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Michael Caines Restaurant Reviewed

Gordo finds a patchy performance

Written by . Published on December 12th 2013.

Michael Caines Restaurant Reviewed

GORDO has been four times to Michael Caines Restaurant at Abode this year.

Rob, the Chef, and his brigade are capable of much better. Maybe as stated above the accountants are interfering too much

The first time with James and Karina Hitchen, owners of the lively Neighbourhood restaurant in Spinningfields. The second as the guest of James Cunningham, the handsome and urbane events manager at the Abode Hotel, when Dianne Bourne, Diary editor of  The MEN, shared the table with us - she's great company. The third time with a pal to do a serious check out. 

Gordo was impressed with both the service and the food on these first occasions and couldn't help thinking that the restaurant has been lost in the noise of the openings across the city, particularly with The French at The Midland and Aiden Byrnes's Manchester House. (By the way Gordo has also appreciated Bryn Evans excellent work in the MC Cafe Bar and Grill upstairs from the restaurant - click here for a review.)

Unfortunately, the Fat One's writing output has been diminished this last year due to being poorly, but the big girl is back near to full form. So he decided to go a fourth time to finally give chef Robert Cox and his brigade the praise they deserve without a fog of painkillers. 

But first of all, let's talk decor. Gordo, unlike Schofield, tends to shy away from comment. To Gordo, the important things are about comfort and general mood. If it works, it works, bugger the Doric columns. 

But, in the case of this, now settled, Mancunian stalwart, the Fat One needs to speak his mind. Because the place is overly brown and downright gloomy. Worse, it's uncomfortable.

The chairs have settled down. Too much. The stuffing has unstuffed to the point where Gordo's ample arse is being assaulted by the wooden stay lying across the frame. It's like sitting on a wooden fence. Not good in high end dining. 

The brown tables blend in to all the brownness. The dull carpets hug the brown tables and the brown curtains wrap it all up.

It's very brown

It's very brown

Walking into the brownness, the punters used to be welcomed at the door, normally with a nice person who would say hello and take coats. In this visit there was no one on the station. 

Fortunately Gordo isn’t a shrinking violet, and he knew his way to the bar, which is, these days, empty. The web site says this: 'Our sophisticated Champagne and Cocktail Bar, located on the lower level adjacent to the Michael Caines Restaurant, is destined to become one of Manchester's coolest meeting venues, a destination bar for any time of day or night.' 

It appears that its destiny is yet to be fulfilled. As no one was there. However, to the right there is a small lounge, where there are comfortable settees. The brownness in this area is broken up a little. 

With greyness. 

Service now appears as Gordo takes a seat and he orders a cocktail, which, when it arrives, is very good. Berry Winter Sling (£8.95).  It didn’t last long, which tends to be the problem with most tall cocktails in Gordo’s hands. 




The service on our visit was patchy. Gordo was getting the feeling they were suffering from a couple of leaders missing due to winter ills. Let’s hope this is the case and not that the management of this hotel chain are cutting down on staff. To start competing with the new boys on the block, they need to be on form. 

The trick this time was to eat off the a la carte menu. The meals across the year were off the menus and from memory, very good. Indeed, a duck dish was a 10/10. Looking at the menu this time, the a la carte looked a bit thin and out of balance. The starter selection was fine, just the mains being the problem. Cheap cuts, including pork fillet weren’t inspiring Gordo’s pallet. 

Crab ravioli, shellfish bisque, pink grapefruit, ginger (£12.50) was a great dish, ravioli like small plumped-up silk cushions along with a great filling of white crab meat mousse, the flavour standing up for itself. The shellfish bisque was liquid from heaven, holding everything together.  




Roasted scallops, crisp pork belly, leeks, parmesan, bitter leaves (£15) couldn’t really go wrong, although Gordo is getting a bit bored to be honest with the belly pork marriage. Scallops excellent, the belly pork lush, apart from the crackling, which was just off the point where it cracks, still being ever so slightly chewy. The bitter leaves were too bitter whilst the tiny cylinders of leeks were again a little acidic and bitter. Too much bitterness all round. 

