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Obsidian reviewed

Simon Binns takes a lady out for dinner but ends up with an angry tart

Written by . Published on August 25th 2010.

Obsidian reviewed

“Manchester tart trifle please,” said my female dining companion.

“I knew you’d have that,” replied the waitress.


“When I saw you, I just knew. Manchester tart.”

Oh dear.

And that was how a disappointing dinner in Obsidian descended into a farcical final act.

I wanted to like Obsidian; I really did. It got a kicking from Jay Rayner in The Observer recently – Confidential defended the place against Rayner’s decision to review it on a rainy Monday lunchtime without its full menu on show.

Its former chef, Bryn Evans, had recently left but for my money, he’d been knocking out some fine modern British food since taking the helm in late-2009. I arrived hoping a fresh team would want to shove Rayner’s review down his throat.

Sadly, it was my companion and I who were left with a bad taste in our mouths.It goes thus. Starters consisted of an inoffensive courgette and asparagus soup (£5), which arrived with unnecessary globules of oil on top, and an overly-tough breast of wood pigeon with creamed leeks (£8) for my able companion, served on a plate so large it looked like the loneliest bird in the world.

My companion was involved in a tussle with a dorade (£19), aka sea bream, that was nicely cooked but far too salty. The fish was sat atop...well, it was hard to tell. Was it potato, or was it a lump of melted brie? It looked like the former and tasted like the latter. It was like being trapped in a salt mine.

At this point, the only thing to do was order a second bottle of Sancerre, like everything else a tad pricy at £40, but without doubt the high point of the meal.I was so dehydrated from the main course that I desperately ordered sorbet (£5) for dessert – a refreshing mix of cherry and pineapple – and then came the excruciating Manchester Tart exchange.

“The meat was dry. So dry, in fact, I couldn’t finish it and had to try and suck the moisture out of the fondant potato that it was sat on for sustenance.”

My companion ate it through gritted teeth as I rejoiced in her new nickname. The fact that it was nicely presented with a creamy taste that was just the right side of rich was sadly irrelevant by then.

The comment was (hopefully) well-intentioned but probably misguided – which just about sums Obsidian up on this occasion. All this is a shame as the restaurant has a lovely-looking dining room with a pleasant enough bar attached, but at the prices it’s charging, there are several places in Manchester city centre that do it much, much better.

The original review stated that Steve Waters was head chef at Obsidian, as advertised on the restaurant’s website. Waters actually left Obsidian on July 29 and has now moved to a new role in Brighton.

Rating: 8/20
Breakdown: 5/10 food
2/5 service
1/5 ambience
Address: Obsidian
18-24 Princess Street,
0871 2071625

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

AnonymousAugust 23rd 2010.

When I went during Evans' tenure I had a great meal. Sounds like the new hire isn't up to scratch.

John HarrisAugust 23rd 2010.

I have never eaten a meal at Obsidian that came close to justifying the prices they charge.

Arran SummerhillAugust 24th 2010.

That food looks grade A disgusting!! What a review. Heads should roll at obsidian. I prescribe a new chef. To be taken daily until an improvement is seen.

bigearsAugust 24th 2010.

bad move employing the Head Chef!

bigearsAugust 24th 2010.

I've dined here many times and never had a bad meal but have not been since the new Chef was employed. This place will go exactly the same as it has done in the past - backwards again! Just when it looks like it going places it takes a huge step back to typical over priced, poorly presented food.

Matthew FartAugust 24th 2010.

Hmmmmmm appears that Raynor was right after all. Thankfully we can now put an end to the whole, 'is it right to review a Manchester restaurant on a Monday lunchtime, without 6 months prior notice on a day that ends with a 'y'' debate.

Raynor 1 - Schofield 0.

Louby LouAugust 24th 2010.

I have had two bad experiences here (having only visited twice). The first I went for a drink, which ran long so we thought we would grab something to eat. We went through to the dining room, and were told that as were had not booked they could not fit us in for another two hours, despite only a couple of tables being occupied.
The second the service was so slow we had been there over an hour before we got our starters, it was the longest and most average meal of my life!

