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Bistro 1847 (formerly Detoxretox) restaurant review

Flic Everett begins a city centre meat-free love affair while her husband watches

Published on March 4th 2011.

Bistro 1847 (formerly Detoxretox) restaurant review

Telling people you’re a vegetarian is a bit like admitting you’ve been in prison. They nod, trying not to judge, then their horrified curiosity gets the better of them, and they blurt, “Jesus, why?”

So you say, “I just like animals, feels wrong to eat them.”

And they say, “not even FISH?” in the way they’d say, “Ten years for MANslaughter?”

It was full of big, punchy flavours of tomato, courgette, and onion, and conjured up twilight in the Pyrenees as Pedro herds the jangling goats down the mountain. Or so Simon’s transported expression suggested.

Suffice to say, I’m very tired of this conversation. I’m also very tired of goat’s cheese, caramelised onion, and waiters saying, “Yes, we do have a vegetarian option, we have the monkfish.”

Of course, for the vegetarian who likes to eat out, there is the lovely Greens in West Didsbury. In the city centre, till recently, there was - oh yes, that’s right, nothing. Well apart from the odd come and go cafe.

If I were going into restaurants asking for their special voodoo menu because I only eat slaughtered guinea-fowls, I could accept the lack of provision. But I still don’t quite understand why not wanting to eat dead animal stuff marks me out as weird.

So the evening opening of bar and bistro Detoxretox, on Mosley Street, is a shining light in the meaty darkness. It’s a full vegetarian menu - in fact, I was worried that after years of scanning lists of meat to pick out the concealed goat’s cheese, I’d go faint, like a ‘70s Russian peasant confronted with Waitrose.

I took Simon, my husband, because he’s nearly a vegetarian though he does eat shellfish, on the basis that “prawns are only as intelligent as snapdragons.”

It's a decent looking restaurant that still shows signs of its former life as a sandwich bar and coffee shop.

Eclectic is perhaps the word - huge Chesterfield sofa, sputnik-type lights, big elaborate mirrors, as if the owner went into an antique shop to play spin the bottle, and bought all the things it pointed at. I liked it.

Now, I am technically middle-aged, so I get very irritable about things like Radio One (“It’s just shouting, for God’s sake”), people spitting out gum (“They’re like bloody chimps!”) and bad service.

Every time I enter a restaurant, I’m slightly tense in case I’m expected to spend money while a lank-haired imbecile forgets what the soup is, and drifts away in the middle of my order. The service at Detoxretox was so good, I could have wept with gratitude.

The owner, Damien, ex of Malmaison, was covering front of house and was brilliant. Warm, welcoming, he gave us time to settle in, knew the menu inside out, and was also gratifyingly enthusiastic. He’s only just started opening in the evenings, and so far it’s going very well. In April, he’s revamping, and moving the bar area to give more room.

“People keep saying I should change the name though,” he said sadly. “But I quite like it.”

It’s a bit long, and a bit post-New Year’s Resolution, or better suited for a health club maybe, but it’s better than the grim puns most specialist restaurants employ. Perhaps he could also do a take-away service and call it Veg Out.

Chef Wendy Swetnam

Damien suggested bread in such a lovely way that all my no-carb policies were overthrown. We had a Pinot Grigio Rose (because I like white and Simon likes red and this is the sort of tiresome compromise you have to make when you’ve been married for 11 years).

For a bland, hen-night wine like Pinot, it was delicious, crisp and floral and reminiscent of sitting outside Italian bistros in summer.

The shortish menu is appealing - though I can live happily without edamame beans, even if they do come with Maldon salt.

The chef is Wendy Swetnam, who has worked in Copenhagen at the ‘best restaurant in the world', Noma (the Masterchef contestants were sent there to forage for edible seaweed, while Michel Roux made his ‘disappointed surprise’ face).

My filo spinach and feta parcel (£4.95) sounded a bit obvious, but came beautifully arranged on a little slate tray next to a pile of herb leaves. It looked like a bag of treasure seized in a leprechaun’s armed robbery.

The filling was so finely mixed, there was no hint of choky, slithery stalk (which I hate). It was all over too fast. Simon wouldn’t let me have much of his Mediterranean roasted vegetable soup (£3.95), as it was “too good.” “Ooh, basil,” he said, like Sybil Fawlty.

