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Manchester House
CLICK HERE TO BOOK ONLINE or Tel: 0161 835 2557
Tower 12, Bridge Street, Spinningfields, Manchester, M3 3BZ [map]
Fine dining restaurant by Aiden Byrne and Living Ventures in Tower 12 Spinningfields. Opening September 2013.
3TwentyOne Manchester

Manchester House Restaurant Manchester ~ overall readers' reviews
food
price
service
smartness
overall:
5 stars
3 stars
4 stars
4 stars
most popular dish: Belted Galloway Beef & Mushrooms (£57 for two people)

Manchester House Restaurant ~ our review
Come On Feel The Noize (Oct 2013)

Trusted Reviewer "Restaurant no.7 of our 15 in seven days project and it was our fourth visit to Living Ventures' highly-anticipated Michelin Star hopeful since it opened back in September. Our previous visits had included a press launch dinner, a free soft launch lunch and a 9 course Taster Menu paid for ourselves. These visits had ranged from very disappointing to utterly brilliant, so we were very interested to see how they would fair in this review, now they had been given a month or so to iron out any opening issues.

We visted for lunch on a relatively quiet Friday afternoon, still recovering from our 15 or so course Tasting Menu at the technically brilliant Aumbry the previous evening. Seeing as Manchester House's Aiden Byrne had just beaten Aumbry's Mary-Ellen McTague in the BBC's Great British Menu final, the pressure was on for his restaurant to also better her previous night's offering.

Talking of the BBC, during one of our visits, they were filming their "Restaurant Wars" series, billed as a race for a Michelin Star between Manchester House and Simon Rogan's The French.

Manchester House- Bacon Brioche
   
Manchester House - Cold Broad Bean Soup

We entered the convoluted lobby of the office block Manchester House resides in and went up to the excellent 12th Floor Bar in the lift. To the embarrassment of the immaculate waitress, who was carrying our drinks, it stopped at almost every other floor on the way as office staff and builders either elected to squeeze in or wait for another. With the other lift already out of order, we couldn’t help but think “if this lift breaks down too, there’ll be a mad grab for our drinks."

Over great cocktails, we chatted to the well loved staff - familiar faces on the Manchester bar scene, plucked from the likes of Australasia, Epernay, Mojo and The Yacht Club - whilst admiring the great view over Manchester's rainy skyline, the incredible back bar and the expensive stretched ceiling, before being escorted back into the lift, which again stopped at almost every floor on its way down to the second floor restaurant.

The bright and open plan 76 cover, £3m venue is very similar to Living Ventures other new eatery in the same building, The Artisan, boasting modern minimalist industrial "New York loft-style" chic and an open kitchen, which cost £350,000 alone and is packed with up to 24 chefs under the watch of the popular Aiden Byrne, who can be seen here most days.

   

The staff are nearly all hand-picked from other Living Ventures establishments, with a strict exam for them to pass to get this gig and, throughout the meal, we were extremely impressed with the fluency of their knowledge of each dish, the wines and the source of the meat for example. That said, like sister restaurant, Australasia, where many of the staff have come from, it can be quite formulated and lacking individual charm. This is also epitomised by the smart casual appearance of the purposely chosen cat walk model-looking waiters who don blue jeans and beige waistcoats – although somebody more fashionable than us, needs to inform them all of their sartorial faux pas - you should never fasten the bottom button of a waistcoast or suit!

Maybe it was with their desire to push Christmas bookings on Restaurants Of Manchester, that they decided to sit us on the table next to the wonderful Noddy Holder, who was tucking into the lunch menu - which is excellent value for just £22.50 for two courses (£27.50 for three) by the way - none of which can be found on the a la carte menu.

Manchester House - Razor Clams

   
Manchester House - Braised British Snails

Instead, we opted for the Extended a la carte Menu, which, for an additional £15 delivers three mouthful extra starters on top of the amuse bouche of Smoaked Bacon Brioche with roast onion butter and charred onion consume, which was OK without exciting the palate at anywhere near the same level as the rest of the menu.

