MANCHESTER RESTAURANT REVIEWS - Grafene Manchester Reviews  
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Grafene Manchester
Grafene Manchester Reviews
Address55 King Street, Manchester, M2 4LQ
Phone0161 696 9700

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Grafene Restaurant Manchester Grafene Restaurant Manchester
Grafene Manchester Reviews

Back in 2016, which now seems like a lifetime ago, Grafene launched in the old Brasserie Blanc unit on King Street, amidst a bit of a food and drink revolution in the immediate area, yet one which historically proved a difficult place to draw customers to.  The ethos was very Manchester, with styling being science led, sporting an industrial edge, referencing Graphene; the world's first 2D material, pioneered right here in Manchester. But I won't go on about that all over again.

Now when we first visited Grafene soon after launch, we remember thinking fondly of it, despite our objective criteria not being very kind to them at the time.  We went back a couple of months later and the story was similar.  There were a few issues with wine knowledge from the servers, the food arrived way before the wines on the wine flight, crockery was all too similar across every course, there were a few flat dishes, and whilst there was clear kitchen skill on display and the venue itself was strikingly handsome, it didn’t quite feel polished or cohesive in some way.

They'd also poached the Head Chef from our favourite local food pub to become their Sous Chef, which sadly saw the unnamed place become our not-favourite local food pub.  C'est la vie.  Anyway, a few months down the line and Grafene has a new team on-board, with the kitchen being headed up by well-regarded Chef Stephen Moore, previously of Gotham Hotel and Church Green fame.  The time seemed right to see if the creases had been ironed out, so we popped in for another look.

Grafene Restaurant Manchester

Inside, little has changed.  It's still a great looking place, striking that all important Mancunian-friendly balance of being smart, plush, cool, informal and comfy.  It's a fine place to enjoy either a cocktail at their impressive and well stocked bar, or in this instance, a quality sit down meal.  There's still a little private dining area at the back for a more intimate experience or business function.

We settled into a nice booth and after some advice from our well versed and charming host, opted for the new mid-week 5 course tasting menu, which currently only runs on a Tuesday evening. Fear not, the team are considering rolling it out on more week days. A snip and just £35, plus you can even get a matching wine flight for £25, one of which is a glass of Pommery, but I'll come to all that later.  All in all, it sounded like a bit of a mid-week bargain really.

The amuse-bouche, or snack as people are more commonly calling them, was a textbook chicken liver parfait, topped with candied nuts and grapefruit gel for sweetness and acidity.  Served in a shot glass, with some house-made crackers.  Nice teaser course.

Grafene Restaurant Manchester

The bread course was next up.  Not that bread is really a course in my book.  Still, as per the opening blurb, it came with a glass of Pommery Champagne, which would set you back about £10 alone.  That £25 for a 5 glass wine flight screamed great value.  Anyway, the bread itself was a trio served with butter and also beef dripping.  All very pleasant.  We wanted to dive in, but where was the Champagne? We internally said 'not again?', willing our lovely and very personable server to bring our drinks as to avoid a 2016 repeat.  Anyway, soon after the internal rant, the champagne landed, and it was a cracker.  Again, that alone made the matched wines a real steal.

The opening tomato course was a crescendo of flavours and textures via various types of tomato being prepped in a multitude of ways, garnished with basil, nuggets of mozzarella and some black olive crumb, finished with a crystal clear tomato consommé, served at the table by Chef Moore.  Most British tomatoes sold in the supermarket are naff, tasteless, and pointless.  We always look forward to holidaying in Spain or Italy, where some nice tomatoes, thinly sliced with just salt and pepper and a local vinegar, can be a meal in itself.  Grafene's version was a winner, with typical Italian flavours, showing lovely acidity, perfect freshness and lightness to start off, along with a strong wine pairing via a lovely 2015 Felicette Grenache.  It was also served before the food this time, which made us happy that the initial minor stumble had been addressed.  Our empty champagne glass from the previous course was still on the table at this stage though.

Grafene Restaurant Manchester

Next up was the Stone Bass, aka wreckfish, a fish which tends to dwell in the wrecks of sunken ships, was good and meaty, perfectly cooked to a light flakiness with a slight sweetness to its flesh.  The far eastern flavours came via a great kimchee-esque vegetable medley, including some wonderful mushrooms with a lovely sauce. The fish itself was quite cod like in fairness, which is why when Chef asked what my favourite dish was after the meal, I said 'the cod'; and then on the way home felt like an idiot. A metaphorical sunken ship.  Nevermind, I gave up trying to impress chefs with my knowledge years ago because you'll never know as much as the good ones, so why pretend?  At least I didn’t say that it tasted like chicken.

Self put-downs aside, the wine pairing was yet another winner, and by this stage of the game, wine delivery and clear downs had been fully rectified.  Our Bodegas Luis Canas white Rioja was a great match to the sweet notes of the 'cod', and the silky citrus noted sauce.  Strong sommelier work.

Grafene Restaurant Manchester

Main course was molasses cured beef fillet, served almost blue, which perhaps should have been mentioned as to not surprise anybody.  Still, rare is good when the protein is of this quality, and it was a massive flavour hit, with that treacly mollasses adding to the beef's savoury note, rather than dominating.  The charred leek was a little stringy and hard to cut, so I ended up eating it in one go after some initial faffing, but we loved the oxtail filled rolls, and the clever potato balls gave good texture along with a nice little carb hit. The superb Vina Cobas 'Felino' Malbec paired with it like a gem.  That’s what good Malbecs do with good beef though I guess.

We felt happy at this point, and were also told that the once Sous Chef had returned to his past employer too, something else that (with all respect) made us happy too.  Still, our hopefully now again-favourite food pub's gain, hasn’t held Grafene back based on what we'd sampled so far.  We sat and digested views and we were finding it hard to discuss much to fault in all honesty.

Grafene Restaurant Manchester

The dessert course was a stunner, and was in no form a taster menu sized portion either.  A baked mango cream, with coconut ice cream, yuzu, and puffed rice for some texture.  Imagine a solid pina colada in terms of flavour profile, with a smart addition of coriander which added a herbal/savoury note.  Our Editor usually hates anything in the vein of crème brulee, creme Catalan, crème caramel; anything cold and custardy, but she loved this.  It also looked like a dream on the plate via some clean and modern presentation.  You often remember the last thing you eat the most in a restaurant, which is why the pastry part of a meal needs to be strong.  This was.

The whole 5 course experience, including coffee and some slick petit fours, lasted around 90 minutes, which yes, may sound brisk for a tasting menu with matched wines, but then it’s a reduced size tasting menu and the full on longer version is still available if you have more time.  We think that for an 8:30pm mid-week school night outing though, 5 courses over 90 minutes was ideal really.

I'd like to see more Manchester nods on the menu in terms of produce, to tie in with the whole graphene/honeycomb/industrial thing, but standard of cooking is undoubtedly high, and for me, what's on the plate is without question good enough to place in the top 5 of what's on offer anywhere in the city centre.  A couple of little service tweaks early on, and it would have been very hard to fault at all.

We exited feeling happy at the progress which has clearly been made since our last visit.  It's always good to see places living up to their potential in an industry where it's so easy to fail even if you're doing all the right stuff, and Grafene for me still has more to come.  For now though; some of the best food in the city, hands down. Sandra Handley, Restaurants Of Manchester (Tuesday 20th June 2017)

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