From what I could tell, it was big, punchy flavours of tomato, courgette, and onion, and conjured up twilight in the Pyrenees as Pedro herds the jangling goats down the mountain. Or so Simon’s transported expression suggested.

For the main, I quite wanted roasted cauliflower and barley risotto, but there’s something about the idea of barley - such an odd, peasant grain - that put me off. I had the Malay Curry Laksa (£11.95) with tofu instead. It was a delicious little adventure for the mouth, sparkling with freshness, undercut by coconutty warmth. It’s one of those dishes you could keep eating for days, breaking off only to sleep.

But I was still jealous of Simon’s halloumi ‘fish’ and chips with mushy peas and home-made ketchup (£13.95). Obviously, it’s not all piled up like proper fish and chips, it’s served like a Joan Miro painting, with everything in neat, separate little piles. The halloumi was deep fried, which probably comes just below battered Mars bar in health terms, but it was light and crispy and almost made-up for the lack of real fish and chips in our lives.

There was no room for pudding. But by holding my breath to create a vacuum, I managed to make a space just big enough for a brandy and chocolate pot (£4.95), which came with four little elf-sized pomegranate biscuits.

It was just enough; rich, smooth and with a mellow brandy after-taste, rather than that searing tramp-breath kick you get when the alcohol’s not been burned off properly.

Simon bravely managed ice cream with port and espresso (£4.95) – it was like a trio of obesity, gout and heart trouble in the same dish, but he said it was worth the risk. Apparently the sticky toffee pudding is exceptional too.

I love Detoxretox.

I love that I no longer feel cast out into the cold, meaty world. Somewhere, there’s a place for us.. a time and space for us.. oh, and the background music was pretty good, too.

Breakdown:9/10 food
5/5 service
3/5 ambience
Address: Detoxretox
58 Mosley Street
M2 3HZ
0161 236 1811
Click here for the website

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: Gordo gets carried away

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

GordoFebruary 14th 2011.

OK, ok, I will go and try it out (veggie bloody weirdos)

Arran SummerhillFebruary 14th 2011.

So going off the scores, the food here is as good as at Dinner by Heston.

Who needs to travel to london and pay crazy prices.

Just turn veggie and stay in Manc.

BanesFebruary 14th 2011.

De AHS, well kind of, except for this: "Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes." So to engage in boxing parlance lb for lb Man Con say they're on a par, but that doesn't mean they'd go toe-to-toe.

EditorialFebruary 14th 2011.

Dr AHS, listen to the Banes, he/she knows stuff. Places are judged against similar places otherwise we'd have to mark all the cafes at 2/10 for food and all the mid-range at 5/10. There is method in our madness

ROXYFebruary 14th 2011.

I went on the opening night and had a small taste of almost everything. It was all good, in fact all delicious. I'm a meat eater and was dragged there through gritted teeth, but I must say it was a top restaurant and would recommend to everyone. Damian the owner is really friendly without being intrusive and I hope this place does well.

Peter HarrisFebruary 14th 2011.

Another 9/10 for a Manchester restaurant. Things are looking up. Dined at The Lime Tree at the weekend and wished we had been to Dinner. Food 7/10 but noticed the wine prices were very reasonable and with only a modest markup.

John HarrisFebruary 14th 2011.

Manfully restraining myself from comment #VeggieWeirdos

Arran SummerhillFebruary 14th 2011.

Banes & Ed....

It was a tongue in cheek comment, as remarkably, i too can read the notes on the end of each review illustrating the scoring system.

However, how fine a line is it between venues of "their kind" and the categories below or above, and isnt it open to interpretation.....?

John HarrisFebruary 14th 2011.

I don't think the line between Heston's latest and a garden-waste emporium is very fine

Peter HarrisFebruary 15th 2011.

Could Mancon list the "Fine Dining" in Manchester? Is there such a beast?

Arran SummerhillFebruary 15th 2011.

But this is apparently the best garden waste emporium of its kind.......

Jonathan Schofield - editorFebruary 15th 2011.

Yawn fellas. The food here from my brief samplings seems very very good. You two have some delicious garden waste it would appear. We live in the time of recycling as well don't you know.

carabuFebruary 15th 2011.

