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The Podium

Gordo wonders if the Hilton Hotel’s restaurant has been the biggest disappointment this year

Written by . Published on December 18th 2007.

The Podium

The Hilton hotel arrived in Manchester a year or so ago installed in the lower half of the Beetham Tower. A good many people are installed in the top half with, according to Crains Manchester Business paper (good by the way) very over priced apartments that they can’t sell. Is the Podium restaurant, situated on the ground floor, overpriced as well, wondered Gordo?

It’s the shortest menu that Gordo has ever seen in any restaurant of this calibre. This is The Hilton after all. Or, are the group going downmarket?

It’s called Podium and Gordo has heard very little about it over the past twelve months or so. Seating 180, even this number of tables and chairs doesn’t fill the cavernous room, described by Gordo’s eating pal as reminding her of the booking hall at Tulsa train station.

The maitre d’ is a good lad, leading Gordo to one of many empty tables in the room, lit in a way that is very flattering to the ladies. But a bit ordinary.

At a fine looking corner table Gordo sits down, slightly distracted by a sinister looking couple opposite, the man sitting at the head of a table for laid out for ten, his lady by his side. No-one else was there. Nor did anyone arrive at any point during their meal, it was like Miss Haversham’s without the cobwebs. It was weird. Gordo thought he heard the couple speaking Russian, maybe the others had been assassinated on the way over.

Gordo loves menus, he has a collection of Michelin three star menus from across Europe currently being held ransom by his ex. They tell you a great deal about the kitchen. The ones that take a paragraph to describe a dish being the worst, the ones simply listing the ingredients the most irritating and the ones describing a sows ear as a silk purse occasionally turning out to be a masterpiece. Then there are the ones that tell you the chef is in a couldn’t-give-a- toss mode. This was the Chef’s mindset when he wrote this one.

It’s the shortest menu that Gordo has ever seen in any restaurant of this calibre. This is The Hilton after all. Or, are the group going downmarket? You dear readers, may decide that you love this space, you may decide you hate it, but to be given this menu in what is after all one of the landmarks of Manchester will make you think that the chef believes you are a bunch of pie eating northern twats who know no better.

Three starters? Goats cheese pate, smoked salmon or spicy fishcakes with ‘soy dip’. Three bloody starters! And they manage to squeeze soy dip in. Now, if you are giving the poor buggers held captive here for the night a choice of only three starters you could at least have made them interesting, the best of the best.

Gordo’s smoked salmon (£9.95) came with a very pleasant horseradish cream. The smoked salmon was good, but bland. And flabby. Nice caper berries though. If Gordo was going to serve such a clichéd dish he would have at least made it wild smoked salmon. Now that would have shown class. Goats cheese salad. Groan. It was ok. Couldn’t face another derivative of those Thai fishcakes. Is this chef on a secret mission to drive all the guests out of the hotel?

Gordo chose traditional turkey for his main, from three ‘main’ courses on offer. The other choices were roasted halibut, English (Eh?) peas and crispy bacon (£15.25) along with roasted belly pork on steamed bok choi (£13.50).

Gordo is always glad to get his gnashers into turkey. This one wasn’t bad, the dark meat sitting atop of the white, protecting it from the unremittiting glare of the pass lights but committing the ultimate sacrifice in the process, the meat going crispy and curly. The halibut was good, the saucing very good. It’s all about delivering good here, but a million miles from really good. There was one vegetarian choice for those lucky weirdos, Fred Done of Bet Fred would have given odds on that it would include one of the following: spinach, ricotta, pasta, pumpkin. Chef’s imagination didn’t disappoint, it included all four along with something outside Gordo’s experience, Cavalo Nero.

Back to Gordo’s Turkey. Perversely he loves Turkey in any state. The three roast potatoes were great, the jus pretty good as well. The side of chips (I know, I know) were crunchy in the middle. Undercooked spuds are not a delight. There were four more mains, or ‘grills’. Salmon, chicken, (free range mind you) along with a fillet steak and a rib eye. Inspiring, eh?

Puddings were Christmas, with white sauce (£5.75), a texture reminding Gordo of the first and last time he tried to eat his elder brother’s silly putty. Then a lemon tart, with lemon and lime cream, raspberry coulis (£5.75). It also had soggy pastry made by a pastry chef who needs to pick up a cook book once in a while and pay attention.

This place isn’t overpriced. Maybe the management don’t want six months for mugging people.

The Hilton has put on a number of splendid dinner dances, it is arguably the best venue in the city, with the Lowry, for mass catering, the food always of a good standard when it comes to cooking for five hundred.

How this team get their flagship restaurant so wrong is beyond Gordo. Or has it turned into an afterthought? You management girls - you know who you are - and Gordo loves you need to look again at the restaurant. Cloud 23, with all its door challenges, still has one of the best cocktail teams in the city. So sort this restaurant out. It isn’t bad, but therein lies the problem. Go figure, as Mr. Hilton would no doubt say. This menu is going into Gordo’s collection. For all the wrong reasons.

Rating: 13/20
Breakdown: 5.5/10 Food
4/5 Service
3.5/5 Ambience
Address: The Podium
The Hilton 303 Deansgate
M3 4LQ
0161 870 1600

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

Raaagh!December 18th 2007.

