Thursday 26 August 2010


What I have to say about this place will not go down well with some folk especially those who like Paul Kitching's previous venture, Juniper, down Manchester way.

I did not enjoy this meal, in fact I was relieved when it ended, and thats not happened in a long time. Call me old fashioned, call me a philistine, insult my intelligence but I failed to see the point. The Emperors new clothes perhaps.. I tried all of the many ingredients seperately, I tried them all together and I was not bowled over by either the individual quality or provenance of the ingredients, nor the techniques involved. As far as experimental goes I have had more interesting meals at Sat Bains or Maze, and certainly in Barcelona. At no point did I say mmh with delight or close my eyes with pleasure. This meal was not about good mouthfeel or happy tummy taste. It was about having to refer to the menu repeatedly to figure out what I had just eaten and wonder why I had been made to eat it.

The positives were the environment, a lot of money had been spent on the refurbishment and it showed. The staff were very helpful and friendly and maybe it was my imagination but I thought they were a little embaressed at having to explain why there is no wine pairing (too many flavours therefore too difficult) or why the coffee comes in paper cups(ranging from the chef is quirky to it retains heat better(!)). Katie was there and she is very personable but thats about all the positive I have to say.

Apologies for the photos they were taken on my iPhone.

The bread with no butter or olive oil for that matter. Fruit and curry paste essentially, and it wasn't even warm.

My first course of 'tender spicy pork fillet,smkoed bacon and sage,babyglobe artichokes, cauliflower and hazelnut oil, pinenuts, sweetcorn, carrot confit, mangetout, peas, HP fruity and dried orange' was not hot or warm but cold with some warm bits. I didn't know if that was intentional or not. It had been cooked sous-vide and cut up into cubes to match the cubes of carrot. The other annoying thing was the bowl it was served in, which made it difficult to cut up the food and to eat it. The portion size was also on the small side but given the fact I didn't enjoy it, wasn't a bad thing. The problem with it was the overwhelming taste of Sharwoods curry powder which I hate. Given the myriad of spice avaialable thee days and the potential versitility of pork it seems lazy and not retro to use this pedestrian flavouring.

HI's first course was 'creamy smoked risotto of gruyere cheese, smoked haddock confit,caviar and smoked salmon,cucumber,figs, brazil nuts,saffron,fresh dill and argan oil sauce' The haddock itself was creamy and again quite pleasant by itself but together with the rest of it was, meh?

HI had opted to have the soup course which worked out at £10 for a very small bowl of soup. Again it had about three layers of cream of celeriac with asparagus foam and something in between but although it was quite pleasant it was not different to any other asparagus veloutes that we have had.

My main was 'very tender fillet of beef with apricots and walnuts, white asparagus, button mushrooms and onions, blue cheese kebab, boiled rice sweet potatoes, with a sauce of spinach ,nutmeg and garden pea cream.' Indeed this sounds like not one dishes but two. The first half is quite a traditional combination of beef friendly ingredients but the second half? A gourmet version of a drunken visit to the kebab shop?
Again the meat was sous-vide which although gives a tender result makes it curiosuly devoid of any character, and again was cut into cubes. Which were to be eaten with this curiously bovine implement.

HI had the 'slowed baked fillets of young pink trout,tomato and melon confit,pasta twirls, almonds, parsnips, black sesame seed, kidney beans, grated courgette, parmentier potatoes, meaux mustard cream sauce,garlic mayonnaise, fresh mint'

I can't tell you what he thought about it becuase he said nothing about it which is never a good sign.

I had the cheese course and I guess I have been spoiled by the cheese trolly at Martin Wishart because I don't like having my cheese picked for me.

Having said that the portions were generous and the dried apricots were nice.

Then there was the cow with the porridge milk with lavender which was pleasant but tasted like my son's breakfast.

On to the puddings which were the best course of the meal.

I had the 'crispy baked lemon curd with ginger nut crunch, granny smith, soft vanilla sticky rice and sultanas and crabbies giger wine eggy anglaise'
The lemon curd was very good creamy and tart at the same time. This would have been enough by itself but was spolied by the additional sticky rice which unfortunately looked very similar to the bolied rice of my main course.

HI's 'layered classical italian trifle,marscapone cheese, summer soft red fruit puree, bananna,vanilla sponge, praline, coconut, oatmeal, kahlua and baileys white chocolate anglaise' was very good and had a bit of an alcoholic kick which by this point HI was in dire need of.

Suffice to say we shall not return. This is of course only my opinion as there were two men there who had been for lunch only the week before. However, I could not get the thought out of my mind that this was someones idea of a joke-lets give some folk who have foodie inclinations a mish mash of ingredients in some annoying crockery and sit back and laugh whilst they try to make sense out of it and give it praise.
Not for me.