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REVIEW: Bistro 1847, City Centre

Lucy Tomlinson takes her rib-eye with a moo, so will this veggie bistro see her through?

Written by . Published on September 29th 2014.

REVIEW: Bistro 1847, City Centre

I’D BETTER state from the top of this review that I’m a dedicated carnivore, a woman who likes her rib-eye blue; who read about Muhammad Ali’s post-fight breakfast (two large steaks and 12 eggs, in case you are wondering) and immediately thought about recreating it at home; who saw Lady Gaga’s meat dress and wondered if she could be persuaded to step under a hot light in order to crisp up a bit.

But guess what? I like veggies too. I just couldn’t eat a whole one.

It can be hard to take all the dandification seriously sometimes, but the vegetarians of Manchester deserve a fancy-pants place with a bit of foam and nonsense too.

Seriously though, a fine piece of meat practically cooks itself (or not if you like it still mooing), but vegetables take a lot of love and skill to bring out their best. So I was quite excited to review Bistro 1847, which promises ‘modern, innovative vegetarian food’.

1847, Mosley Street

Bistro 1847Bistro 1847

When it originally opened back in 2011 there was a bit of a buzz about Bistro 1847 - this website gave it an excellent review, among others - but as time passed there were reports of lacklustre food and, horrors, small portions. I visited a while ago and had the popular beer-battered halloumi. I found it greasy and sad - a fish and chips wannabe.

Since then ownership has changed and the menu has been revamped. Clearly under the inspiration of Simon Rogan et al, the dining room has gone all Scandified (out with wooden tables and in with white plastic, pale greys and yep, turn the cutlery over and it’s from Ikea) – to its detriment in my opinion, being a bit hard and cold.

The food, on the other hand, looks much better. Rogan style, it has more tendrils and pearls and artfully scattered petals than a Pre-Raphaelite stunner. It might be bordering on food porn cliché but by gum it looks ravishing.

I arrived at Bistro 1847 to find my wine consultant already deep in discussion with the waitress over which bottle to order. We decided to go with the tasting menu (£20/head) and a Walnut Block sauvignon blanc (£27.50, bottle) to start, while the ever-obliging waitress offered us samplers of some other wines to make sure we got what we wanted. An excellent touch. The service was very attentive but I should also note that the place was practically empty.

Beer-battered halloumiBeer-battered halloumi

Carrot, farmhouse curds, pearl barley, wilted cavolo nero and carrot top oilCarrot, farmhouse curds, pearl barley, wilted cavolo nero and carrot top oil

Wine sampled it was now down to the food. First up was an intensely smoky, garlicky baba ghanoush, served on a deliciously earthy spelt and rye crispbread and studded with zingy pomegranate seeds (main image, top). The sauvignon, once it warmed up a little, had more than enough fruit to deal with this flavour assault.

Next, the cursed beer-battered halloumi made a reappearance, clearly too much of a regulars’ favourite to die a noble death. And lucky for me that it hadn’t as instead of faux fish-supper chunky chips, it came with ‘seashore herbs and plants’, a mushy pea emulsion, smoked lemon curd and gin-pickled shallots, with each element of the accompaniments, variously smoky, sharp and fresh, cutting through the beautifully light batter but hearteningly calorific deep-fried cheese. A high point of the menu.

Then we turned to heritage carrot, farmhouse curds, pearl barley, wilted cavolo nero, and carrot top oil. We tried the recommended Rioja with it but in the end opted for a bolder, spicier Shiraz (£3.95, 125ml) which was fortuitous, as this dish had plenty of heat but oddly not much flavour. The Shiraz brought a little bit of pepper to the mix and stood up to the heat well.

A chocolate, lime and seasalt brownie with coconut cream rounded out the menu. The consultant thought it was too salty but the texture fine, whereas I thought the salt levels were acceptable but that a brownie should be much less cake-like and more fudgey (I was right of course. Stick with what you know, wine lady).

BrownieChocolate, lime and seasalt brownie

Petit-fours... chocolate again?Petit-fours... chocolate again?

The final course was coffee with petit-fours, again chocolate which was a misstep. In a tasting menu you want each mini-course to be completely distinct from the previous one in order to stimulate the tastebuds as much as possible. Following chocolate with chocolate (especially as petit-fours only dubiously count as a course in my book) in only five courses missed an opportunity to showcase a wide range of flavours. My other criticism is that the portion sizes are indeed on the small side, even for a tasting menu.

It can be hard to take all the dandification seriously sometimes, but the vegetarians of Manchester deserve a fancy-pants place with a bit of foam and nonsense too. Yes there is Greens but I think we can manage to support a city-centre place. So while the tasting menu ended with a whimper rather than a bang, I applaud the ambition and effort at Bistro 1847. It just wasn’t quite enough to tempt me away from the pleasures of the flesh.


Bistro 1847, 58 Mosley Street, Manchester, M2 3LQ
0161 236 1811. @bistro1847

Score: 12/20

Food: 6/10 ambitious but uneven.

Service: 5/5 stellar.

Ambience: 1/5 bring back the candlelight please.

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, 18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away

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Craig DelaneySeptember 29th 2014.

Had some great lunchtime visits here recently.. and agree the service was great. Think you may have it spot on if the lights don't go down at night to create a bit of atmosphere. I'm not totally veggie but think that this is so important in the city restaurant choice as it seems every new place is a burger or steak place!

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