Wednesday 22 May 2013

3:21 Manchester.

The other weekend was the opening of a new restaurant 3:21 on Deansgate. You may have heard of it. It was the 'soft opening' on the Saturday before last. I think I was the only food blogger in a radius of about 50 miles that wasn't there for the free tasting. (I wasn't actually invited, although I could probably have blagged my way in). So I sat at home feeling sorry for myself eating spam (horse meat) out of a can looking at pictures on twitter of great juicy steaks coming from fellow bloggers dining there. Well that last bit about horse meat is a lie, but I did look at the updated tweets people were sending out with some jealousy. I'd already booked a table for the first proper Friday it was open though. Sometimes opening night is not the best time to judge a restaurant as they are just finding their feet. (This is what I told myself anyway).

It's quite funny walking through The Deansgate pub up to the restaurant. It's not really a beer lovers pub or a trendy bar, it's a typical city centre boozer, and it was loud and a little lairy on Friday night. I gave our name at the door, and happened to glance down at her pad: Mr & Mrs Bacon: free meal. I wasn't aware of this when booking, so for me it was a RESULT!

We met the team; they are the nicest bunch of people, and we were treated regally by them all night. The room has been smartly done out with views over Deansgate. The music was absolutely spot on, I remember Solid Air by John Martyn and Nick Drake playing softly. It's a really lovely space with a terrace out back.

 To drink; they only had Becks Vier and Kronenbourg on tap, which do pretty much the same job. I think there were some craft ale bottles, but I reckon that they maybe missing a trick without having some proper beer on tap. Steaks are very blokish, and blokes like real ale. (Obviously I'm making a generalisation here). Because of space issues, mini kegs like those from Thornbridge or Redwillow would be ideal. (* I just noticed in the photos they have actually have Wainwright bitter on which I missed on the night. It's ok this beer, but a little dull).

Onto the food. We got a complimentary pre-starter. It was really big! A large box of fresh sea food things; The Dock Side (In-house hot smoked salmon, peppered mackerel, BBQ king prawns, pickled cucumber, capers, red onion saffron dip, artisan breads and flavoured olive oil, £15). We enjoyed this, and eating out of the box was fun. I'm not sure if £15 is perhaps a tiny bit steep for it, and for me, strawberries have no place in a seafood salad. I'd have preferred better quality bread with it as well.

We also got a Stone baked smoked garlic chilli and tomato bread (£4.00) this was fine with a nice thin crispy base, I always want more garlic though, and I wish I'd have added mozzarella.

Then Mr. Holden’s Manchester Egg, (Hens egg wrapped in Bury black pudding, pork mince and crispy breadcrumb, served with Manchester 'caviar' and maple streaky bacon crisp, £5.50). I enjoyed this, it was warm, rich and hearty and as good as the one at Aumbry.

Plus Big Boy Sticky Barbecued ribs (smoked in house and finished in our bourbon glaze, served with house 'slaw £5.95). Pleasingly tender, the meat fell off the bone, but I'd have liked a bit more of a spicy kick on the glaze to lift the flavour even more.

For mains we got a Lamb Chop (Prime English lamb leg chop rubbed with rosemary (£14.95) and a Roast pepper and smoked goat cheese Burger (£8.95).

The burger first; sorry but I was quite disappointed in this. I've had a few quality burgers lately, but sadly this wasn't working for me. I asked for it medium rare and the waitress informed me that as the thin patties are stacked in such a way that it's hard to cook them pink. They were fairly medium rare, but the problem for me was the goats cheese, I thought it'd be melted on the meat, but it was in breadcrumbs and it was thick. This made the whole thing quite dry, and the bread was quite chunky too, so the juicy meat flavour was lost in the mix. The bun/meat/goats cheese ratio I feel was all wrong. In my opinion it would have been to have one large patty (like Parlour do), cook it pinky medium rare and melt proper goats cheese onto it. The meat is all sourced locally at a butchers near to the city ground. (Possibly one of the only places in town not getting their meat from Frosts in Chorlton)? The chips were fairly decent, thin, crisp and not oily.

In truth we had had so much for the starters we were getting The 'Triple F's'- Free food fatigue; a tricky first world problem almost unique to food bloggers. The lamb wasn't bad, Mrs B decided it wasn't 'lamby' enough, (sorry for the technical jargon here), I agreed, we expected more strength in the flavour, although it got slightly tastier the closer to the bone you ate, but we were absolutely stuffed now so it was a struggle!

I'm not normally a fan of the Onion rings but these were good and crispy, but I really just wanted to lie down on the sofa at home and sleep!

They were making an iced Mojito on the bar and kindly offered it to us. Perfect for the end of a meal to settle the stomach, like a Mojito slush puppy as Mrs B commented!

Overall we enjoyed our evening at 3:21, and I hope they would accept any honest criticism as helpful and constructive to their business. (I do worry about such things). I feel however that there could be a slight problem when food bloggers all hype a restaurant up in the beginning. Can it deliver to very high expectations?
But when we move onto the next opening (we are fickle creatures), what happens next? On a cold wintry Tuesday evening when it's quiet? I think the secret to it may be what is seen as a weakness (being over a pub) could actually be a strength. They could appeal to those customers downstairs to come upstairs (using one of their most persuasive staff members.) These could be regular clients, as passing trade is limited being situated above a pub as it is. The prices may need tweaking for the customers in the Deansgate pub though.
The food we ate on Friday night was pretty good, it's honest decent pub food but perhaps updated for todays food knowledgeable customers - and there's certainly 'nowt' wrong with that! It takes a lot to totally blow us away these days to be honest, especially after trips to Spain where the level is set at a whole lot higher.
Like I said in the previous post, food is only part of the equation in where most of us choose to eat out, the other parts were perfect on our visit; we loved the interior, it's smart and cosy, and the service was absolutely fantastic. It was like they actually cared that we were happy which surprisingly is not always the case.
So in conclusion we would recommend trying out 3:21 for yourselves, we wish them every bit of luck in the future, I'm sure they can only get better at what they do. 

Disclaimer: Please note all opinions are our own.
We will consider 'comped' meals like this one, but will always tell the truth how we see it anyway.
Constructive criticism is hopefully helpful to those concerned, but if there are any factual inaccuracies, we are happy to correct them.

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