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Stock Restaurant Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield sits in a grand dining space and puzzles over the food

Written by . Published on October 17th 2013.

Stock Restaurant Reviewed

Category: Restaurants: mid-range to aspirational. Score 12/20 (Full breakdown below and score explained. Venues are compared with similar venues and measured against the best examples in their category.)

STOCK has the grandest entrance hall of any Manchester restaurant: a well proportioned 1907 marble-lined space you want to settle down in and talk with friends in the manner and style of Oscar Wilde.

"Shall we dine?"

"Yes, I rather think we shall."

"You know, after a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relatives.”

“Yes I rather agree. And when I am in trouble eating is the only thing that consoles me. I refuse everything except food and drink. I can't stand people who don't take food seriously.”

A slice of that, a cut of mint leaf, the lamb and then the mash bunched on a fork produced a slightly unnerving taste that was strangely beguiling, although I never expect to see anything like this again.

Apologies to Oscar for stealing his lines there but the atmosphere is thick with that sort of mood in Stock.

But the entrance hall is only the appetiser, the building then opens into the very grand domed space that was the former trading hall of the Northern Stock Exchange.

Here the decoration is green marble with plaster extravagances bearing wonderful architectural titles such as festoons, wreaths and swags. There are big mirrors too and wine cabinets turned into features. It’s a lovely place in which to dine - although the lighting in the booths makes it hard to see what you're eating clearly. 

Lovely room

Lovely room

The building was converted to restaurant use in 2000. Thirteen years later and the situation may be fluid again. The building has been bought by Gary Neville, the brainy multi-tasking footballer turned pundit, England coach and property tycoon.

Rumours abound that Stock may be converted into a boutique hotel, despite the hidden away location with the Arndale yellow toilet tiles at one end of the road and Market Street round the corner. 

The food is distinctive, odd even. Stock made its name through the imagination of Enzo Mauro, a restaurateur and chef of good pedigree - a former Outstanding Contribution winner at Manchester Food and Drink Festival who made his name with an eponymous restaurant in Bollington.

His influences are said to reflect his southern Italian background. If that was the case it is no longer apparent.

Gianchetti, deep fried livebait on beetroot and baby leaves with chilli oil (£7.70), was a typically curious dish. Beetroot married to whitebait was plain bizarre, not horribly so but definitely weird. It sort of worked but the whitebait needed lemon which didn't come with the dish and had to be requested separately. Dear Stock always send out the zest with this dish, it needs it. 

Whitebait and beetroot

Whitebait and beetroot

Fegatini, chicken livers cooked with Masala wine, mushrooms and grapes on focaccia (£7.20) were probably the highlight of the meal. Big flavours here, juicy when need be, rich all the way through. 

Service was cheery but occasionally Laurel and Hardy. After the starters the waiter came over and presented us with the dessert menu. We stared back dumbstruck for a minute recalling how we'd clearly ordered mains. What would Oscar W have said. Maybe "Come come now man. All men are monsters. The only thing to do is to feed the wretches well. So shall we have our main courses before the dessert." Spot the real Wildean lines there.

Lamb attacked by chilliLamb attacked by chilliAnyway with the waiter corrected and the meal put back in sequence the mains arrived.

The agnello, the lamb rump marinated in mint, garlic and chilli pepper with onion mash (£21.20), did the weird thing again. Amongst the good flesh and the traditional mint was a massive obscene looking chilli. A slice of that, a cut of mint leaf, the lamb and then the mash bunched on a fork produced a slightly unnerving taste that was strangely beguiling, although I never expect to see anything like this again.

The porchetta, slow roast pork belly with mixed herbs on a bed of Savoy cabbage (£17.20) was an ugly thing. The pork belly was a robust, peasant proportioned stomach filler. It was inelegant in the extreme given the stately surroundings of the room but the big let down was the bland Savoy cabbage it sat upon. 

A big ugly filling thing

A big ugly filling thing

Another let down was the final nosh, a cheeseboard that was half-hearted at best. It took a couple of waiters to work out which cheese was which.

Drinkswise there are some good deals, especially if you ask for some of the bin-ends. A 2006 Nicolello Barolo is a decent deal for £40 if you've got spare cash.

