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Manchester Food And Drink Round-up 28/07/2011

New chef for Mint, Smoak Bar & Grill opens, Harvey Nichols launches market, Jazz Festival gets it right

Published on July 28th 2011.

Manchester Food And Drink Round-up 28/07/2011

Malmaison does magnificent u-turn on catering front 

Smoak Bar & Grill has opened in the Malmaison Hotel, Piccadilly, and looks the bee's knees. The re-design involves opening out the main ground floor bar area magnificently, creating light and energy with a very effective American diner-cum-speakeasy space. It's a world away from the previous heavy Art Nouveau stye. There are racy bar areas, big grills and griddles, booths and of course, the usual tables and chairs but done in a zany distressed style. Food comes in the form of 25 day aged rump steaks, hot roasted shells (lobster, crab, scallop, crayfish and so on), seared peppered crusted tuna and baked black figs. Review to follow. Should be a winner this one.

Smoak House, Mint's Michael Campbell 014 

Salmon and Lollycakes and Harvey Nichols

Harvey Nichols provided the lushes of Manchester with a splendid demonstration of the products on offer in their Second Floor Foodmarket - with an eye to treats for Christmas 2011. Confidential loved the weird own-brand honeys from across the world and Yee Kwan’s handmade ice cream and sorbets from across the Pennines, with beauties such as Smoked Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Wasabi flavours. Laura Drabble and Katy Pardon's lollicakes were just as eye-catching as their authors (pictured below), and the Chase marmalade vodka was intriguing. Meanwhile a lightly smoked salmon from Forman's in London was simply delicious, a piece of delicate artistry - modelled by account manager Charlotte Hanks here with laugh and a big smile. More on the Foodmarket in the weeks to come.  

Harvey Nichols 002 

Harvey Nichols 008

Harvey Nichols make throats sooty

Confidential was at the promotional event above when he couldn't help but notice Black Water. Retailing at a shade under £3 this water is naturally black - yes in shade - and comes from springs surrounding a North American volcano. It tastes like everyday water part from a weird mineral, sulphuric, backtaste. You get a stronger version of the flavour in the spa waters of Harrogate and Bath. Confidential isn't sure whether Black Water is a complicated practical joke, or is supposed to be good for rheumatism or impotence, or something - apparently it contains fulvic acid. But it is beautifully marketed. 

Harvey Nichols 013

Blackdog Ballroom Burger Bonanza

 This hot potato of a hot Northern Quarter joint has launched a new range of burgers and milkshakes. This follows a 'hard-working recce (aka a holiday) to sample the very best of New York City by owners Ross Mackenzie and Jobe Ferguson'.  In addition to the classic quarter pounder menu there are now selection of classic New York style burgers complete with traditional paper wrappers. Milkshakes have also been added to the drinks list with vanilla, chocolate, banana, strawberry or their boozy cousins pina colada, Baileys, affogato and rum & raisin. 1970s' style 500ml carafes of red, white and rose wine for £5 are going to be served between 12pm and 8pm daily as well.


Jazz Festival swings it 

Manchester International Festival got the Albert Square arrangements wrong this year. They imposed a big glass bungalow that looked like something from a 1980 Ideal Home Show entry into Albert Square and put up so many fences it looked like a sheep dog trials. Worse was the attitude of the concession in the space which chased people off for simply bringing a Starbucks in (click here) or for venturing into the square with a sandwich bought elsewhere than in the Heathcotes operated booths.

Manchester Jazz Festival has done it better. You can buy on-site a gargantuan burger or partake of tea and cakes, but there's no heavy duty security looming over people if they should bring their own food and soft drinks onto the site. The result is - on Confidential's Wednesday visit - a lovely relaxed atmosphere.

Manchester and its events team should remember that Albert Square is a public square not a private space no matter what the terms of the licence are. It should operate like a public park for these events. In a park there'll be the ice cream van operator or the cafe manager, both of whom, would no doubt want everybody to buy their drinks and scran from  them - but as it's a public park then that isn't going to happen. Everybody understands that and is fine with it.


