Restaurants & Bars 5

[Manchester] Michael Caines at ABode

Harters | Jun 10, 2008 03:37 PM

With the opening of Manchester’s Abode, 3 months ago, Michael Caines declared his intent of bringing a Michelin star back to the city centre. His head chef at Gidleigh Park was moved to Manchester to oversee operations as a demonstration of the commitment.

There’s been a complete renovation of the Victorian building which, as with many in this part of the city, owed its existence to the cotton industry. In more recent years, it was a hotel but then became a seedy amusement arcade. It’s now thoroughly modernised but has retained many of its original decorative features. The ground floor houses a bar and casual dining and is a pleasant modern space. The main restaurant, however, is in the basement. Decoration and furnishings is modern “corporate” style (this is not intended as a particular compliment).

Service would prove to be faultless and seamless. This may be the normal state of affairs and I suspect it is. But there may have been an edge created by Mr Caines dining there with a group.

There’s a nice bar where, I was pleased to see, some non-alcoholic cocktails were on offer. Nice not to have something overly sweet.

Once at the table, good bread arrived –roasted malt, olive and mini-baguette. Then a freebie wild mushroom soup – wonderful – even Mrs H, who is not big on mushrooms, enjoyed this.

I started with lobster tortellini, surrounded by a Bouillabaisse consommé. Consomme was very good. Tortellini less so – bland if I’m to be blunt. Mrs H faired much better with scallops accompanied by caramelised cauliflower puree and raisin vinaigrette. Perfectly cooked seafood; the sauces playing on their sweetness.

She then had Cheshire beef. Rare sirloin – came with celeriac puree and remoulade, roast shallots & madeira sauce. I was allowed a taste and can confirm this all worked extremely well

My main was a suitably pink Goosnargh duck breat. Apple gallete, baby turnips & garlic. Good contrasting and/or complementary flavours. The sauce was supposedly flavoured with Chinese five-spice, but must have been too subtle for my palate.

Herself didn’t fancy any of the desserts so had a “grazing portion” of cheese – Blacksticks Blue and Mrs Appleby’s Cheshire. I had one of the now often served “three desserts on a common theme”. This time – rhubarb and coffee. So, a shot glass of rhubarb jelly topped with coffee cream: a coffee cup of “cappuccino” – coffee & rhubarb parfait topped with cream: coffee crème brulee topped with rhubarb sorbet. A fab trio.

Mrs H was impressed with the wine list which is grouped by grape type and there is an excellent range by half bottle and glass. She had a glass of sauvignon blanc with the starter and half bottle of Aussie pinot noir afterwards. We finished with coffee and non-too-shabby petit fours.

The bill, with a well earned 11% service charge came to £140. This was not cheap eating and the jury remains out as to whether it was good value. Whether the food is creative enough to bring the star to the city is another question. Not in our view.


(And with that post, I think I'm going to take a long long break from Chowhound. I doubt if the site, as it currently operates, will ever become really useful for British & Irish folk looking for good food. I hope I'm wrong. But in the meantime, I hope American visitors to our city might gain some benefit from reading my reviews over recent months.)

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