Looking back I'm still trying to work out the food.

It wasn't bad food, some of it was fine, but it was so crazily distinctive as to border on the maverick. Like Alice I felt I'd fallen through the Looking Glass into a place where everything was almost but not exactly the same, where a huge chilli placed on lamb might be an every day occurrence.

But then as Oscar said, 'Illusion is the first of all pleasures'. And given one of the best elements of dining out is to be surprised then I confess I had a really pleasant time at Stock. Although not in the way I expected.

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter @JonathSchofield or connect via Google+


StockThe Stock Exchange, 4 Norfolk St, City centre, M2 1DW. 0161 839 6644

Rating: 12/20 (remember venues are rated against the best examples of their type - see yellow box below)

Food: 6/10 (livers 7, whitebait 6, belly pork 6, lamb 6.5, cheese 5.5)
Service: 3/5 
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

It's a grand old room

It's a grand old room

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

Henry BootOctober 17th 2013.

This place has gone so far downhill I am surprised it is still open. There is no way Mauro can be on the tools here, surely?

1 Response: Reply To This...
Poster BoyOctober 18th 2013.

Enzo retired at the end of last year and moved back to Italy. I suspect Stock will go the same way as Osteria...

AnonymousOctober 17th 2013.

I have eaten here twice in the last month and the food was shocking. This is one of the best restaurant spaces in Manchester and the food doesn't even come close to being in the 10-15. The owners should be ashamed to let what was a top class restaurant go to the dogs. I hope someone buys it and brings it back to its former glory. A boutique hotel would be such a shame, we need to keep restaurant spaces like this in our City.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Jonathan SchofieldOctober 17th 2013.

Oops added those scores up wrongly first time. Apologies

pollolocoOctober 17th 2013.

Gone the same way as Osteria Mauro.....to the dogs.

AnonymousOctober 17th 2013.

I notice that the previous head chef Martin is now working for Cibo in Didsbury. Who's the head chef at Stock these days?

1 Response: Reply To This...
Steve5839October 17th 2013.

I had dinner at CIBO and it was excellent.

Denis ChambersOctober 17th 2013.

Went last Friday for the first time, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The staff were lovely, and the food was a step away from the norm (in a good way). Maybe they forgot to put the 'huge' chili on the lamb (no sign on my partners plate) and the cabbage under the pork belly was lovely. Nice to see someone complain the portion was too big; very 'foody'.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Jonathan SchofieldOctober 17th 2013.

Denis, who's complaining about the portion size?

raymondOctober 17th 2013.

Denis, you sure you're not Mauro's son? The food at this restaurant is poor. absolutely poor.

AnonymousOctober 17th 2013.

We started going 3 years ago and I have to say the food has most definitely gone down the hill... It is now not worth the prices!! I love the atmosphere there though.

AnonymousOctober 17th 2013.

We tried it a few times but couldn't cope with the stress of waiting and waiting for our food. Admittedly we did go on Saturday nights and thought they might be understaffed due to illness or whatever - but it was consistently chaotic and very disappointing each time. We've consigned it to the "off list."

Lorraine ByrneOctober 17th 2013.

I've not been in a long time but have friends who have gone there; they walked out the first time because they were still waiting for their meal at 11.30pm!! They got treated the next time and said it was really good, so brought other friends the time after and once again, service completely appaling. No leaders, no clarity, no direction - I have also consigned it to the "off" list, especially considering there are now so many good places to eat in Manchester. Shame because as you say, the building is beautiful.

NatalieOctober 17th 2013.

I have been numerous times over the past few months & cannot fault the food. You get value for money every time, portions are more than enough without over facing you. I visited with a voucher £34 for 2, 3 courses which was an absolute steal. Sometimes the place can lack atmosphere if you catch it on a quiet day but its a hidden gem in manchester, I'd always recommend this place for a special treat.

paulOctober 17th 2013.

Haven't been in this place for years they always sat me in a dark corner, last time I went in we asked for a break between courses we ordered off a pre theatre menu but the waiter said are you sure you'll miss the show?. taking the piss. As we always have two bottles of wine I like to spread it out .....anyhow not been back since

4 Responses: Reply To This...
mancadamOctober 17th 2013.

so you ordered from a specifically titled "pre-theatre" menu and were subsequently astonished to find that a waiter then assumed you were actually visiting the theatre. intriguing..

