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The Moss Nook Restaurant

Nicholas Royle, author of five novels, goes researching his next book at Manchester's answer to Margot's living room in the Good Life

Published on August 18th 2008.


The Moss Nook Restaurant

If you come to the Moss Nook looking for a bit of Moss Nookie, as I did, you may be disappointed.

I’d better explain. I’m writing a novel in which my main character has a thing about aircraft. He likes to have sex underneath the flight path and as close as possible to the runway, because he enjoys the thrill of the plane passing close overhead.

The huge breast-shaped silver lids are raised in perfect synchrony. It’s done with a tastefully restrained flourish, but there is something ever so slightly tired about the ceremony of the reveal, like Salome removing her final veil night after night

I take my research seriously so, if required to do a food review, the location of the Moss Nook is helpful. Although it's not under the flight path at Manchester Airport it's damn close.

And it's an experience in its own right. Entering the restaurant is like stepping back in time thirty-five years. The richly patterned carpet, the old-fashioned ceiling lights, the tasselled swag curtains – everything reminds me of the lounge in our house in Altrincham in the 1970s. Nothing wrong with that but perhaps not an appropriate image in 2008 for a contemporary restaurant. But as we are shown to a table next to a window, I have eyes only for the view down Ringway Road. All I have to do is lean back slightly in my velvet-cushioned seat and I’ll have a perfect view of the planes coming in to land. But there aren’t any. Are they on a break? Is there a lull in traffic?

The staff welcome my wife and I receive is profuse, a slightly unsettling blend of formal and friendly. We order a bottle of Kotare Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (£25), which comes swiftly and is quite the thing. The menu is French and the starters cost as much as main courses in a lot of other restaurants, with the mains pushing up to £25. Fish, chicken, duck, beef, veal – the usual suspects.

The two fish dishes, which change according to what’s, as they say, market fresh, are sautéed sea bass and poached halibut in a white wine sauce. Both of these are calling to me, but my wife speaks louder and she wants to try the Menu Surprise. For £37 each you place yourselves in the hands of chef Kevin Lofthouse. You are allowed a small amount of input in that you may inform the waiter of anything to which you are allergic or that you simply don’t like. It is indulgent of the restaurant to let us go ahead with the Menu Surprise after we have ruled out mushrooms (for me), veal, celery and offal (“We don’t serve offal here, sir”).

The seven-course mystery feast begins with canapés: mushrooms, mixed peppers and chicken in a pastry case for my wife, a timbale of mango and melon for me, with a blackberry, a raspberry, a strawberry and a cherry on the side. Around this time, shortly after we have questioned one of the waitresses about the absence of aircraft, we see a 737 in orange livery come in fast and low over Ringway Road making remarkably little noise. The Moss Nook is a marvellous advert for double glazing. Our waitress, Jenny, has worked here for 22 years and lives locally. She is, understandably, less enamoured of the planes than I am.

Following the canapés, which were ambitious and unusual and gone in a couple of seconds, the starters arrive – Mediterranean vegetables with grilled goat’s cheese and balsamic dressing. I really, really don’t like goat’s cheese. I bite my tongue and swallow the nastiest, bitterest cheese known to man. The fish course allows us to taste both the sea bass and the halibut and some salmon as well, with three decent-sized chunks skewered on a giant’s toothpick and swimming in a sauce Veronique. The fish seems ordinary and I’m suddenly glad we ordered the Menu Surprise.

The restaurant is only half full and the acoustics are strange. Instead of a buzz of conversation, you can hear exactly what all the other diners at all the other tables are saying, all of the time. It stands to reason they can hear us just as clearly. It has not escaped our attention that we are the youngest people in the place, a couple of waiting staff and perhaps Chef excepted.

With the well-to-do elderly couples (she just back from golf, he has spent the day with the Daily Telegraph) and the middle-aged couple with both sets of parents, we could almost be dining at Fawlty Towers. I have long since stopped thinking about my character in the novel and sex, although a glance at the people at the next table reminds me that we saw them sitting in their car when we arrived, and they didn’t enter the dining room until a good twenty minutes after we did. What were they doing out there?

The soup course inevitably features Chef’s famous mushroom soup. "It’s incredibly rich," a waiter tells my wife. "You should have seen the pile of mushrooms that were being peeled this morning." In my disdain for funghi I didn’t know mushrooms even needed peeling. I try the minestrone soup, which is, in fact, the best thing I’ve tasted so far. I don’t care if Chef opened a tin, chucked some pepper in and said, "Give that to the loser who doesn’t like mushrooms", which I’m sure he didn’t do.

As each table has reached its meat or main course, a little bit of theatre has taken place around the restaurant, as if there were a conjuror working the room. The plates, wheeled in on a trolley and each covered with a huge breast-shaped silver lid, are placed in front of the appropriate diners and sufficient waiting staff are then magicked up from somewhere and the lids raised in perfect synchrony. It’s done with a tastefully restrained flourish, but there is something ever so slightly tired about the ceremony of the reveal, like Salome removing her final veil night after night.

Nevertheless, when it happens at our table, we play the appreciative audience and, in fact, the fillet of beef with café de Paris butter is superb, the highpoint of the meal. The beef is tender and the melted butter is like my mum’s curry sauce. That is high praise.

