Welcome to Manchester Confidential
Reset Password
The Confidential websites will be undergoing routine updates. This may cause the sites to go offline. We apologise in advance for any inconvenience.

You are here: Manchester ConfidentialFood & DrinkPan-Asian.

Vermilion & Cinnabar

Jonathan Schofield adores the verve and optimism of the year's biggest opening. He likes the food too

Written by . Published on December 4th 2007.

Vermilion & Cinnabar

Vermilion is brilliant as teenagers say. Brilliant red in parts, as the name would suggest, but also excellent in other areas. I loved it - with one or two quibbles.

So what's so good about it?

The fish gave clear defined tastes, the basil sang a pretty song and the halved limes calmed it all down. There were other ingredients I could only guess at but overall it was one of best things I’ve tasted in the last year

First, second and third, it's the sheer verve and optimism of the place. The owner is one Mr Manzur Iqbal of Seamark PLC, a company which specialises in importing fish into the UK. His main, newish, warehouse is next door. That's a serious bit of investment, but probably necessary. Vermilion, and the upstairs drinkerie, Cinnabar, which together cost almost £5m, are not core to the business, but an act of faith. Given the location, a foolish act of faith some might say, but it's thrilling all same.

Most of this comes down to the food and the interior. The latter is fabulous: a fairy tale set in the borderlands of Miles Platting and Newton Heath.

You can be a snob about design when it's trying to be tasteful, or hasn't the confidence to do what it's attempting well. Several hundred thousand mealy mouthed would-be bistros in provincial England, with a bit of exposed brick and poorly chosen artwork from execrable local artists, prove this.

Vermillion is all about wonderful excess. The designer is Miguel Cancio Martins who created Buddha Bar in Paris. He does updated, Western inflected, interiors which echo that South East Asian delight in rich colour and elaborate ornamentation. The black screen dominated restaurant, with its floating Buddha heads, chrysanthmums and carved panels, you might expect in any upmarket Thai restaurant. But the mad copper tables in the pre-drinks area, the pop-art panelled fascia to the kitchens, and above all, the beautiful vermilion coloured fibreglass coral branches holding up the ceiling are totally original. Upstairs in the bar, the pods, like crazy halved and hollowed coffee beans - for groups of friends to sit in - are great fun.

Service and food both hit the heights too. The former is immaculate: attentive, deferential where necessary, always courteous.

The outstanding food moments came via two or three dishes but nothing was poor. Fish, for obvious reasons, was a strong feature. The Khang Pa Pla (£12) was so hot it scorched the ceiling. The ingredients were a mixture of red snapper, black peppercorn and basil leaves with lime and other joys chucked in. Despite the heat, the fish gave clear defined tastes, the basil sang a pretty song and the halved limes calmed it all down. There were other ingredients I could only guess at but overall it was one of best things I’ve tasted in the last year.

The same could be said for the Panang Nua (£11), a red curry with beef, basil again and kaffir lime leaves. This was a substantial dish producing an extremely clean flavour. The Pla Muk Pad Kai Kem (£12) with baby squid stir-fried with egg yolk and spring onion was only a tad below the above two in standard.

Basics such as the brown rice, jasmine rice and sticky rice were consummately handled, whilst the Pad Boong Fai Daeng (£6), stir-fried vegetables with crushed chilli and oyster sauce were delightful.

Starters could be more substantial for the price but exquisite little morsels such as the Thung Tong (£8), deep fried bags of crab meat and water chestnut, almost made up for this in their delicate flavours. Desserts such as the assorted fruit salad (£7) maintained the high standard. A couple of bottles of Chablis Laroche (£29) did the trick too.

On the downside, the food, given the location, is expensive, maybe a couple of pounds could be taken off both the starters and the mains. Also care will have to be taken to ensure that food arrives at the table at the right temperature. The restaurant needs to be warmer too.

More seriously, there are two elements which Mr Iqbal, aside from going back in time, can do little about.