Went here not long after it had opened for lunch. The atmosphere is like being at a wake for a person who was very disliked. The staff were lovely, have to say. It took 45 minutes for our food orde4r to arrive and when it did, the chios were froen (yes frozen - not fresh) in the middle. We sent them back and they offered us potoato wedgesw instead - a 25 minute wait and black, cremated spuds was all they could offer!I've been to a wedding here - also like a wake, the function room is fllor to ceiling wooden panels, much like being in a giant coffin!For such a statement building (being the biggest n all that) they really haven't put much though it!

BenDecember 18th 2007.

I went into this place just after it opened at lunchtime. Stood around for 5 minutes trying to attract somebody's attention (it was pretty much empty). By the time they got around to acknowledging my presence I'd had second thoughts (if the service is crap you can bet the food isn't going to be much better) and settled for a drink at the bar. Never been back, but a colleague went recently and was less than impressed. Hotel restaurants very rarely get it right and with the honourable exception of the Lowry and the French I'd argue that this applies not just to the Hilton but to the whole of Manchester

AnonymousDecember 18th 2007.

Poor quality food. The food was more like pub food but with very inflated prices. No atmosphere. Restaurant was freezing cold.Will not be returning and will advise collegues not to go either.Very disappointed.

Jonathan Schofield - editorDecember 18th 2007.

Matt, Gordo always writes in the third person because he's three people - split personality doesn't cover it.

superdog500December 18th 2007.

Margaret Thatcher once refered to herself as a 'we'. Political pundits of the day thought perhaps she was bringing her tape worm into the conversation. I have no proof of this.

JohnthebriefDecember 18th 2007.

The Hilton do seem bent on alienating as many potential customers as they can and blowing what should be a fantastic opportunity in a superb location. Never mind, plenty of other places to try

Clare LaytonDecember 18th 2007.

I have eaten at Podium bar before and the food was cold. I sent it back and they did not even bring us some fresh ones- I went home starving! They even made me hang around for ages to pay the drinks bill!

AnonymousDecember 18th 2007.

I popped in one night after a meal elsewhere not long after it opened for a drink on my way home. The restaurant was dead, but even had it been busy I don't think there would have been any escaping the soulless atmosphere. The bar wasn't much better mainly because the entire place was filled with nouveau riche types intent on talking very loudly about how much everything they owned cost & then looking round to see who was impressed. I have to wonder if part of the problem is the part of town that the hotel is in - too near to Deansgate locks & getting it's usual clientele!

GordoDecember 18th 2007.

Matt, Gordo always writes in the third person because it irritates real writers and Newspaper editors. He also has a very overblown opinion of himself and needs a good slap every now and again.

MattDecember 18th 2007.

Does Gordo have someone following him narrating his actions or does he describe almost everything he does in the third person.

DESDecember 18th 2007.

I think the review was spot on - and the place clearly hasn't changed since my first (and only) experience there shortly after it opened. I had arm-twisted the CEO into taking me and the FD (to pay) there for dinner. I can't honestly remember what I had - might have been roasted cod but I recall thinking the food was better than the room and service deserved (we had waited ages for our drinks and failed miserably to order a second drink - this being a first for our CEO!). Perhaps the then chef got fed up and moved on or I was just lucky with my food choices. Anyhow as a company within spitting distance of the hotel, we have avoided all corporate contact with it. Our business goes to safer havens like the Lowry.I have never been to Cloud 23 - I obviously do not know the right people ..!

Raaagh!December 18th 2007.

Note to self: Must check spelling before posting!

bit of senseDecember 18th 2007.

Gordo - well done on this review...Idon't really take the ManConf bar/food reviews onboard anymore....they all seem out of kimber with my own/friends experiences. Not sure why? Then there are some places that never seem to have a mention but are gems to the city curcuit. Not that I could compare my social & foody life to yours, but, that's my opinion.However, having the good relations here, I am sure it makes it that little more difficult to put in a tougher review. Hats off to you, more of the same please.PS - think you let coud 23 off the hook a little. A lot more than a 'few door issues' for them sort out. Merry Christmas to everyone x

PosthumDecember 18th 2007.

My partner and I ate here hoping it would be fantastic....we were very wrong. I have to agree that it is very overpriced, I ordered the scallops which were 3 very small scallops as a main meal and nearly £20....needless to say I left hungry and we went elsewhere for coffee and dessert. Next time we are looking for somewhere to eat down that end of town we'll be heading to Dimitri's or Alberts Shed.

MattDecember 18th 2007.

That's a shame. I was hoping he was narrated.

Jonathan SchofieldDecember 18th 2007.

Bit of Sense....thanks for the feedback but.... You write: 'Having the good relations here, I am sure it makes it that little more difficult to put in a tougher review.' Have you read us recently? Since I've been the editor from March every single review with a byline has been written as the writer found. No grace or favour, no purchased opinions. The same goes for the comment pieces and the theatre, art, architecture, comedy reviews and so forth. Where we've liked things we've said so but where we haven't we've said so. Also please let me know about your 'gems' on the circuit and we'll take a look.

guyDecember 18th 2007.

you will certainly find that the food has come on leaps and bounds since the last time gordo ate there, i would suggest the podium to everybody i know, give it a try as you will not be disapointed.

AlDecember 18th 2007.

As someone pointed out to me recently, the Hilton is a completely glass walled building yet their function room doesn't have a single window.....very strange

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