Campbell takes over at the Mint Hotel

Confidential's got a full interview coming up with Michael Campbell, the recent appointment as Head Chef at City Cafe in the Mint Hotel, opposite Piccadilly Station. He's a right charmer with strong ideas of his own. Expect a top restaurant quality Carribean market menu as a one off, but also an a la carte menu loaded with strong flavours and bags of originality.  

Smoak House, Mint's Michael Campbell 010

Mini-review - Sugar Junction's afternoon tea

Eating Jam with Jaime from JAM PREating Jam with Jaime from JAM PRBinns went into the Tib Street cafe a few weeks ago, for lunch with Jaime Markey, who owns JAM PR, based above Bar Centro in the Northern Quarter.

He was mightily impressed with the afternoon tea. For £12.50 each they got loads of sandwiches (salmon, egg and cress, ham, goat's cheese), and a cracking selection of cakes and pastries. The meringues were magnificent, the lemon drizzle was luscious and the strawberry tarts were special.

The scones were warm and baked to perfection, all moist in the middle and coming with some clotted cream and two types of jam.

Unlimited refills on the tea too. Binns thinks it might be the best value
afternoon tea in the city centre. Sugar Junction is certainly in the upper echelons of this sort of venue in this part of the city. Between Sugar Junction, Teacup and North Tea Power, the NQ is well-covered for tea, cake and decent main dishes. It'll be hard for any newcomer to break up that holy trinity.

Rating 16/20

 Food 8/10; Service 4/5; Ambience 4/5 - a 'very good' venue on the Confidential scale. 

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

AnonymousJuly 28th 2011.

Off to the Mint Hotel for the Mancon offer on Afternoon Tea tomorrow afternoon, hope it is as delicious as that one above looks!

AnonymousJuly 29th 2011.

Take that picture of Jaime from the left with the light illuminating the whole face please in future...

Pedro1874August 2nd 2011.

Disastrous meal at Smoak on Saturday night. After we had been shown to our seats nobody came to our table for over ten minutes. The restaurant was NOT full or very busy. We ordered a "French Martini" off the main menu which was presumably a signature cocktail. If I had wanted Vimto in a cocktail glass I would have asked for it. Awful. The starter of twice baked soufflee was good but the 25 or 35 day aged steaks must have been aged at room temperature and were going off! Smelled off and tasted off after grilling. This was a birthday treat for me otherwise I would have really lost it!

Pedro1874August 2nd 2011.

Ah! I forgot! If loud rock music is what you like to accompany your dinner then this is the place for you and just don't get me started on the really amateur, naff "decor" - "zany" distressed style? Purlease. The "curtains" are actually hessian coffee? sacks roughly sewn together and hanging with the bottom sack roughly curled up a bit to about half the height of the window. This curled up bottom sack is held up by two thick ropes, hung from the ceiling on either side of the sacks and knotted at the bottom. Looks very strange and completely unattractive rather than zany to me! The wood used in the separation between the booths can be seen in the photo and is untreated straight from the sawmill I would guess. The "pillars" are huge steel "girders" painted grey. You are expected to drink your water out of very rough looking aluminium tumblers and we had to ask especially to have our wine seved in a wine glass as the norm is a Diner style glass tumbler. The only saving grace is the fact that they have only been open a week but I did see somewhere else that they are advertising for a Restaurant Manager!

AnonymousOctober 1st 2011.

I agree that the decor is much worse! I liked the old Art Nouveau style much better. I also hated the metal glasses for drinking water out of--they were very rough and made me cringe. My friend said it was like being at prison. Especially with the tumblers for wine. I mean, really?

The food appears to have gone downhill too. What's with the orange juice on the vegetables?

Not sure I liked the casual dress of the wait staff, either.

Sorry, I'm ranting. Bring back the Old Mal!

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