The exterior is the opposite of the interior. Where one is delicious the other is DIY. Vermilion, on the outside, resembles a B&Q warehouse, which neither the fancy red lighting, nor the fountains disguise. The car park, which is big enough to land a small jet on, doesn't help humanise it much either.

But it's the overall location that's the main problem. On most gourmands' maps Newton Heath lies off the edge, tagged, 'Here be dragons'. The challenge for Mr Iqbal will be getting the city centre socialisers in their finery out here, and more than that, getting them back a second time. This will be a particular problem for the bar. Cinnabar is pure city centre. Pick it up in a crane and set it down at the top end of King Street and it would smash the other glam bar operators out of the water.

For all these doubts, Mr Iqbal has done something which cities need if talk of regeneration is going to have meaning. Rather than soup kitchen suburbs relying on handouts from government, cities need entrepreneurs to have the confidence or balls to invest their own cash. Only then do things start to change.

Let's hope Mr Iqbal does well with Vermilion. At the opening event there were a lot of know-alls shaking their heads. It would be very satisfying if Vermilion confounded them and thrived. This place is a real experience and worth the trip to the north eastern hinterlands. Get out there, forget the location and concentrate on the good stuff.

Rating: 16.5/20
Breakdown: 8/10 Food
5/5 Service
3.5/5 Ambience
Address: Vermilion & Cinnabar
Hulme Hall Lane Newton Heath
M40 8AD
0161 202 0055

Like what you see? Enter your email to sign up for our newsletters which are chock-a-block with more great reviews, news, deals and savings.

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

Doctor Des KhanDecember 4th 2007.

Vermilion is a breath of fresh air to the cultural scene in Manchester. Have travelled from Glasgow to Edinburgh and thru London, and this place has the opulence and style to blast any restaurant out of the water. This kind of opulence and exotic food is not available anywhere outside London, and Mancunians should be priviledged to have such an eaterie on their doorstep! Service is immaculate, atmosphere is cool Parisien, and the food is the best outside Bangkok. Im sure Vermilion will become a star destination for families, the Manchester hoi polloi and corporate parties from now on. Best of luck to Mr Prawn and Mr Manzur

peanutDecember 4th 2007.

Fabulous place, fabulous staff, fab food, fab bar!!! Had a wonderful time on Saturday night.

PeterDecember 4th 2007.

its amazing - food, service, decor, music, drinks - its like being transported to New York / Paris! Its about time Manchester had a venue like this and location of the venue doesn't matter, with a place like this! - you'll just get the elite crowd (unlike many places around deansgate/kings st) - thank god.

VixDecember 4th 2007.

A group of us visited Vermilion last week for the Manchester Confidential offer. It was fab!! Food was outstanding, service couldn't be faulted and the unlimited house wine was flowing and was indeed, unlimited!! What a place, it's got to the one of the most beautiful restuarants I've eaten in, it's stunning. We will definitely return, can't recommend it highly enough!

AnonymousDecember 4th 2007.

Am I the only one who thinks this place is style over substance?Agreed, the place is spectacular and definitley worth a try for yourslf. The food is very average however, not a patch on Chaophraya.As for the service, well to give you some idea they took my plate away, took the knife and fork off the plate and put it back on the table. Classy eh?!

mark mDecember 4th 2007.

The red Vermillion will be a white elephant. Unfortunately. Great place though

LochDecember 4th 2007.

Went here last night and was absolutely blown away! Beautiful opulent decor, fantastic food and an unbelievably intimate atmosphere for a monday night inside such a large place. Can't wait to go back!

mDecember 4th 2007.

