When 2 star chef Michael Caines went into a business arrangement with Abode Hotels, he declared that his restaurant at the newly opened hotel in Manchester would be the place that would bring a Michelin star back to the city centre. The food never seemed up to that, in my view – not even in the early days. Now, I suspect he has settled for just serving up good looking and good tasting plates of food without further ambition. I think its benefitted from that – although there’s nothing to be done about the fairly dreary corporate looking room in the hotel cellar.
There’s a decent looking tasting menu. Not the bells and whistles food that you get in some places but, simply, smaller versions of dishes on the main carte. Smaller versions also crop up in the grazing menu which forms the centrepiece at lunch but is also available in the evening. However, we went with the main carte, which is reassuringly short – half a dozen choices at each course.
There’s an interesting bit of food economics going on here. As you might expect at this level, there’s an amuse bouche. But then, at this level, you wouldn’t expect to have to pay for bread as an extra – but you do. The amuse was pretty good – roasted watermelon, sliced cucumber sprinkled with sesame seeds and a few cubes of salty feta which contrasted with the sweet of the watermelon . It amused our bouches.
Crab salad was something of an oddity. Not least in that it was served on a hot plate. A couple of quenelles of dressed crab, a smear of avocado, some confit tomatoes and a drizzle of a tomato vinaigrette. Tasted fine but was all a bit soft. It needed some, erm, salad for contrasting crispness.
Roasted quail, breast and legs, came in a crisp potato basket. Hidden at the bottom was some raddichio (which would have been good with the crab).
For mains, there was stone bass, a relative of the more common sea bass.. We’d had that a few days ago at the Lords of the Manor and they did it better – at least in the getting the skin crisp department. Here it was flabby and really should have been removed in the kitchen. Alongside, a shellfish mouse came wrapped in courgette strips. Roasted veg helped towards the five a day and a bouillabaisse sauce perked it all up.
Crisp skin on my pork belly was not an issue. It was spot on for crispness. The meat was long cooked and very tender – although perhaps a slower roasting might have rendered off a bit more of the fat and it would have benefitted from that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of fatty pork but the balance between fat and meat was just a bit wrong. Nothing wrong with the accompaniments – two perfectly cooked scallops, samphire, the tiniest turnips you’re likely to come across and a good sauce.
We’re often happy to pass on desserts but not tonight. A raspberry dish brought raspberry macaroons, raspberry mousse and a raspberry ice cream. “Strawberries and cream” is probably the classic English summer dessert but the twist here is that the cream came in the form of a clotted cream pannacotta which was sweet and rich in exactly the way you want a dessert to be. A couple of actual strawberries decorated the plate but it was the strawberry ice cream which worked so well with the pannacotta.
We went away very happy punters having been generally well fed at a reasonable price for this level.