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The Podium review

Jonathan Schofield still hasn’t had a bad meal at the Hilton’s flagship restaurant

Written by . Published on July 25th 2010.

The Podium review

Marc Whitley, the restaurant manager of the Podium, was trying to prevent us getting drunk. Every time I looked around for the lovely Chablis it had moved further off. At one point I swear it was by the bus-stop outside, stood up in its little bucket looking back forlornly through the window and mouthing, ‘drink me’.

Marc’s a lovely fella, but I didn’t realise there was a bit of the teetotal Methodist about him. Or maybe he felt that I wasn’t to be trusted and would grab the bottle and pour the wine straight down my throat. I swear this has only happened once.

Fortunately this game of wine hide and seek didn’t spoil the occasion. In a gently busy restaurant I felt the need after the main courses to whisper eight little words in the shell-like of the charming and pretty waitress Audrey. I said: “I have never had a bad meal here.” There are very few restaurants in the North West in which I feel able to utter this.

Audrey who is French wasn’t embarrassed by this revelation nor was she particularly pleased. This was because she couldn’t understand a word of my Rochdale accent. She probably thought I said: “Eh up, wur are me chips luv, by ‘eck.” It happens.

The starters of warm zampone with parsley dressed lima beans (£9.95) and pan fried scallops with cauliflower puree and caper dressing (£8.50) were harbingers of the good things to come. Tight as the bunched fists of a champion bantam weight and yet as delicate and inspired as a Tiffany broach, these were stars.

Zampone is pig trotter sausage with all the tough, rich, earthy flavours that implies. This combined with the lima beans, a South American kidney bean variety, with a creamy, subtle flavour was a cliché made in heaven. Or even a marriage.

The boss chef at Podium is David Gale, a stalwart of the Manchester food scene, who always takes care to enlist, train and give opportunity to a proper brigade of fellow cooks. He makes staff earn his trust by having them prove their skills and imagination by making them part of the creation process on each of his menus. This is a method that works. It means that when Gale’s away, as on this occasion, he has trusty lieutenants who can cover for him.

Last year I highlighted Gale’s steamed halibut with a clam sauce and oyster fritter as an almost flawless example of how to get the best out of gentle fishy flavours. Click here.

This time the scallop starter looked it might do the same. It did. In bucketloads - particularly in the little bites of crunchy soft tempura cauliflower. Cauliflower, after all, is usually the poor bloody infantryman of the dank British Sunday roast as evidenced in countless crap pubs countrywide. Normally people drown it in cheese, just to distract themselves from its general cotton wool pointlessness. This was different. I think even my nine-year-old would love cauliflower done this way.

The mains of roast venison with a Waldorf garnish and blue cheese (£21.50) and the half lobster with fat chips and mayonnaise(£29.95) were as good as gold too. Although my hungry guest had finished the latter before I’d looked up, “Good,” she said, “really good. Delicious.” “All gone?” I said mournfully.

Instead I had to content myself with the venison which was a proper dear. Exquisite bundles of game from Tatton Park elegantly presented on a bed of puréed celeriac with a ball of breadcrumbed warm blue cheese to add interest and make it somehow a very British dish. This was all standout stuff: an excellent and balanced plate of food and timed to achieve the maximum.

For puddings we had the assiette of apples and blackberries (£5.95) and the British and European Cheese selection (£1.75 a piece).

Now I love cheese almost as much as I love my children. I could sing a song for the subtleties of the Brie de Meaux and the heartiness of the Golden Cross goat’s cheese here but for once I think the sweet option mugged the cheese.

Simply exquisite folks. The blackberry jelly was the clever bit of creativity but the cheesecake with a hint of apple was firm to the spoon and soft on the palate. It was the very model of a cheesecake right down to its biscuit base.

The sous chef came over to have a word halfway through the meal. “What’s your name?” I asked. “Dave,” he said. “Like the exec chef?” I said. “Yes,” he said, “the next chef down from me’s called Dave too.” Three Dave’s in the kitchen, no wonder there’s consistency on the plate.

Our Dave for the evening (sous chef Dave) is off to the Holiday Inn soon on the MediaCity site to take over what he says will be an ambitious restaurant higher in standard than the usual Holiday Inn dining space. Let’s hope so, and let’s hope he takes with him some of the skills shown in Podium, especially that balance and imagination.

By the way for diehard Northerners who don’t like fancy food and think the portions too small, the range of steaks sourced from Mettrick butchers in Glossop is exceptional. Ask for the taster menu if you want to order off menu. There’s a good range of whiskies too.