The other ‘extensions’ included a Cold Broad Bean Soup, served with black olive and goats cheese emulsion and an edible broad bean petal. It was refreshing and a light introduction to what was to come, presented in an eye-catching bowl, which apparently cost £115. Presumably staff get sacked when they drop these beauties.

The Poached Razor Clams, with caramalised baby squid, served on a bed of charred yellow pepper puree with black squid jelly nasturtium leaves were stunning – both in looks and in taste, even if the combination was not the most obvious.

   

The Braised British Snails served on a bed of parsley puree with a light potato and garlic foam were even better, served with a light potato crisp and freeze dried oxtail, you could describe it as the best mash potato you’ll have in Manchester.

Overall the extended a la carte menu was nice and at what works out as £5 a dish, is reasonably good value for money. Well worth taking if, like us, you opt for the a la carte menu instead of the Tasting Menus; six courses (£50) or twelve courses (a whopping £95).

On to the main event and the starters of Truffle-Poached Chicken with Baby Artichoke (£15) was first class however the Sea & Soil (£13) had the whole restaurant looking over with jealous looks. A combination of oyster served in beetroot, together with an oxtail doughnut and served on a patch of lawn that is drizzled in salt water to produce a huge cloud of steam in true Living Ventures “Smokey Old Fashioned” Harry Potter style. Apparently this is to add a “smell of the sea”, however it produces more a smell of envy from fellow diners who haven’t ordered it.

Manchester House - Truffle Poached Chicken
   
Manchester House - Sea & Soil

At this point Noddy Holder leant across to ask “what is it?”. I was tempted to reply “iiitttttt’s….. Christmas!” but refrained before we got chatting about his meal – apparently the Pork Belly (which had only just been added to the Lunch Menu that day) was sensational. We then got chatting about other restaurants in town, and Aiden Byrne’s Church Green in Lymm, which he frequents.

For those who haven’t been to Church Green. It’s more of a grill restaurant delivering amazing steaks and roasts. For that reason, we were very much looking forward to the main courses at Manchester House. Indeed, the Cheshire-sourced fire-roasted Belgian Lamb (£27) lived up to expectations and was easily the best lamb dish we’d had all week. Served in a dish which allowed the ash to continue flavouring the meat with the fire-roast smoaky taste. It was served with pine stock and a sheep’s cheese dumpling which was made on site. This was certainly the least photogenic of the dishes but certainly our favourite.

   
Manchester House - Lamb Manchester House - Sea Bass
   

The Wild Seas Bass (£26) was equally stunning, served with Morecambe Bay shrimp chorizo and red peppers, this work of art was also cooked to perfection.

Meanwhile there was a noticeable excitement around the room. We looked around to see if somebody had proposed to their girlfriend? No. Had somebody more A-List than Noddy Holder entered the restaurant, we wondered? Not this time, although Robin van Persie had also been in Manchester House the three other times we had. The commotion was purely reserved for the large Flintstones like Belted Galloway Beef & Mushrooms (£57) being delivered to some excited diners in the middle of the restaurant. They seemed more than happy for neighbouring diners on adjoining tables to go and take photographs (fortunately we'd taken one on a previous visit).

Aiden's Great British Menu winning dish, with its magical pebble like potatoes, was certainly worthy of it's A-List status but it also highlighted the difference between down-to-earth Mancunian diners than perhaps more refined, snobby types you'd find in Paris or London, for example. Do Michelin take this into account?

Manchester House - Beef & Mushrooms
   
Manchester House - Beetroot Cannelloni

The desserts continued the fine artwork of the kitchen. We’ve now tried all six desserts (each £8.50) over three visits and would be hard pushed to choose a favourite, they are all so good. The Blackberry & Beetroot Cannelloni was possibly the best looking dish of the lot and would probably change hands for big money if this was a modern art auction. The Manchester Tart however is a must if you’re visiting Manchester House from outside the city.

Come to think of it, whilst the chef maybe from Merseyside, his menu has more than a Mancunian feel. Together with locally sourced produce, including herbs grown on the restaurant's roof garden, there's Boddingtons Steak & Ale Pie (£24) - even if the 'cream of Manchester' is now brewed in Samlesbury instead (thanks for nothing InBev!). The drinks menu includes Bez’s Wheat Beer (£5.75 a pint), Manchester Bitter (£5.75), Old Manchester Ale (£14, yes fourteen pounds, for a pint and a half), and five Manchester themed cocktails (£12.50 each).