Of course as a vegetarian I emphasise with any fellow vegetarian distress but do veggies really feel like they have committed a crime when they tell people in this day and age. I find people are usually just mildly curious. Also I find that being vegetarian and eating lovely food whilst out is in know way mutually exclusive. There could be more vegetarian restaurants its true but town isn't quite a black hole - see earth cafe and oklahoma for example. Lets face it despite those like Gordo, who seem trapped in the past - vegetarianism is mainstream and an enjoyable experience rather than a form of martydom. I look forward to going to detox retox.

Ian WatersFebruary 15th 2011.

Ate here last weekend, the food was very good and is not to be naively dismissed simply for being vegetarian, it was damn fine Vegi nouvelle cuisine. Every 'wild mushroom risotto' serving restaurant should take note.

JimFebruary 15th 2011.

I don't want veggie nouvelle though, I want a damn fine nut or lentil burger and a very good veggie lasagne. Don't make things too posh.

Lovely piece of writing though.

DunnyFebruary 15th 2011.

''But I still don´t quite understand why not wanting to eat dead animal stuff marks me out as weird''?? - it isn't weird, sounds like Flic would like people to think this. Most likely in our cash-strapped and choice-loving society, a restaurant that does not serve meat as well as delicious veggie options may suffer through its own exclusivity? I myself prefer veggie meals, not because I like animals but just because I like veggies more. I will be giving Detoxretox a go, even though it sounds like a bum cream.

Lisa13510February 15th 2011.

Ate there on the opening weekend and can't recommend this restaurant enough to non meat eaters and even meat eaters that also like their veggies too, I think you will find it hard to be impressed. Very well presented, delicious flavours, fabulous service and a great price and venue. I will be back there again and again and again. Well done Damien and Wendy. Oh and when I tell people I'm a vegetarian I don't feel weird I feel pretty good and happy and healthy. I don't judge people that choose to eat animals so not really sure why there seems to be such disdain for veggies from the meat masses. Each to their own.

Lisa13510February 15th 2011.

Ha hard NOT to be impressed that is!!!

FlicFebruary 15th 2011.

No, I dont want people to think this, Dunny. I refer you to Gordo, above.

gillgFebruary 16th 2011.

Dined here Sat 12th feb. Loved it, food really tasty and beautifully presented. Nice unpretensious atmosphere. Will return in the near future - sticky toffee pudding best vegan dessert I have ever had.

Thea EFebruary 17th 2011.

Thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Excellent review/piece of writing.

MaggsMarch 2nd 2011.

went here for lunch on Sunday and there were lots of things to like about the place - ambience and staff great, food OK. We were only given the sunday lunch menu (fair enough I suppose!) and therefore had only 3 choices for each course. As there were 3 of us it was not hard to try everything which we did! It was nice but not fantastic in any way. A main course with 3 tiny roast potatoes, 3 miniscule brussels sprouts and two tiny bits of parsnip is not that exciting. Of the food on offer, outstanding was the vege pate started,the Swede patty main and the sticky toffee pudding with thyme custard - would maybe go again to try full menu choice but feel that hubby will need some persuading to return - a bit more 'oomph' needed I feel!!!

Heston's OHMarch 4th 2011.

Ooh I walked past there last night, and it looked very inviting, great little set up. I'll be trying it for sure and no doubt comparing it to Greens, which I also love!

Eddy McCartneyMarch 4th 2011.

A meat eating friend treated me (a vegetarian) to a meal here on Friday. He was sceptical but he thoroughly enjoyed his meal - the souffle. His only complaint was the apparently stingy portions but after eating the whole meal he conceded that the portions were just right. I am an uncultured oaf who hates poncey food but i have to say my risotto was refined (like i would know!) but hearty and filling (more important to me). My only disappointment was the puddings. Im a big pudding man but I dont touch alcohol and most of the puddings contained alcohol. The only one i fancied was the sticky toffee pudding but i was put off by the idea thyme in the custard. Like i said - im an uncultured oaf.

VeggieApril 15th 2011.

Went with a group of friends, took until near the end of the meal to get our drinks, had to chase lots until they said they had run out of most things and went to the shops to get them!
Starters were gorgeous but the mains were a disappointment, poor service too so was very diappointed as I am a veggie and would love a great veggie restaurant in town.
The standard needs to improve

1 Response: Reply To This...
Damien DavenportMay 3rd 2011.

Really surprised to hear your feedback. Can you email me directly on damien@detoxretox.co.uk so I can look into this in more detail? Rgds Damien - Owner

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