IanOctober 17th 2013.

Haha, yeah I thought that. Sounds like it was lighthearted anyway.

paulOctober 17th 2013.

Its. Not the west End there were no shows

HieronymousOctober 18th 2013.

That's right Paul. There are no theatres in Manchester. Beginning to suspect I know why they sat you in the dark corner.

BooOctober 17th 2013.

Been three times over the last six years and always left feeling disappointed. Food and service mediocre. Menu overpriced. Beautiful space but superior more consistent dining available in the city centre.

AnonymousOctober 17th 2013.

We went last weekend. The food was below average, the service was scatty, it lacked atmosphere despite a crooner in the corner. I returned to tepid coffees. On the whole it was rubbish and I would have rasher gone to San Carlo or Chicetti

AndrewOctober 17th 2013.

Last time I ate here the food was adequate at best. The portions were to big, the presentation clumsy and the food lacks any wow. I think they have one of the most stunning lookng restaurants in Manchester. But I really do think they need to seriously up there game.

Richard AthertonOctober 17th 2013.

I've enjoyed my previous visits and I suppose the grandeur of the stunning interior has helped sway the mind but the food was noteworthy on each occasion. Haven't been for a year or so and won't be going back on the strength of this review. Incidentally, ate at Cibo this week after sampling at Manchester F&D Festival. Really interesting and exciting dishes, good service and with 50% off during October [T/W/T] I will be going back again.

Big SteveOctober 17th 2013.

This must be the worst eating venue in Manchester, I've been twice and the food was dreadful on both occasions the only reason we went back the second time was because the first time was a disaster and we were offered a complimentary meal, food, staff, ambience very very poor, what a shame such a wonderful venue. Get Gordon on the case.

AnonymousOctober 17th 2013.

I used to love this place but last time we asked for the wine to be swapped, it was corked, and we got a bottle of different wine dropped in the table n told the wine it wasn't corked! Awkward! I bought a deal on Travelzoo but afta 3 attempts to book they were always full (?) when I wanted to redeem it, then it expired snd they wouldn't let me use it, or give me a refund ...BUT they continue to sell these deals! Couple of friends have been on travelzoo and have felt they were treated like 2nd class! Such a shame, I'll try again when it changes hands, or they honour the voucher they took my money for!

AnonymousOctober 17th 2013.

We ate here about 6 months ago on a TravelZoo offer. The food was unfortunately mediocre, although our waitress was pleasant and efficient. I hope she has succeeded in getting a better job somewhere else! What I found most bizarre about the experience was the awful singer, who sang show songs and jazz standards, but very badly. Shame, the space might be great for acoustic music, say a harpist or guitarist, but this was really rubbish. I won't return, which is a shame, as the space is stunning. Completely wasted on this outfit.

Dave ThorleyOctober 17th 2013.

I went a couple of years ago on the hi life diners card and had a lovely meal and wine. It was somewhat spoiled by having to send the bill back twice until they got it right and despite leaving a £10 tip them sneaking a cheeky service charge on that I didn't notice until I got home and they didn't mention. Marred a great night and never been back.

AnonymousOctober 17th 2013.

Massive shame. What a venue (albeit looking a little rough round the edges), but talk about going downhill. This place should be good enough to drag people in despite the location. It's way way way overpriced, the food is average at best, and the staff are frankly amateur. I am assuming that they are running the business down on the assumption that it will close relatively soon. Wouldn't be surprised to see it shut once they've rinsed as much out of Christmas as possible. Shame really, because of all the Italians in town, this predated rosso, Jamie's, cichetti etc and could have marked itself out as the yardstick by which the rest are measured. There is nothing worse than the feeling that you are being conned by people who don't really care- and that is the impression it gives.

Jonathan MoranOctober 18th 2013.

Unlucky Stock. Must advertise harder.

9 Responses: Reply To This...
HieronymousOctober 18th 2013.

Unlucky Moran. Must troll harder.

