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Manchester House: The Lunch Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield loves the subtlety and skill

Published on March 16th 2014.


Manchester House: The Lunch Reviewed
 

CELEBRITY CHEF is a bloody awful phrase. Cheap. 

After all 'celebrity' has become the most debased word in the English language, spread as thin as jam on a crust in a nineteenth century workhouse.

Whether you approve or disapprove of the food, is the chef who created it, Aiden Byrne, will be in the kitchen when you visit. He's open to face-to-face feedback too.

Celebrity means having your face in the meedya for a bit. Probably because you've made an arse of yourself on some asinine reality TV. 

It seems cruel given the long hours chefs have put in, the blood, sweat and tears, to be bracketed with Joey Essex and Helen Flanagan. Yeah, right, who?

Problem is the phrase celebrity chef acts as a poison. It makes them elusive, more on the box than at the stove. This is because after that TV spot and double-page spread in a Sunday supplement they get giddy and open franchises across the country in places most of them had never considered visiting until someone put their name in lights over the door.

Aiden Bryne In Meat Mode

Aiden Bryne overseeing the operation in Manchester House

One of the best things about Manchester House is that Aiden Byrne is a, more or less, ever present. On most visits you'll see him bent over a hot counter doing his thing or arranging pretty edible patterns ready for the delectation of his ready audience. 

This matters.

It means Byrne is in control, keeping up standards, driving the kitchen through direct leadership. That level of intimate knowledge of the business, that attention to detail, shows in the cooking. 

And it's not as expensive as you might think.

Of course this is fine dining, it isn't Subway, so it's not a fiver in and out, but if you want to sample top level fine dining before maybe diving into a full evening tasting menu then the lunch menu at Manchester House is a fine introduction. 

The price is two courses, £22.50, three courses, £27.50. The menu features two mains, two starters and two puddings. There's always a substantial amuse too so three courses become four. You can get matching wines for a supplement. 

The menu I recently sampled is shown below. If you go you won't receive this. Byrne changes it constantly. Gordo's been a couple of times at lunch in the last few months and so have I and the lunch menu has never been replicated. That's part of the excitement of the trip.

People can still indulge in the full a la carte if they wish. 

Menu - hints at the bargainMenu - hints at the joys ahead

I had a go at all of the dishes on the menu pictured.

The construction of say the asparagus and lamb 'beginning' tells you all you need to know about the craftsmanship. It features explosions of carefully collected flavours especially when the food is bunched on the fork. The lamb tongue was delicate yet strong, an asparagus 'emulsion' (not a good word for a food) was a symphony of subtle power.

A symphony of subtle power

A symphony of subtle power

Soup for a kingSoup for a kingThe roasted celeriac and truffle soup with the scallop contained a divine foie gras that would make the eyes water with joy and the objections falter of even the most righteous foie gras decryer. 

The poached salmon and razor clam 'middle' maintained the exquisite quality of the food, the salmon as soft as butter, cooked slowly in olive oil, the lettuce tender yet paradoxically crunchy, the gnocchi in the dish adding more textures.

It was a pretty green spring picture of a dish on a plate carrying an illustration of a winter tree. I think I need that symbolism explaining.  

It looks healthy and it makes you feel good

 

It looks healthy and it makes you feel good

The duck breast from prolific Goosnargh (the only village in Lancashire were people are outnumbered by ducks 10,000-1) again featured foie gras but also poached figs to inspire poems and was bolstered by ham and a burst of fun in a morsel of confit tongue. It again delivered a combination of flavours and textures that didn't overwhelm but didn't lose force. 

It's all going on here

 

It's all going on here

Mavis and hair, former Lord MayorMavis, former Lord MayorOne of the 'end' puddings had gone insane. This was the chocolate, violet and honeycomb thingy. It reminded me of one of those older ladies who in a last gesture of defiance at the passing of the years, in a final clenched fist of individuality, dye their hair purple or bright green.

Mavis Smitheman, an ex-Lord Mayor of Manchester had crazy hair and was a great representative of the city. It suited her.

This pudding didn't suit me.

Whereas the other dishes had been complex and clever this seemed gaudy, a violent lurch towards gimmickry. It looked vaguely sinister and the competing sweetnesses were too much. 

Crazy pudding

Crazy pudding made up of odd colours

We were back on form with the artful creation that was the honey and vanilla parfait with pomegranate and rhubarb. This cunning play on a dessert classic was delivered with confidence and panache.

Parfait brings it back to par

Parfait brings it back to par

Overall it was massively rewarding lunch at Manchester House with the only negative the visual assault of the purple pudd. That aside, what it proved again is this lunch menu could be their 'in' for readers who may be wary of the recent big 'name' openings. 

Certainly for flavour chasers the occasional lunch at Manchester House charges the batteries and whets the appetite. The next stage of course, might be the evening a la carte or maybe for a special occasion, the full-on £95 taster menu.

A further bonus, whether you approve or disapprove of the food, is the chef who created it, Aiden Byrne, will be in the kitchen when you visit. He's open to face-to-face feedback too. He won't be in Kent helping set up a pub spin-off to visit every fourth month for an hour, he'll be a few metres away.

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter @JonathSchofield or connect via Google+ 

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL AND PAID FOR BY THE MAGAZINE.

Manchester House, Tower 12, Spinningfields, City centre. M3 3BZ

Rating: 17/20 (remember venues are rated against the best examples of their type - see yellow box below)

Food: 9/10 (soup 9.5, asparagus and lamb tongue 9, duck 9.5, salmon 9.5, parfait 8, choc thing with violet shocker 7)
Service: 4/5  
Ambience: 4/5 

PLEASE NOTE: 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, we get carried away.

 

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

rinkydinkMarch 16th 2014.

Nando's is nowhere near a fiver in and out!

1 Response: Reply To This...
EditorialMarch 17th 2014.

Changed that to Subway - you're right.

AnonymousMarch 17th 2014.

How much? :O

AnonymousMarch 18th 2014.

The lunch menu is an absolute bargain. Have been twice and intend to go much more. Practically flawless meal. And lovely staff.

AnonymousMarch 20th 2014.

"On most visits you'll see him bent over..."

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