Then a disaster. An unforgiveable one with a restaurant aspiring for greatness in the city.  

My friend Lottie was peering at the bisque left in the bowl. “I could do with a spoon for this bisque. Or, bread, it's fab.” 

Gordo suddenly remembered that no bread had been offered; and on all four occasions previously, it was one of the best bits of the meal. He called the waiter. 

“Can we have some bread please?” 

“Sorry, we’ve run out,” replies the waiter, who spins on his heels and walks off. 

This was the first time in thirty-odd years eating out it had happened. Run out of bread? Eh? 

We had ordered an extra starter, warm salad of mallard duck, celeriac, glazed onions, game hollandaise (£14). This turned out bloody near perfect, the breast rare, gamey. Every addition here was working as part of the team whilst the glazed onions were simply angel food.  


A main of roasted hake, chicken skin, parsnip, chicken broth (£21) was a complete flop, over salted. The latter boosted the chicken flavours to the point of overwhelming the fish completely. Gordo would have sent it back, but Lottie was being polite and ate most of it before letting Gordo have a go.  




Then flat iron of Cumbrian beef, beef cheek ravioli, roasted onions, red wine sauce (£23). Gordo has never heard of this cut, so while writing the review he called Lee Frost, aka Frosty, of Frosts Butchers; there was no reply.

Then he looked at his watch. 2.30 pm. Frosty, having been up since 4.30 pm, would have been on the piss, so all Gordo can tell you is that the steak was a good one, albeit a cheap cut, dealt with cleverly across the grain. Big flavour. The cheek was another ravioli success whilst the red wine gravy was suffering very slightly from a chef who was probably thinking about breasts rather than ensuring the sauce wasn’t too sticky. 


Puddings included prune soufflé (£8.95). Too obvious this one, overdone with the Armagnac. Crème brulee (£8.95) was the difference between the Duchess of York and Sweet Kate. This was a good ‘un, with sexy raisons, plumped up with a different alcohol, the crème with a consistency of clotted cream…The pictures do it justice. 

The wine list appears to have been interfered with by the accountants since his last visits. Somewhat restricted. A half bottle of Louis Roderer champagne (£35) was perfect and had the feeling of being a vintage, when it wasn’t. The Pommard 2010 (£70), French Burgundy, was a bit brittle. Gordo isn’t sure if further age will improve it.  

Creme brulee


Creme brulee

It gives Gordo no pleasure in reporting such a mixed review for this, one of the better restaurants in the city.

Such slips reported and some not, isn’t great when serving a meal where the food alone is well over £100  plus 12% service. It doesn't help either when the door to the kitchen has fallen off its hinges and is just propped up nonchalantly against the frame, worse when it looks like it's been there for some time.

Rob, the Chef, and his brigade are capable of much better. Maybe as stated above the accountants are interfering too much, but in the meantime, like United, the team need to quickly look at what they have been past masters at and get back to consistently great performances. Two of the previous meals this last year could have stood up to the new kids on the block. 

Not this one, relegation is on the cards.

Wake up and smell the truffles guys.

You can follow Gordo on Twitter here @gordomanchester


Michael Caines Restaurant, Abode Hotel, 107 Piccadilly, City centre. M1 2DB. 0161 247 7744.

Rating: 13.5/20 (please read the scoring system in the box below, venues are rated against the best examples of their kind) 

Food:  7.5/10 (scallops 7.5, crab 8.5, mallard 9, beef 7, hake 5, prunes 6, creme brulee 9)
Service: 3.5/5
Ambience: 2.5/5

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

Cj ThompsonDecember 12th 2013.

I recently went to the Adobe Cafe Bar and Grill, never again. The roasted squash was the poorest soggiest offering I’ve had in along time. Supposedly roasted and stuffed with feta and roasted vegetables, my take on it was microwaved, sprinkled with feta and briefly grilled. I know vegetarians can sometime be second class citizens but this was unforgivable. It was so horrific that I could sense even a gentle complaint would make no difference as they clearly did not care what came out of the kitchen. We just paid the bill and left feeling disheartened and vowing never to return.