Dessert is a small slice of rather dry chocolate cake, but it comes with a scoop of very fine vanilla ice cream encased in a latticework dome of crystalised sugar. The individual berry fruits make another appearance at this stage and a chocolate-dipped strawberry sits relatively innocently among the extremely tempting petit-fours. Coffee concludes a memorable meal. I’m not saying I’d hurry back right away, but I won’t forget the Moss Nook in a hurry. And while the prices seem on the steep side, the Menu Surprise is relatively economical. Our bill came to just over £100.

On our way out, I notice that the car park has a gate, which I imagine is locked once the last vehicle has left. This is disappointing, as it must restrict after-hours recreational use of the car park for the couple who were dining on the next table. But there is a Moss Nook Cottage adjacent to the restaurant available for hire, just in case. I wonder if you can rent it by the hour?

Editorial PS

Sadly Nick Royle was eyeing up the planes so much –weirdo - he forgot to take any photos of the food so we nicked these from the web. And lovely they are too. Indeed while we’re on the subject why can’t other lazy bugger restaurants do this for us. That would have saved two people – Nathan and Phil, photographers both, – ranting with justice on the site about the lamentable pictures of the French.

Rating: 15/20
Breakdown: 8/10 Food
4/5 Service
3/5 Ambience
Address: The Moss Nook
Ringway Road
Moss Nook
Manchester
M22 5WD

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

Ivor SemillonAugust 18th 2008.

If you want a nice tasting menu at a place with no dead mother-in-laws go to Northcote Manor.And it has a car park big enough to have sex in.

AlanAugust 18th 2008.

Moss Nook? good to know SERVICE still means something!!!

PhiltaylorphotoAugust 18th 2008.

There I was looking at the article, thinking that the pics looked better than the usual Man Con work, then I saw the PS.Trust me, turning up at a restaurant to do pics of their finest food, doesn't guarantee brilliant presentation.I've had more than a few, "How the hell do I improve that" moments over the years.When I visited Moss Nook's kitchens in 2001 or 2002 if I recall, the chef was carving intricate patterns into button mushrooms!

AnonymousAugust 18th 2008.

Can any readers suggest other restaurants that do tasting menus/menu surprises that are particularly good and maybe a bit more modern? Is this an option at most higher-end restaurants?

AnonymousAugust 18th 2008.

i dined there and thought i was attending a seance. the menu was a tired display of safe food, served by people who hadn't seen daylight for years and wearing very cheap clothes. it was overpriced and very over rated. i don't have a problem paying for good food - but this wasnt

sandra and stanAugust 18th 2008.

We had our wedding reception there last year, just four of us! Had a lovely meal, but sadly couldn't afford to go again. Living in France now and enjoying the French cuisine instead.

AMC is a knobAugust 18th 2008.

AMC, can i suggest you read Cheshire Life, or, maybe, The Metro? These may suit your personality a little better.

chrisAugust 18th 2008.

Goog taster menu at The London road restaurant Alderley edge went there on the champagne night. would recommend

It's curtains for beefAugust 18th 2008.

I rather enjoy the way these reviews are written. Factual and a bit tongue in cheek, without losing the entertainment value. Much better than reading a shopping list. Restaurants like these will always have a time and a place, depending on the occasion.

EditorialAugust 18th 2008.

Jo N, of course we should, but if that fails for various reasons then the official site of the restaurant should offer the press their lovingly caressed images as an alternative. And it works when customers visit the website too. Just makes practical sense. It's a curious blind spot of many restaurants.

AnonymousAugust 18th 2008.

The most boring restaurant I have been to in the last twenty years . Take your mother in law and leave her there to die . Now the place has a role and function

BettyAugust 18th 2008.

Took my mother-in-law (not to die!) a few years ago for her birthday along with my husband and three children. The youngest was 12 at the time and they pointed out that they didn't do a children's menu but as my children have always had healthy appetitites (emphasis on the healthy) we said that was fine. My m-i-l is quite a chatty person and when she told them it was her birthday they brought out a cake with a candle and sang happy birthday. It was a very enjoyable and memorable meal although it was probably the most expensive meal I have ever had.

ROB FANAugust 18th 2008.

Sex in the carpark, now your talking . Swinging and spam fritters!!!!!!

Jo NAugust 18th 2008.

Do you not want real pix of what the food, and restaurant, looked like on the night, rather than the PR-ed versions?

BeverleyAugust 18th 2008.

Hi have visited the Moss Nook on many occassions and although pricey I have never been disappointed with the food or service. It is a bit old fashioned in comparison to some restaurants but still worth the money

AMCAugust 18th 2008.

Another review with superfluous yammering from the food critic. I gave up before the end.

JamesAugust 18th 2008.

Dear AMC learn to enjoy reading things would you? Or get back to the Gameboy.

JanieAugust 18th 2008.

The Moss Nook is great for those times when chrome and glass isn't wanted. It is like stepping back in time - to a time when diners were treated with respect and food was presented in a manner that has unfortunately long gone! I love this place (as do all my family) and each time we go we have fabulous food, excellent wines and take home a wonderful feel of nostalgia. Long live The Moss Nook!

Felix the TwatAugust 18th 2008.

Janie, have you ever had sex in the car park there?

insightimagesApril 16th 2010.

Ref Editorial says..
Not just restaurants: It's a curious blind spot of most businesses that they are happy to spend thousands on copywriting, advertising, PR etc. but use pictures they've taken themselves, sometimes on their mobile! People judge what they buy on the images more than the text - they can make their own minds up based on what they see, whereas the text is always somebody elses opinion.

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