Jonathan MoranOctober 18th 2013.

Oh you're good!

Robert EladOctober 18th 2013.

Why does troll Moran read something he despises so much? Strange man.

AnonOctober 18th 2013.

I've noticed this. Nearly always negative. Why bother reading the site? No friends or people to talk to I suspect

Jen MathesonOctober 18th 2013.

I'd hate to see what this little toad is saying on the Cheshire Life website. I can see him now in his baggy grey Y-Fronts huddled over his keyboard, sticky little fingers going two to the dozen

Jonathan MoranOctober 18th 2013.

Wow, what a response- I'm touched..... I'm assuming you're either employees of Mancon or sycophants of the porno Gordo by your collective squeals of disgust? For the record I am merely a seeker of truth and justice. A man not as dense as to not see the direct coloration between sparkling reviews and advertising dosh. Anyway I'm off to for a garage forecourt sausage roll and a pack of munchies. Peace.

IanOctober 18th 2013.

But a man dense enough to misspell correlation

MattOctober 18th 2013.

And mispronounce! Brought me to mind of The IT Crowd and the "damp squid" line. Hahaha. Prat.

pollolocoOctober 21st 2013.

On the Cheshire Life comment..I notice Avalanche has been shortlisted for CL Manchester Restaurant of the year....just goes to prove that Advertising does pay eh? :)

Big BearOctober 18th 2013.

Hi Jonathan! I see you're your usual sparklingly witty self. You're our favourite Troll on here. I bet you haven't got a girlfriend eh? Do you want one? There are great sites out there to help you....

tblzebraOctober 18th 2013.

I also went a couple of years ago for lunch using the Hi-Life Dining card.  The service was indifferent and the food not so good. A main of minted pasta wasn't eaten, as it was so laced with mint it tasted like mouthwash.  When the waiter didn't ask why it'd been left we told him and he treated us like idiots.  Never been back.

AnonymousOctober 19th 2013.

I'm surprised at how many people are slagging this restaurant off on hear. My wife and I have Ben to this restaurant many times over the last 5 years and have almost always had brilliant food and service. The atmosphere also cannot be denied at weekends. Manchester city card holders get 50% off the food which is a banging deal.

jenfaOctober 20th 2013.

I was a little worried when I saw this review as my sister was having her wedding reception here yesterday. There had been some disruptions due to the recent changes but the team that were involved pulled it out of the bag. Obviously it was a joyous occasion but the staff and food were exceptional, I couldn't fault them. Thank you stock, I would highly recommend this as a wedding venue.

Axel LariatOctober 22nd 2013.

After 2 visits, I've never been mightily offended here, but never been given a reason to return quickly. The space is too big and echo-y and dark. Food is passable but not exceptional. When there are so many restaurants in Manchester, why would you settle for 'passable'? No wonder they resort to so many half-price offers and attempting to generate some atmosphere with the singers.

James DunnOctober 26th 2013.

A great shame that this place has gone downhill, we went a couple of weeks ago and the meal was a shocker. if I hadn't already got it at a discount I wouldn't have paid. A quick tip I have found when looking at "offer's" is only use the ones for new up and coming place's. established Restaurants giving big discounts only means one thing,they have gone downhill and are struggling ! A great shame as I said !

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousOctober 28th 2013.

ever look a gift horse in the mouth, you end up eating it.

John MeliaMarch 7th 2014.

has anyone tried it recently, I dined there is February this year and it was very good?

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousMarch 7th 2014.

I haven't been personally but have been reliably informed that it is much improved and is no very good again.

AnonymousMarch 7th 2014.

*now very good again

martin0475March 24th 2014.

i think youll find new owners and a familiar face back in the kitchen....watch this space!

ParkersmithJune 5th 2014.

This is very much great and hope fully nice blog. Every body can easily found her need able information. I am visit first time but I fond many use full article. I will back again when get time.

ParkersmithJune 10th 2014.

The chili pepper is bigger than the meat in this restaurant. That is not a good sign. Nice food in Singapore www.blvd.sg/our-cuisine…

Jemma FieldingJune 13th 2014.

always wanted to go - i did and was completely dissapointed. This news does not surprise me at all.

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