Jemma FieldingDecember 12th 2013.

the cafe is a completely different thing... cant really be judged in the same review

Cj ThompsonDecember 12th 2013.

Thank you for your comment. I phoned the restaurant to book but was informed it was closed on Sundays. The person I spoke to assured me that the Cafe Bar and Grill was just as good.

Emma AthertonDecember 12th 2013.

I went to the restaurant 2 years ago and absolutely loved it. I've been to the cafe twice - the first time was fine but the second time, after being given our menus we waited for about 15 minutes for someone to take our order or ask if we wanted some drinks. We got so annoyed waiting that we walked out.

Paul CarterDecember 12th 2013.

For middle to high end restaurants why not give your score and compare it to those found in The Good Food and Michelin Guides? It would give a good comparison against other reviewers. For example your review here would rate lower than the score given in The Good Food Guide, whereas your review for somewhere like 63 Degrees consistently rates higher than in the GFG and Michelin, for which, justifiably or not, it doesn't appear. You'll probably tell me to bugger off, but hey ho, just a thought.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Jonathan Schofield - editor.December 12th 2013.

Bugger off Paul. Actually that isn't a bad idea but still doesn't bridge the problem of comparing like with like. Or does it? I tell you what though it's a permanent row between Gordo and me.

AnonymousDecember 12th 2013.

Gordo's review is right, sadly. I've been to the downstairs restaurant many times, and have always had an enjoyable night. The last time I went was just last week. Like Gordo, I had a bottle of the Pommard, not the best Burgundy I've tasted (the wine list in Manchester House is far better). Don't get me wrong - in my view Abode is still a decent restaurant. But it is not as good as it was. Not as "special" as it was. True, some dishes are still exceptionally fine, but others not so. And the whole underground setting has dated very quickly, with its kitchenette laminated look. This puts a real question mark over the 12 per cent 'imposed' service charge. Perhaps a relaunch by MC himself, and a complete refurbishment is required. But that would need the accountants to get their cheque book out.

Poster BoyDecember 12th 2013.

Fundamentally it was never going to last -it's in the wrong place.

Phil MurphyDecember 14th 2013.

I've been downstairs three times, the first time was within weeks of it opening and the food was outstanding, as was the service. Each time I have been since it has been really good, but not quite reached the standard it did on the first occasion. Every time I've looked around the room, smart and presentable as it is, and tried to put my finger on what it is that is not quite right. It's almost like it's missing a centre piece or focal element that ties the whole of the interior design together and sets the vibe - it is and always was missing a little something. Now it's missing the bread as well, which is an extremely poor show and well below expectations given the price bracket it falls into.

Phil MurphyDecember 14th 2013.

"The cheek was another ravioli success whilst the red wine gravy was suffering very slightly from a chef who was probably thinking about breasts rather than ensuring the sauce wasn’t too sticky." This line actually suggests the writer was thinking about breasts, the lowest common denominator of lazy journalism when you find your brain and vocabulary have locked up and gone home. On a par with the restaurant review, it is below the standard I'd expect to encounter here at MC :)

1 Response: Reply To This...
GordoDecember 16th 2013.

Phil; lets be very clear, this writer is always thinking about breasts. And don't be under any illusion; he's a shit writer an' all. He also has a hissy fit if anyone describes has writing as *journalism* If it wasn't for the fact that he keeps being bothered by his ever-growing readership, he would be a full time resident at The Yab Yum in Amsterdam. But thanks for the end ref. for MC, the web site he started 10 years ago and is still here, with lots of much better writers and management. Gordo loves you Phil!

Phil MurphyDecember 16th 2013.

Thank you Gordo :) It's taken you ten years to get MC to where it is today - is that all? ;-)

Phil MurphyDecember 16th 2013.

BTW you should try Insomnia in Berlin - far classier. Tell Dominique I said hi and she'll pour you one on the house.

AnonymousJanuary 14th 2014.

In a couple of visits I had the same peas served twice in succession on a tasting menu (just lazy, and not becoming of 80 quid odd per person) and a big hole by the bar took out my friends ankle. A week later same hole was still there. Nuts. Not been back to check if it's fixed now.

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