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2nd Floor Restaurant, Harvey Nichols, Reviewed

Gordo is a scorpion with a duck

Published on May 28th 2013.

2nd Floor Restaurant, Harvey Nichols, Reviewed

A COUPLE of weeks ago Gordo was a guest of Jay Rayner, broadcaster, novelist, Observer food writer. Gordo was co-hosting a Manchester seminar giving tips to would-be food writers. 

And in the dent was a warm duck egg yolk. Two slices of butternut squash, epically seasoned and roasted gave the dish texture, sweetness and gravitas. Utter genius, a dish of the year. 

Rayner was asked one of the perennial questions: "How can you criticise a restaurant properly if you are friendly with the chef?"

Critics meet chefs all the time, and as will happen between human beings, occasionally become chums with them. The lively Mr Rayner, who could also make money introducing boxers at tournaments, had a very good explanation. 

A frog and a scorpion are at a river bank. They have to cross it as there is a forest fire coming. 

"Eh mate, do me a favour.  I can't swim, may I jump on your back?" asks the scorpion. 

"No bloody chance," replies the frog. "You'll sting me." 

"Listen," replies the scorpion, "I promise I won’t. That would be bloody daft." 

"Not a chance my tricky little friend," says the frog, ready to jump into the river. 

Again the scorpion pleads. The frog finally relents and the scorpion jumps on its back. Halfway across the river the scorpion stings the frog.  

"Why would you do that?" asks the frog as it starts to die, taking the scorpion down with him. 

"I'm a scorpion, that's what I do," says the scorpion. 

The same goes for critics. Be warned chefs, advertisers or not, friends or no, if your meal ain't good, that’s what Gordo will be telling the public. 

Harvey NicholsHarvey Nichols - crisp biscuits and dips

Gordo states this as he had been sent to review the 2nd Floor Restaurant at Harvey Nichols and he knows the place, the staff and the management very, very well. But the truth must out, especially as on two hosted events in recent years, the food had been average. This time though Gordo was back for an official review to check out the cooking of Sam Everett, the present chef (read David Blake’s profile of Everett here in our Out of the Fire column). 

Two Gordo visits were needed, the first with one of Manchester's stand- out photographers and one of Fatty’s pals, Pip Rustage, the second visit on his own. 

If you've not been, this place is like one of those bars in Berlin, it started out differently sharp and it's gonna stay that way. Like a Coco Chanel LBD it's becoming a classic; black and white minimalist and a good background for the ladies and their fashions, with splashes of colour. Comfy as well. 

The service is immaculate and knowledgeable without being stiff. 

The wine list is formidable and well chosen. 

A Gordo tip is the house champagne, you need to be up at the level of the connoisseur’s favourite to beat it, Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill. They wheel out a trolley of half a dozen or so to try, Gordo would always buy a bottle and drink through to the main course, far better value than buying by the glass. Also, the house red and whites are incomparable value, well chosen by the wine department including the Peter Pan of the tasting team, Ivan Dixon. 

Harvey Nichols Manchester, singing soupHarvey Nichols Manchester, singing soup

The first meal was the tasting menu at £55 a head. An amuse of beautifully made crisp biscuits matched with two dips. The first made with a light cream cheese base, the second beetroot with balsamic vinegar salt. Outstanding. 

A simple pea soup in a cup sang.  

Then came tuna of high quality. 

This was a surprise, Gordo isn't impressed with this fish and is easily bored by it. The chef must feel the same as he lifted the fish, serving it seared as two triangles guarding a tartare that was gentle and velvety. Put together with a slice of the crisp fried sliced lotus and the contrast of flavour and texture worked like a dream. A thin julienne of carrots wrapped in mooli were cooked with ginger producing an amazingly smokey flavour at the back of the palate - a new experience. The slabs of tuna jumped with the salt and wasabi. A glorious dish.

Harvey Nichols, a tuna dayHarvey Nichols, a tuna day

The duck on the first visit had slices of breast that were deep ruby and could be cut with a blunt spoon. These were sat across roasted chicory. The leg was served in a confit, brilliantly seasoned. On the side was a wonderful cushion of smooth mashed potato, with a dent. And in the dent was a warm duck egg yolk. Two slices of butternut squash, epically seasoned and roasted gave the dish texture, sweetness and gravitas. Utter genius, a dish of the year.

Harvey Nichols, duck funHarvey Nichols, duck fun

The  meal was looking like a triumph and an easy contender for the top three in Manchester. 

Gordo didn't have to worry about stinging that frog. 

Then disaster. 

On the second visit the duck was grey, even though, as always, he had asked for it pink. The butternut was a bit undercooked, the jus was watery and the confit was under-seasoned. Finally, the sodding chicory, the anchor to the dish, was undercooked.  

Puddings on both occasions, an apple soufflé and a rhubarb and vanilla panacotta, were as you expect from a pastry section who can compete with anyone in the North West. 

Harvey Nichols, Manchester, pudding loveHarvey Nichols, Manchester, pudding love

Anyway back to that duck. Gordo found out that the chef, Sam Everett, was on paternity leave. Should Gordo forgive this? 

Nope. The sign of a great chef is how well his brigade do when he isn't there. 

Chef, when you get back on the tools, take yourself and your team to task. Because the lot of you are capable of having a battle with Rogan, Byrne, Eric at 63 Degrees and the deadly duo up at Aumbry.  

Gordo doesn't like brigades who waste genius. They need stinging to wake 'em up.

You can follow Gordo on Twitter @GordoManchester 


2nd Floor Restaurant, Harvey Nichols, 21 Cathedral Approach, City, M1 1AD. 0161 828 8888

Rating: 16.5/20 (would have been 17.5 if it hadn't been for the fuck up)

Food 7.5/10 (Beetroot 8.5, Pea Soup 8, Tuna 8.5, Duck (first time) 9.25, Duck ( second time) 4, Apple 8, Panacotta 7.5)
Ambience 4/5
Service 5/5

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.

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Poster BoyJune 1st 2013.

A contradiction in terms. Fine dining in a shop...

1 Response: Reply To This...
IanOctober 23rd 2013.

Does it matter what you pass before entering the restaurant or brasserie? The food is quality.

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