First off, I haven't yet managed to visit Vermillion. However I was still rather annoyed at Emma Jean Sturgess' slating the establishment in the Metro today. I couldn't help but get the feeling she'd got out of bed on the wrong side and felt like flexing her muscles of influence just so she could tell her friends she played a good part in burying a £4.5 million restaurant. After neglecting to mention the calibre of the Chef ('imported' from Thailand), the service (reviewed here a 5/5), only touching on the plus side of the interior design but still managing to putting a negative twist on it (basically saying: "it bloody better look good if it costs that much") and writing off the drinks menu on the back of a single cocktail (I'd say at least a 3rd of cocktails I've had from anywhere more than disappoint) she went on to describe the food as though she was eating all style over a very disgusting substance. Some comments were fair enough, if she felt it too pricey, the room too dark and food a little too flair-orientated in the presentation then please do suggest they make changes. But I can't help feel that after reading all the good reviews from elsewhere she was being overly critical and underestimates the fact that as many people will go for the spectacle as for the food. I reiterate that haven't been myself but when someone puts 4.5 million in a restaurant so ridiculously located so as only to help try and regenerate an area, whilst you need not be biased towards it but you can at least try and focus on the good points a little more. Its a credit to Manchester if we can maintain such a place and I think it’s a journalist's responsibility to not only give honest reviews but also not to stifle development and positive evolution of a city. I find it hard to believe that prior to a visit a food critic doesn't sometimes hope a particular restaurant turns out to be great. Unfortunately it seems that for whatever reason, on this occasion Emma wanted Vermillion to fail. Thankfully it hasn't deterred my intensions to go and hope it doesn't to anyone else's.

Pablo SanchezDecember 4th 2007.

WOW! This place is seriously cool. Went just before Christmas and I was very impressed. The food is fantastic. The staff are friendly and the service superb. I'm going back again at the end of Jan.This is THE place to go in 2008.Make the effort to get there and you won't regret it. It's only a few minutes drive out of the city centre.

Thomas StuartApril 26th 2010.

horrible place, average food which is over-priced. Service is terrible - had &#194&#16350 worth of extra cocktails added to our bill and after finally resolving and paying &#194&#163300 for a meal for 4 people, was told i could not have a glass of water as it's aginst policy. If i wanted water, i had to buy a bottle of mineral. Great way to treat customers with cash! Absolute Joke.

Slim19524April 26th 2010.

Just to say that this comment from SLIM is nothing to do with Cocu Slim as I have not had the pleasure or not, thanks

LynseyJune 22nd 2011.

rubbish. we went last night. its very over rated. the decor is good, but couldnt say the same about the food. it was over priced and very salty, we couldnt eat it. our order came back wrong and then they added a service charge. wouldnt go again

Vicki GallagherAugust 5th 2014.

Visited with friends for a birthday celebration on 02/04/14. The meal was lovely and can't fault the food. The spoiler came as we waited for our cab in reception at 1:30 am after spending some time in Cinnibar. Apparently we were laughing too loudly and were told by the security guard to stop laughing or leave the premises. Bearing in mind we were a fairly sober group of 5 women, and I like to think we are fairly respectable, we were astounded. Apparently we were disturbing people upstairs (that would be either in the empty restaurant on the 1st floor or the almost empty club on the 2nd floor). We thought he was joking at first, but he was deadly serious that we were being a nuisance and if we didn't stop laughing we would have to leave. I think he just didn't like the look of us and wanted to flex his 'authority'. Even Vermilion staff were shocked at his attitude and the manager apologised profusely and promised to speak to the security firm about his attitude towards us, but he did spoil our evening and I doubt that I'll be visiting again.

To post this comment, you need to login.Please complete your login information.
Or you can login using Facebook.

Latest Rants

Jenny Collins

Brave move... best of luck to them that part of town needs a revival!

 Read more

Is that the old Tropeiro / Nossa Casa Brazillian BBQ venue? It's a good space.

 Read more

Tearoom not Team, obv

 Read more

Molly House, Richmond Team/Lodge, Velvet, Tea42 on the way, Eden reopens next week (as a Greek I…

 Read more

Explore The Site

© Mark Garner t/a Confidential Direct 2021

Privacy | Careers | Website by: Planet Code | SEO by The eWord