JimAugust 24th 2010.

One of my favourite meals of all time was had in Obsideon, it was under the old Chef but it was roasted Belly Pork with Scallops and was absolutely fantastic. Shame the place sounds like its gone downhill

ellpollolocoAugust 24th 2010.

Spot on then JR? Anyone seen Matthew Normans recent review of Grado...spot on also, Heathcote has been taking the piss for far too long now.

Andrew RevansAugust 24th 2010.

Always sorry to see Rayner vindicated; sorry also to hear that Obsidian has gone down the pan. We went there about a year go on a Confidential offer and the food was superb, though the sepulchral atmosphere and less than enthusiastic staff didn't auger well for its future. The waitress mentioned above may have got a dubious sense of humour but the staff when we went just seemed bored.

AnonymousAugust 24th 2010.

I was told about the Grado review yesterday but it is now nowhere to be found on-line. I believe there was a potentially libelous comment from the reviewer and Mr. H may have asked for it to be removed. Still want to read it though, I understand it was utterly appaling, 2/10

GloriaAugust 24th 2010.

Ive never been a Waters fan - promises a lot but delivers so little - Obsidian has ridden on the back of its name for far too long - but the chances are running out now...as for the waitress comment - good service goes hand in hand with good food and a good experience - perhaps the same can be said for bad service.

MaggsAugust 24th 2010.

I am so disappointed to read this as it seems like another good Manchester Restaurant is going downhill. We have had some great meals in Obsidian, not least being both the ManCon offers but I will be reluctant to return now.

Bringbackbryn!August 24th 2010.


jonthepastrychefAugust 24th 2010.

Asparagus soup in august come on! ITS NOT IN SEASON!!!! I agree bring back the fantastic Bryn! His food was F*^king Fantastic!

Matt CzyzykAugust 24th 2010.

Enjoyed the confidential meal we had there, but I don't agree about the dining room being a good space really - rarely do I find basement restaurants condusive to a pleasant experience.

Agree with comments above about the service being poor.

AnonymousAugust 24th 2010.

the chef named actually walked out of the shambles at end of July. this was due to shabby management and staff had a massive bad attitude. It was the best thing he did. Obsidian will not be in business much longer. I think mancon should have researched this just as mr raynor did!

Simon Binns - News EditorAugust 24th 2010.

We've just had it confirmed that the information given by Obisidian's website is in fact incorrect. Steve Waters left Obsidian on July 29.

AnonymousAugust 24th 2010.

Well Chef Waters' name has now been removed from the article. Who exactly was doing the cooking then?

Siobhan McGoffAugust 24th 2010.

I ate at Obsidian a few years back, the food was mediocre and the service terrible, I ordered a drink when my main course arrived and it didn´t turn up until after I had finished eating. My boyfriend and I then had an excruciatingly long wait for the bill, which for me is the quickest way for the waiting staff to lose all chances of being given a tip.

For a relatively expensive restaurant I expected much more for my money, and reviews like this just confirm that I have made the right decision not to give it a second chance; no matter how many times the kitchen changes hands.

AnonymousAugust 24th 2010.

Sounds like the kitchen is in a mess over there. Shame really.

AnonymousAugust 24th 2010.

I hope Mr. Rayner's not reading this - he'll be as smug as a cat that got the cream

SpartacusAugust 24th 2010.

Definitely agree with 'Shiv'. I went there with my girlfriend and it was awful from start to finish. Food was poor value for money and service absolutely atrocious. Never ever will go back. And neither will a lot of people by the sounds of it.

birthday girlAugust 24th 2010.

I recently visited Obsidian for the first time in years and was very disappointed. Food was OK but nothing special and certainly overpriced. With the stark decor, brighly lit tables, it was far cry from the lush, draped, textured romantic spot I rememebered.
Its a shame Mancon didnt review this place before you ran the Strictly Con deal this month! Gives me less confidence to try your other Strictly Confidential deals/recommendations!