   

Talking about drinks; they're not cheap. The bulky wine menu, complete with descriptions and photos of each bottle demands big cash. There's actually just as many bins for over £1000 as there are those at £25, ranging from the Portugese Pinhal da Torre Fernao Pires 2012 (£25 / £5 in the shops) to the £3,000 Tuscan Sassicala 1985 (around £1500 - £2500 in specialised wine merchants). That said, there are 17 wines available by the glass, starting at £5.50 for a small glass of Ponte Pietra Pinot Grigio Rosato.

We were surprised not to find any Trimbachs or Hugels on the menu as these seem standard at most Michelin Star restaurants around the world and this brings us to the question on everybody's lips. For all Living Venture's promises and chest pumping about bringing Manchester its first Michelin Star since Juniper closed down, is Manchester House really that standard?

Unquestionably the food is beautiful to look at but in some cases, can be style over substance. For all the smoke and magic of the Sea & Soil, the taste was rather underwhelming and - warning: spoiler alert - even though the false cherries with the Squab Pigeon (£16) or false apple with the Granny Smith dessert (£8.50) are technically impressive, they're not necessarily the most memorable dishes you'll eat this year - and certainly were not for us in a week we visited the 15 best restaurants in Manchester. Indeed, the stand out dishes on our visit, the lamb and the snails, were the least artistic.

Manchester House - Manchester Tart
   
Manchester House - Granny Smith with maple cream

Aiden is undeniably an excellent chef who has been given a great platform to regain the Michelin Star status he once boasted at the likes of Adlards in Norwich, Tom Aikens in Chelsea, Danesfield House in Buckinghamshire and The Commons Restaurant in Dublin. He's aiming very high with these technically difficult dishes which certainly entertain, yet his biggest downfall maybe the size of the operation and the fact that, we're guessing, Living Ventures, a large operator used to working on mass rather than with fine dining rooms, have more control of the running of the restaurant than himself.

The staff - and clientelle on our visits - are more LV than Louis XV, and whilst that still means you are moreorless guaranteed the polished formula you've come to expect from their other Spinningfields operations with some amazing cooking skills thrown into the equation, it does not guarantee a Michelin Star is on its way to this particular Manchester restaurant. Hopefully they can prove us wrong before the next guide is published.

   
In saying that, as rather demanding well travelled epicureans, we're perhaps being a little unfair and detracting from the entire experience, which is still one of the best (but expensive) to be found in this fair city. And in truth, many people who dine here will not have similar benchmarks to compare to. Had expectations not been set by boastful press releases and pre-opening bullishness, then the main talking point would be focused on the areas that certainly warrant a Star amongst other accolades.
   

It's still early days though and having pumped so much money into Manchester House, in the process Tim Bacon, their CEO, making it clear the no-expense spared "game changing" approach was moreorless with the whole aim of achieving a Star, you'd back Living Ventures to pull out all the stops to achieve that dream.

Inevitably, comparisons are being made with Simon Rogan at The French by everybody from food critics and bloggers to the BBC series and presumably the Michelin inspectors. We would echo Aiden Byrne's take on things and say that both are doing their bit to raise the bar for food in Manchester and there’s enough business to go around for everybody. Indeed, if you can afford it, you should certainly visit both... or, as Noddy Holder would better put it... "come on feel the noize!" - restaurants of manchester - 25/10/13 (visited on a friday lunchtime)

Manchester House - Peach, pistachio and milk chocolat
food
price
service
smartness
overall
5 stars
3 stars
4 stars
4 stars
4 stars
"entertaining"
"expensive"
"smart & beautiful"
"a posh artisan"
"a work in progress"

Manchester House, Spinningfields ~ members' reviews
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Disclaimer: All information correct 03/09/2013. RestaurantsOfManchester.com and ManchesterRestaurants.com can not be held responsible for any differences experienced at the premises listed. All images and information 2002-16 Pride Of Manchester