is a pleasant white and the Pinot Noir, Vin de Pays, Robert Skalli 2006 (£22.75 by the bottle, £7.75 by the large glass) a drinkable red.

This place isn't somewhere I would choose for an evening out. But, given the hotels I've stayed in over the years, I think I'd be more than happy to fetch up there. Warm, interested, attentive staff. Solid, decent, undemanding food – precisely aimed, I suspect, at patrons who take their laptops to dinner with them. It isn't exciting, but it's competent.

Rating: 14/20
Breakdown: 7/10 Food
4.5/5 Service
2.5/5 Ambience
Address: Macdonald Manchester Hotel
London Road
M1 2PG

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

gorMay 15th 2008.

If its anything like the MacDonald Hotel in Rochdale I very much doubt it. School dinners spring to mind......

GorMay 15th 2008.

Last time I ate at a Macdonalds hotel was my wedding day. I had boiled chicken breast, frozen roast potatoes that were still frozen in the middle and bland carrots. YUMMY. not even a scrap of sauce either. On complaining they argued that there was nothing wrong with it!! they didn't have to eat it! Poor food and poor customer service within the group and I will continue to let people know as my complaints were ignored.

JonMay 15th 2008.

I went there shortly after it opened and it was one of the worst meals I've ever had. It was incompetent ugly food and poor service standards. Let's hope it's changed as much as this review indicates.

GMay 15th 2008.

Looking at the pictures it seems hard to justify 7/10 for the food! 4/10 more like. I see Gordo didn't bother checking this place out, I bet he wouldn't have given it 7.

Simon TurnerMay 15th 2008.

"Over the course of a professional career which has involved staying in a lawful lot of hotels". One day tell us about the unlawful ones Susan, probably more interesting...

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