JjAugust 24th 2010.

wow, what hypocrisy from MANCON!!! So they get 8/20 but yet in your little slider bar you "recommend" them...about their offer YOU say "Put simply though, we're pleased about this one. Give it a go, and get yourself a blast of fine cooking with big flavours in a great space." so you are happy to blow people when they are giving you money, but when it stops (or i guess is stopping soon) you bitch about them...wow, MANCON has lost the little respect I had for it..

AnonymousAugust 24th 2010.

If you look carefully, the Obsidian Man Con offer ended May 31st - mind you, most of the stuff on the 'slider bar' is out of date ;)

user43110August 24th 2010.

Fair point Anonymous but it would be more useful to subscribers to run the deals or offer recommendations on restaurants they had actually recently reviewed.
Could do better, Mancon.

MDAugust 24th 2010.

I'm not sure if it's the same review (I thought Matthew Norman wrote for the Guardian) but there was a slating of Grado in the Telegraph last week in which the reviewer claimed to have received food poisoning from eating there. I thought it was a bit naughty to be honest as he should probably checked it was definitely from Grado and not from the prawn sandwich he ate on the train up from London.

AnonymousAugust 24th 2010.

@MD; Matthew Norman has switched from the Guardian to the Telegraph. That was exactly the potentially libelous comment I was referring to. Looks like Paul Heathcote may have requested its removal.....

TummycrampsAugust 24th 2010.

I agree totally with MD. You can get food-poisoning in a whole bunch of ways and unless you are certain (like 3 of you ate the same thing and all ill) then you shouldn't be so self-obsessed as to f*ck up someone's business on a whim. Shame on Telegraph.

AnonymousAugust 24th 2010.

Very naughty. It could kill a business. I contributed to a book a few years ago and wrote about 'food poisoning'. Fact is, 80% of what people think is food poisoning, isn't. Most people don't wash their hands when they been to the loo and touch around 1000 objects/people per day; that's where the germs come from. Trust me, if you really do have food poisoning, you know about it.

bigearsAugust 24th 2010.

Didn't think Waters would last long! Not in a million years would i have empoyed him

AnonymousAugust 24th 2010.

To be frank, I'd never heard of this chef before - Waters that is not Bryn Evans

Leigh ScottAugust 24th 2010.

Obsidian screwed up that deal in the first place and to be fair when the deal was on the propsective clientelle got nothing like that which was agreed.

bigearsAugust 24th 2010.

anonymous - no one has heard of Waters. Spells the end of Obsidian now. Anyone know who the new Head Chef is then??

AnonymousAugust 24th 2010.

Seems Steve Waters joined Obsidian mid-June 2010 and left end of July 2010. The usual staying power of a Manchester chef then

AnonymousAugust 24th 2010.

@bigears. Likely the remaining kitchen brigade are on the stoves - Head Chefs (good ones) are like hens' teeth. There is a restaurant in the city centre where the 'Head Chef' was previously a KP at a bar/restaurant in Shude Hill. Never cooked an egg in his life but not to worry, he's now running the kitchen. Having said that, the restaurant in question has no kitchen and brings everything in from a prep kitchen/warehouse in Trafford Park. I may soon lose the will to live

AnonymousAugust 24th 2010.

Have you sad arsed knobs not got anything better to do! I couldn't actually give a f*ck if anyone has heard of me! I am really not interested. I left this sham of a restaurant before the review was done!Thanks to Robert Owen Brown tho for fighting my corner.

AnonymousAugust 24th 2010.

Anon; either you are or you're not - anon that is. If you are Chef Waters, then you cooked me possibly the worst meal I have eaten in 40 years. If you're not said chef, you too are a sad arsed knob - nice, that ROB gets a mention though, wondered how long it would take for his name to appear.............yawn

JjAugust 24th 2010.

heres a question..why didn't the reviewer do what 90% of the population would do? and ask to see the manager? if it was that bad why finish? to give a bad review? how about a REAL review, its easy to bitch at your computer, but how would the experience have been different if they had known how unpleasant you thought it was? oh and MAN CON next time send a food reviewer not the news editor, just because you can write a bit a food reviewer does not make

AnonymousAugust 24th 2010.

