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The Modern, Urbis

Gordo goes back three times for the same review because, a) he loved it, b) he got pissed the first time and couldn't remember anything

Written by . Published on October 15th 2008.

The Modern, Urbis

The Modern, the restaurant sat atop Urbis, called the office to tell us the autumn menu was in, could they let you lot know. Gordo was taking MC2's Mike Perls out to lunch so that was the place. The bar recently won a very high score for its cocktails from Man Con's newly installed cocktail writer, Thea Euthanasia (surely Thea Euphemism - ed (click here). Jonathan Schofield wrote a lukewarm review a year ago but the place hadn't been open long. So how are boss Adam McLean and chef Paul Faulkner doing several months down the line?

Mr Perls can have a drink: we both kicked off with a couple of top notch Bolero Sours, crafted by a lovely young woman called Jurgita. Don't ask Gordo to spell the surname. The bar, all very 1950s first class airport lounge, invites you to either love or hate it. Urbis has a history of this. The Bolero Sours you simply love. They are the best.

Mike and Gordo chose a bottle of Albarinho to kick off with. The wine waiter suggested that we tried another, so we went with his choice. As Gordo wasn't doing a full blown review he wasn't taking notes. The fat one and Mr Perls got stuck into the booze for the rest of the afternoon, finishing up at Velvet where Abby Wright, one of owner Mike's staff was holding a leaving do. She is off to Dubai. This started at six thirty, so the intrepid pair were well on their way, the rest of the evening going off in a blur.

Gordo was eventually thrown out at midnight for crimes against dancing. He fell in love with three of Mike's employees and bothered them with equal fairness. The following morning all the throbbing fat one could remember was that the food had been great at The Modern, along with the three MC2 girls plotting to throw him into the canal opposite Velvet. Gordo decides that the food was in fact so good that he needs to do a full review.

Saturday finds a slightly fitter Gordo waking up and deciding to walk down and try it all out again. The lunch that is. So he arrives in the bar at the top of Urbis. James Chapelard from Crain's business magazine was in the bar. “What you up to Fatty?” asks the young spotty one. “Reviewing the place,” replies Gordo. “Oh, yeah, now when I saw you at Abby's leaving party, you told me that you had done it that lunchtime with Mike.” His ratty little eyes start to squint. “Ha ha, you old bugger, you were too pissed to remember the lunch!”

“Fuck off you little shit,” thinks Gordo. “Not at all,” Gordo actually says, “it's just that it was so good I had to come back with a camera...”

Anyway, Gordo gets on with it. The previous Thursday found Gordo tackling the Loch Fyne potted smoked mackerel, wholemeal toast and pickled cucumber (£5.50), which was very good. It isn't a dish which you can write about forever, but if you like this stuff, and Gordo loves it, then it gets a very high score. The slices of pickled cucumber worked well, cutting into the richness of the pâté.

This time round Gordo orders the roasted Scottish scallops with crispy Ribble valley belly pork and a light watercress sauce (£7.50). The scallops, two big fat buggers, were seared brown on top, sweet and fresh with the watercress sauce dancing around the main ingredients. The belly pork, one inch cubes, top crisp, the fat underneath like velvet on the tongue and finally the bottom layer of not quite caramelised meat stickily chewy. Starting to motor now, this chef has got better; a lot better. One mistake is the bottom of the scallops had not been seared, which left the juice running out of the second one and he'd let the finely crafted watercress sauce water down too much.

Then, roast rack of High Peak mutton, braised shoulder, celeriac purée with a caper berry sauce and potato crisp. Now, on top of the braised shoulder was a clove of roasted garlic, done to the point of being a purée of that deep, slightly smoked onion thing that acts as one of God's greatest condiments, tailor made for lamb. The potato crisp was in fact an Audrey Hepburn rosti, thin and delicate as the said icon and packed with her personality. The mutton chop was a thug, sat grinning pinkly, a good inch thick, lying back on a bed of spinach with its legs crossed and its hands behind its head. It had been taking attitude lessons from the Pepperami ads on the telly. “Come on Gordo”, it was saying, “you haven't got the balls!”.

The chop finally convinced Gordo that the mutton craze wasn't a southern poncy food writer's Emperor's new clothes. He has had a couple of iffy efforts ever since that little runt Coren started to big it up. This one was magnificent. Smeared with the garlic, wrapped in the spinach, a mouthful of this lot is a Lancashire lad's opium.

The shoulder meat sat in a neat mound on top of a celeriac purée, a sticky jus dribbled around the lot. The braised shoulder meat had been cooking slowly for days. Layer after layer of flavour had been stewed slowly into it to the point where it hummed lovely tunes. This could be eaten with a spoon.

What a fabulous bunch of ingredients cooked to absolute perfection. This dish turned out to be one of those that Gordo will remember for a long time, one that will bring him back again and again to eat.

A side order of shredded cabbage with bacon (£3.50) was another revelation, cooked just so, dry as a bone, subtle smokiness and crisp bacon lardons.

Warm parkin, caramelised spiced William pear (£4.50) arrived with a small, but sufficient jug of cream. The parkin was throbbing with parkinny-ness, going gooey in the middle, warm as Ma Larkin's bed seconds after she has just got up; the spiced pears sat atop were slices, gone a bit sticky with a little steam packed with spices rising above. This was comforting, autumnal loveliness, wrapping you in a blanket you'd forgotten about since you were eight years old. Bonfires down near Agecroft cemetery.