Go to Podium folks, the room might be a little too large, and perhaps a little too brown, but the food is a Manchester dining beacon. If you like it then go back again, and see if I’m right, see if it has the consistency-thing going on. If you’re from Rochdale though maybe learn French so you can flirt with Audrey.

Rating: 16/20
Breakdown: 8.5/10 food
4.5/5 serivice
3/5 ambience
Address: Podium Restaurant
The Hilton303 Deansgate
M3 4LQ

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

Karen ClefJuly 20th 2010.

Good review, good place. Funny. the review that is.

AnonymousJuly 20th 2010.

It would be great if you could list their tel number and address with the rating.

AnonymousJuly 20th 2010.

You obviously had a better experience than I had recently when I invited friends to join me at the Podium. Both the service and food where decidedly average. 5/10 at the best!

NortherngeezerJuly 20th 2010.

I helped build the place and wot with the glass cracking and road closures..............i aint going near it!!!!

Arran SummerhillJuly 20th 2010.

Im perturbed by the number of times poduim, harvey nichols and ramsons get mentions on Mancon.

Does it not indicate a lack of first class restaurants in the area?

How is Aumbry getting on in prestwich? Does anyone know as it was hailed as a potential saving grace.

Simone Thornley-EavesJuly 20th 2010.

I don't like Cheesecake but that looks divine.

NortherngeezerJuly 20th 2010.

The fact that Gordo 'did' Italy with the owner of Ramsons speaks volumes methinks.

Jamie O (not him)July 20th 2010.

A superior restaurant in Manchester. It's nice to have it.

BurbagJuly 21st 2010.

I dislike the decor and design of ' Podium '. It will never take off financially without addressing the ambiance. It is not the place for a three hour gourmet experience. Food good but much work to do.

MaggsJuly 21st 2010.

Thank you for reminding me about Aumbry, Dr AHS - we were intending to try it but it had slipped to the back of the list. Will book it today and report back. Not tried Podium but sounds good from this review so that will be back on the list. Still best for my money at the moment are Obsidian and Mark Addy but I always live in fear that chefs will move on (especially Rob O-B!!) and I will end up disappointed again.

pity we weren't food criticsJuly 21st 2010.

Our small company of 7 employees enjoyed 2 fantastic christmases at Podium. However, last year I vowed never to set foot in the place again after the most appalling service you could ever imagine. It was a Saturday night but not full and we still had to wait ages for our paltry starters. Most of our choices were not available and it was before 9pm. Don't ask me about the mains because they didn't materialise. Our steak order went to a table of suits near-by. We knew they were ours because the waitress started to prepare our table when an arse of an assistant manager ushered her away to the next table. Nearly an hour after our third rate starters we still didn't have our mains. Unfortunately for The Arse my partner wasn't drinking and was observing everything. They must have known they'd cocked up because they said we didn't have to pay. Not being a cheapo I insisted on paying for all the champagne we had drank and then vowed never to give them my business ever again. If they made sure tables spending 350 quid or more were adequately looked after then they probably wouldn't have to cheapen themselves by having to offer 25 quid deals to get the punters in.

Jonathan Schofield - editorJuly 21st 2010.

Now don't be bitter Pity etc.. Go back and re-try the place, different restaurant management team now. The food is seriously good.

AnonymousJuly 21st 2010.

I have eaten in the Podium a quite a few times and only had fantastic food and service. The staff are very helpful and friendly and the food is by far the best in manchester...

BrianOctober 29th 2010.

I lunched there today, nothing exciting, but nicely presented in amongst the decor which reminded me of a crematorium. Plenty of long coffin like pine boxes with vases of wonky gladioli perched on top, this when coupled with the ethereal muzak and naff velvet drapes was 'interesting'. All was fine until my nice waitress was replaced by a scruffy half asleep male who seemed to forget I was there, although there were only five diners in the place. Eventually he served me three cheeses, all white, on a white plate with some round crackers, (no butter) I could smell the over ripe camembert as it arrived and the other two slices of whatever it was, looked like a pair of curled cracked heels. The cold coffee was bright orange and undrinkable and the puny pot of pickle was more like cheap mincemeat that the suet had been carefully picked out of. I was in there on a cheap deal, I still felt shafted and so definitely wont be going again. I ate a thai curry at Rice on Piccadilly later and found it a superior dining experience.

AnonymousMay 24th 2011.

superb place to eat, had a great experience at the Podium, the service was brilliant and so was the food!!! Great offer!!

AnonymousSeptember 16th 2011.

The hotel (H.R) department accomodated students from cedar mount high school last week on a show round. LUCY was fantastic and deserves to be nominated as team member of the month.
Well done!!! lucy You are an asset!!!

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