Aiden Byrne was trying to hard to emulate the style of the Spanish Michelin star chefs I know he loves (as we do too). You can hardly blame him, I'd imagine I would have been too tempting to throw everything at it to try and really blow people away when they first come through the door. There is after all a lot of money riding on this being a success. But something was missing for me. The food wasn't quite right, it looked the part but there was no real depth of flavour.
The French reported a huge increase in booking enquiries.
So when a mate of mine said he'd treat me for lunch, I was very happy to accept Manchester House as our favoured destination (especially as he was paying for the food). I've heard nothing but glowing reports recently so I was very keen to return. The lunch menu is an absolute top deal (2 courses for £22.50), so it wouldn't bankrupt him too much. As ever, more profit lies in booze and we were splitting that. We paid £40 for a bottle of Albariño which you can often get for half the price in Spanish Michelin starred restaurants. This seems to be universal in high-end British restaurants though (The French has an equally expensive wine list).
Simple quality bread would also match the food now at Manchester House, as chef Aiden Byrne seems to have pared it back. It's a world apart from last year's and seems to be more 'honest' more minimal and less fussy. Most importantly, pretty much everything works. To start, the Brown Crab Risotto and Confit Cep mushrooms was absolutely stunning, a sheer delight. There is no finer risotto in Manchester I can claim with some confidence. But thinking about it now I don't recall the crab flavour much, but that creamy, woody mushroom, velvety stock and how the big soft juicy cep just melted on my tongue. The mouthfeel was incredible. The produce they're using really is top of the shop. We were both wowed now!
Dessert was pretty and decent although a little over elaborate. Lemon Cheesecake cannelloni and sorrel sorbet and blackberries. It finished it off nicely though.
The service at Manchester house is not bad but it still doesn't have the same confidence yet. So if I was a gambling man (and I'm not) I'd say the French will get a star but Manchester House I'm not so sure about, this year anyway. I do hope they both get one, it goes without saying. But who knows the mysteries of Michelin?
What I can say for sure is that this lunch was extremely good, especially for the price. Star or no star, we left as very happy (and merry) customers that afternoon, so surely that counts for something?
See more photos here
The new Michelin guide book is out next Thursday 25th September.