You may have gathered that Gordo loves this food. The service as well. Gordo has never had a hug off a waitress on the way out before. “You're lovely, you,” she said. Gordo nearly burst into tears. It's been a tough week with women.

Gordo had to go the second time, unannounced on a Saturday lunchtime, the service where the regular staff are normally given a break before the storm that is Saturday night. On both occasions, the place was busy and very busy. Looking at the cross section of people there, ranging from power lunchers, destination lunchers, ladies that lunch, people having middle class birthdays through to James Chapelard slouching across a couch reading the papers, it is clear that The Modern has stuck to its guns over the year and ensured that it has kept nailing in little victories. The result may well, thinks Gordo, be the winning of a war.

Click here for the Autumn Menu

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

SandraOctober 15th 2008.

Have worked with the mentioned manager and chef, and having left for another job I still think both were in their area geared towards best quality food and drink ... despite the grumpiness (unavoidable in the profession I think). Will pop by when I am in the area

AnonymousOctober 15th 2008.

Of course Johnny - you brought this to the attention of the above mentioned individual?

Botty Rider 2000October 15th 2008.

Word of advice - Dont get w@nkered in the cocktail bar upstairs if you want to make an elegant entrace into the restaurant. 4 Caiparinias + spiral staircase =

JeffOctober 15th 2008.

I haven't been in for food yet, but will be doing so as soon as possible.The bar is excellent though. The staff are amazing, which matches the extremely well made cocktails!

matOctober 15th 2008.

that was supposed to say "hear" - it's been a long day already...

JonnyMcspudsOctober 15th 2008.

Hmmm...? Gordo... we're you sat next to me when i took my girlfriend there for her birthday in September?? You've ordered exactly the same food as me last time i went!I liked the Modern, great setting, fabulous food, and our Spanish waitress was great. Gordo, am I right in thinking they have a wine/drinks supervisor AND a food supervisor?? The drinks man (tall chap) was very nice and friendly, but the smaller stature food manager was terrible! We were unfortunately sat near to the till and coffee dispense area, and had to endure rant after rant from the grumpy restaurant manager. If he wasn’t shouting at the staff, then he was smashing coffee cups into the bin, thus ruining any chance I had of whispering sweet nothings to the birthday girl. Name and shame this man Gordo!

AnonymousOctober 15th 2008.

we had a lunch for 4 at the modern some weeks back on a friday. it wasn't that busy but the service was excellent and the food not half bad either. i will go back, but probably a friday or saturday night. i thought the wine list was pretty good too!

gordoOctober 15th 2008.

now MM, keep up, gordo had the parkin on the second occasion, the first he was, rightly, totally ****ed :-)

matOctober 15th 2008.

hello Mr McSpuds, i'm very sorry to here that you and your lady friend had your evening spoilt by the clattering of coffee paraphenalia and general grumpiness, and by way of an apology i'd very much like to invite you back for a meal on me (no shouting included i promise). My name is Mat i'm the company director over at the modern, you can contact me on m.lake@urbis.org.uk - i'd be more than happy to hear from you either way

JonnyMcSpudsOctober 15th 2008.

I didn't bring it to the attention of Mr Grumpy in fear of getting a latte glass wrapped around my little peanut head. i did however, mention it to the waitress, and she just chuckled and said "He's always like that!"ManCon, please don't give him my email address just incase he tracks me down and 'filters me'.

FloOctober 15th 2008.

Mmmm I could just drink one of their honeysuckle cocktails right now.

SteveOctober 15th 2008.

Took the wife for lunch on Saturday and have to say that it's the best 3 courses I've had in a long time and no grump fella in sight. Looking forward to returning very soon.

Mikey MikeOctober 15th 2008.

I wholly agree with this review. The Modern has a great view/setting, attentive staff and although the Manager can sometimes lose his rag, it is only because he cares so much about the quality of food and service. The lamb Gordo tried is also my favourite from their menu. This attached to an awesome cocktail bar makes it a night out-starter that's difficult to forget.One question though; was Gordo too hammered to try the desserts?!

emma graceOctober 15th 2008.

I've never eaten at the Modern, but I did used to work with Paul Faulkner, the Head Chef. So I know it's most likely to be pretty damn good!

JennOctober 15th 2008.

...thats a great gesture, it's warmed my cockles on what has been a terrible day. I was considering booking next week, now I certainly will!

GordoOctober 15th 2008.

Hmm, not sure, who would that be Vaughan?

UrbisOctober 15th 2008.

Not sure Gordo, we'll investigate. The search is on for the grumpy man.

harry's barOctober 15th 2008.

gordo has got The Modern right, it gets better every time I go. It's a right shlep to the bog though.

VincentOctober 15th 2008.

What a great review, always knew the food was top at the Modern. However the prevailing rants have definately tickled me. I too have seen the grumpy man in action, and yes he is very grumpy, and I also believe he is named and shamed in the opening paragraph of the article itself! How amusing!(hint: not the chef)In relation to MikeyMikes comment; "the Manager can sometimes lose his rag, it is only because he cares so much about the quality of food and service" I can think of a million and one better ways to care about food and service than to bang and shout like a child in full view of guests. But what do i know? I'm just a song

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