So, the reviewer asks to see the manager - can you imagine how that would read in the review? Just seems that this place has gone down a slippery slope...

Sooo SeriousAugust 24th 2010.

Fight, Fight, Fight - gets so serious sometimes. Chef Waters had left before the review but I blame Obsidian for not changing the website which is typical so Mr Waters should be very unhappy with them

AnonymousAugust 24th 2010.

Maybe the reviewer should have picked up the 'phone and asked who the Head Chef was when dining that night, or maybe even asked on the night itself

JjAugust 24th 2010.

just seen this fro CHRIS GRIMES the ManCon sales manager on his twitter... @simonbinns i see the obsidian review has got the ranters in full flow - they get sooo serious - WHAT THE F*CK!! how dare you stir up the shit on twitter and then accuse use..YOUR CUSTOMERS & READERS about being sooooo serious, do me a favour and shut the whole website down then if you don't like our comments, and the fight, fight, fight comment posted as anonymous sound eerily similar to your twitter post Chris, why are you posting on the rant as anon...???

AnonymousAugust 24th 2010.

Amazing what secrets Twitter/Facebook give away

Jonathan Schofield - editorAugust 24th 2010.

I agree USER8056 as it happens. We want you to be as serious as you want - or as funny. This rant section is the readers' forum and a crucial part of the site. We'll have a company chat about this tomorrow.

NortherngeezerAugust 24th 2010.

Yet another example of MANCON staff taking the piss.

AnonymousAugust 24th 2010.

Oh dear, just read another dig about the Obsidian review on Twitter page by said person above.....

Chris GrimesAugust 24th 2010.

The only post I made was on Twitter, and it was not meant in anyway at all as a mickey taking excerise. I'm sorry if you have seen it this way. It was merely a passing judgement

Scott NeilAugust 24th 2010.

in other news, i look forward to Gordo's reports from NYC, the Spotted Pig's burgers are supposed to be superb.

AnonymousAugust 24th 2010.

Got taken there by my H2B for my birthday this august
bit of a long wait for starters _pidgeon and oven baked goats cheese - very nice for both
Mains - i had the steak medium rare, nicely cooked but too much salt for my liking, H2B had the dorade, cooked excellently, he said perfect but again too much salt for me
had a selection of cheeses, very nice, and the manchester tart - excellent, so rich and tasty
not having experienced the previous chef, cannot comment, but if the new one would ease up on the salt, cannot complain at all, would recommend anytime

JjAugust 24th 2010.

@ chris grimes..the issue that you are not in a position to make a passing judgement about us, YOUR READERS as in every capacity, on here, on twitter etc you are a representative of ManCon.

What you do at 2am in your kitchen is your business but as soon as you put it on twitter, facebook its a statement about us! where would you be if we didn't read this shit and comment on it? and all of this makes me think the review was written TO stir up shit, not written factually (no offence to the guy who wrote it) and designed to provoke, attack or generally kick obsidian while they are down

Chris GrimesAugust 24th 2010.

Good and Fair point USER8056 and sorry if you saw it this way, think you have been reading us longer enough to know we dont write reviews to provoke as you can see from all the other reader comments that also had bad experiences.

JjAugust 24th 2010.

i can also read the good comments too..but the story does seem to be written in a sensationalist way..the se of phrases etc, so i think you can see where i am coming from and i dont think that man con staff, owners etc should comment on the stories written. Once they have been published, it is for th public to decide where they go from there

rcyAugust 24th 2010.

I have eaten at Obsidian a few times and loved the decor,the coktails and thought the service was friendly and welcoming - in fact it was one of my fave places in Manchester - what a sad review - just hope they can turn things around

AnonymousAugust 24th 2010.

Having read this and had a shufti on Twitter, the 'anon' name of the poster above, 'Sooo Serious' was used within the Twitter comment by Chris Grimes - draw you own conclusions

BaxterAugust 25th 2010.

The place should treat comments like this as a learning process and improve.

AnonymousAugust 25th 2010.

What's a H2B??

Leigh ScottAugust 25th 2010.


