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Room Restaurant Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield loves it in the one of the grandest rooms in the North West

Published on August 13th 2012.

Room Restaurant Reviewed

THERE are certain Manchester restaurants which are always on the list of desirable places to visit. 

Here the soft fish flesh with its mild flavour was lifted in a similar manner by the lardo as the pate had been by the plum chutney. Only this time the effect was amplified, it made the dish an intense rush of flavours.

Room is one such place, if only for the spectacular two storey hall that forms the dining space.

This was always the main dining room even when the building was completed as the former Reform Club in 1871. The details (including the coat of arms of Liverpool - this was a Liberal Party gents' club for all of Lancashire) are excellent with the wooden ceiling the star. The architect was Edward Salomans and he did a fine job. 


As for the food, a recent visit showed I'd been away too long. The newish chef here, James Wallis, is both highly competent and highly confident. 

We went for a two course lunch for £14 and a three course lunch for £17.50. Both come with a glass of Sollazzo red or white wine. 

We chose starters of gazpacho and potted chicken liver pate.

The gazpacho came with a lovely piece of cucumber jelly. This should be an oxymoron. To combine two of the blandest food items in the world should fail, instead the jelly mingled well with the very good gazpacho. The latter had the right heat and needed no extra seasoning. 


The chicken liver pate was as rugged as a rugby player's ear and as coarse as a footy player's banter. It should be of course, you don't want a smooth paste with chicken liver pate.

It came with plum chutney and toasted brioche. The coarse but flavour heavy chicken slammed on a fork with the chutney was gold medal material. The sweet/sour astringency of the chutney lifting the flightless bird high into the stratosphere. The only thing lacking was another triangle of brioche. 

Chicken liver pateChicken liver pate

My main was a little gem of fishiness. Baked coley with roast parsnip, cockles, fondant spuds, and beurre rouge. These were good, but the key was the lardo.

Stroke of genius this. Lardo is the fat from the back of a pig. It's Italian in origin, and the fat - subcutaneous fat, if you really want to know - is cured with herbs. Here the soft fish flesh with its mild flavour was lifted in a similar manner by the lardo as the pate had been by the plum chutney. Only this time the effect was amplified, it made the dish an intense rush of flavours. Well done Wallis for that one. 

White fish and pig fat pleaseWhite fish and pig fat please

Apparently the steak sandwich with horseradish, pickles and so on was good as well, but I was too lost in living the life of lardo so I didn't try more than a corner. The fat no-nonsense chips were winners.

Sandwich with chipsSandwich with chips

A pudding of lemon vanilla panna cotta with peanut and popping candy didn't do it for me. The panna cotta was fine but that popping candy space dust was too much of a kid's sweetshop sensation and flavour. It tainted everything else. The whole back to the future thing with puddings and childhood references is becoming a bit tiresome. I should have gone for the cheeseboard.

Sparkling dancing puddSparkling dancing pudd

Still a stylistic difference over the dessert couldn't cloud a really excellent lunch at a tremendous price. It was served quickly and with panache too.

Sadly there were only seven other tables occupied. This was a Friday lunchtime. Seven? Ok this is August, the quietest of Manchester months, but still...

Room, in terms of good looks, in terms of food and atmosphere, in terms of comfort, was a joy. I can't think of a better lunchtime venue. People with an hour to spare should try it. The chef, James Wallis, seems on top form. 

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield


Room, 81 King Street, City, M2 4AH. 0161 839 2005

Rating: 14.5/20 

Food: 7.5/10
Service: 4/5
Ambience: 3/5

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.

Corner spotCorner spot

Grand for the gentleman's club and now for everybodyGrand for the gentleman's club and now for everybody

Room is behind those big windows above that balcony in the 1871 beauty on the leftRoom is behind those big windows above that balcony in the 1871 beauty on the left

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

AnonymousAugust 13th 2012.

Am I right in thinking that this menu you enjoyed will be replaced tomorrow?

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousAugust 13th 2012.

Do you always just eat what the reviewer ate?

Mark SyddallAugust 14th 2012.

We go often ,there next Sat with a party of six with my Hero card !!

Always superb !

AnonymousAugust 14th 2012.

I've done that!

AnonymousAugust 14th 2012.

How odd. You wax lyrical about the sumptuous dining hall then give it 3 out of 5 for ambience. I know ambience is more than just one's surroundings but if the space is as good as you say then 3 seems a bit harsh. Still, the scores very rarely make sense to me.

1 Response: Reply To This...
ChevronAugust 14th 2012.

Ambience is not about design. Ambience needs people and if the place was empty then no ambience I reckon

CobbydalerAugust 17th 2012.

Love the space & the food, on a Friday early evening however, there is too much 'atmosphere'. After-work drinkers in the bar area are so noisy that in the cavernous surroundings you can barely hold a conversation at a table at the other end of the room.

Kris CullineyAugust 20th 2012.

At last a decent restaurant being reveiwed which is not only good value for money, quality orientated, with knowledgable staff and set in beautiful surroundings. I have ventured in on a number of occasions and have been very impressed with the food. chef may have changed since I last went in, however the quality always stays the same through the changes. It's certainly seems to be surviving where others are'nt surely the sign of a quality establishment. Also stuck in the middle of 2 mediocre restaurants with mediocre menus. A shining beacon in a corner of manchester medicority.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Kris CullineyAugust 20th 2012.

oh the last word should have been mediocrity by the way.

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