What is your experience of obsidian and how do you think they fare?

JjAugust 25th 2010.

@Scottee I have eaten there twice and had drinks there many Saturday nights..the last time i ate there was 2 weeks ago..food was nothing like what is being reported in this "review" I ate from their 2 course fixed price menu, the food was done to a high standard and the cocktails we had were both excellent.. I have eaten in many (i hate to use the term "fine dining") up-market restaurants in Manchester and the UK and Obsidian didn't deserve the ripping they got. Any one who has eaten there will know that 8/20 is a ridiculous score to give them. Even Jay Rayner who reviewed them was at least positive about the food he actually eat..his main gripe was the menu and the quietness of lunch time dining but his review of the food was good, ManCon just seemed to wrote this review with a poisoned pen and then the "baiting" by manCon employees - when the header is "Obsidian gets another kicking" or something to the like then you know that its not going to be a fair and constructive review. With all the sh*te restaurants in this city, and there are many which we could all mention, i don't think that Obsidian deserved the bashing they got..simple

EmmawhitefieldAugust 25th 2010.

To give them credit where credit's due though.....Manchester tart....that is pretty funny!

Andrew RevansAugust 25th 2010.

Has any other Manchester restaurant ever stirred up this much passion?

AnonymousAugust 25th 2010.

Well, at least it's taken the focus off the Grado review!

NortherngeezerAugust 25th 2010.

Wouldnt mind being a fly on the wall during Mr Schofields office chat.

JjAugust 25th 2010.

@northerngeezer - it would be interesting to know what the outcome is, should employees of ManCon be posting on here to comments made, or editorials run?? especially as anonymous? what do you think?

Leigh ScottAugust 25th 2010.

@USER8056, Manchester confidential is a unique offering in many ways including it's rant facility.

I happen to love it.Whilst I can see your point and since you appear to have the moral high ground why don't you demonstrate that and a little more by just leaving the subject for now? :@)

Matt CzyzykAugust 25th 2010.

Interesting that Obsidian is one of the 25 super-dooper restaurants we get 25% off as Heroes. Brilliant. :)

GordoAugust 25th 2010.

I see you've all been missing me whilst I have been working hard on your behalf ;-)

Leigh ScottAugust 25th 2010.

I bet the NY restaurants were like a shot in the arm eh?

Bryn SearchAugust 25th 2010.

On the subject of Bryn, has anyone seen him, he was due for an interview with me 24 hours ago?

NortherngeezerAugust 25th 2010.

User8056 - I believe MANCON employee's should comment on articles and rants yes, but not anonymously. In fairness, Gordo, Jonno, and Mr Binns have fessed up.

JjAugust 25th 2010.

@northerngeezer - i might be being slow today, what have they fessed up to? commenting under their own name?

GordoAugust 25th 2010.

USER8056, I am going to be fessing up to being pissed for five days in NYC! bloody great food. Am feeling very relaxed.

NortherngeezerAugust 25th 2010.

User8056 - They aint fessed oop to nowt, but U always get a response from them, even if its a biased one when the phrase 'everyone is entitled to there own opinion' dont sit well with them.

AnonymousAugust 25th 2010.

Not been a good week for Paul Heathcote, I see he closed his Liverpool restaurant today; sadly, I doubt it will be the last. I suppose that's what happens when you spread yourself too thin and have FIVE brands in your portfolio. Shame though, he's an alright guy and has contributed a great deal to the North West restaurant scene

ellpollolocoAugust 26th 2010.

PH has been trading on his name for far too long now. People get wise to paying top dollar for 2nd rate food and 3rd rate service- London Road and Grado beiong fine examples of this.

Chris GrimesAugust 26th 2010.

@NORTHERNGEEZER you got a response from me

NortherngeezerAugust 26th 2010.

I never said i didnt Chris. The backbone to my reply to User8056 was that MANCON generally replies to comments made on rants.

Richard WallFebruary 26th 2011.

Bryn Evans is the new head chef at Rhubarb. Already one of the best in Manchester and should move up a level now too. Will be using the hero card there soon! Who is chef at obsidian now?

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