Last week, I was another year older (but certainly not another year wiser!). I was really glad to celebrate the end of 27, which has quite frankly been a rather rubbish year, and we certainly did it in style! We started our long weekend with lunch at The Paris House in Woburn and it only got better from there!
I have had a strong affinity with Manchester ever since I started University there some ten years ago (ten years….where has the time gone?!). It is such a vibrant, stylish, fun and quirky city with so much to do and see so I was overjoyed when Neil surprised me with a train journey up North on the eve of my birthday! However, the surprise didn’t end with just a night away, he had also booked for lunch at Michael Caines at Abode….argubly the best restaurant in the city according to many on-line guides. Me, spoilt? Never!!!!
ABode Manchester was opened in 2008 in the heart of the city centre in a classic Victorian building that was once home to a cotton merchant’s warehouse. Upon entering the hotel, you can see that it is modern and stylish and the restaurant was no different. In the basement of the building, the restaurant is sleek and sophisticated featuring lots of glossy wood, mirrors and dark colours highlighted with clever lighting. As it was a Monday lunchtime, the restaurant was rather quiet with only ourselves and one other group dining however, this meant that the service was even more attentive.
Upon arriving we were asked if we wished to have an aperitif whilst reading the menu and were shown to a small seating area next to the bar in the open plan restaurant. As it was a celebration, we both thought it would be rude not to have a champagne cocktail each….very indulgent on a Monday lunchtime!! I went for a classic champagne cocktail with an MC twist whilst Neil opted for a Pimms Royale, an upmarket version of Pimms which gave the champagne a sweeter flavour.
The lunch grazing menu sounded too good to resist so we both opted for five courses….we are beginning to come more accustomed to large posh lunches than our pockets will allow!! We were not quite sure how the menu worked to start with which I know sounds rather ridiculous but it was quickly explained that we could have as many starters, main courses or desserts as we desired….of course I opted for two desserts but Neil decided to have four starter/main course type dishes followed by a single dessert….much more waistline friendly I am sure!!
For my first course I opted for rabbit and tarragon tortellini served with leeks, coco beans and mustard sauce . I personally love rabbit although I know many people are put off thinking they are eating fluffy little bunny rabbits – I would urge anyone to try it though as the rabbits have a very quick and rather humane death and are all very ‘free range’ living as they chose in their natural habitat. The meat is also very flavourful and absolutely delicious so give it a try!!! My pasta was perfectly cooked and wonderfully presented. It really was a rather beautiful creation to look at and was extremely tasty!! I am not a massive fan of mustard but the sauce was lovely and not overpowering. Neil tried a little bit and wish he had opted for the same! We also had a basket of artisan breads for the table which were a lovely accompaniment to the food.
Neil’s first course was a tomato salad with goats cheese mousse, black olive oil and basil. I was quite surprised he opted for this as I know he isn’t a massive fan of goat’s cheese. He said that the cheese was very thick and creamy which he did not expect as it was described as a mousse. Although Neil enjoyed this course, he said that this was his least favourite course of the meal.
Neil and I chose the same second course, a pea and mint risotto with parmesan foam and pea shoots. For my taste, the rice was a little too al-dente however, it was still very nice. Unfortunately, I really couldn’t taste the mint in the risotto. Neil said he could taste it but it was very little subtle. I do enjoy big bold flavours and I understand that you wouldn’t want the mint in this dish to be overpowering however, I would have enjoyed just a little bit more flavour in this dish. The parmesan foam was very tasty and delicate but a little difficult to admire properly on the white china. We both agreed that this was nice dish but perhaps a little disappointing.
For my third course, I opted for a braised lamb breast with a shallot soubise, ratatouille and thyme jus, which Neil chose for his fourth course. This was definitely my favourite dish of the meal. The presentation was beautiful for starters but the flavours of the dish were even more stunning. The lamb was cooked to perfection, beautifully soft and taste superb. The whole dish had wonderful earthy, rich flavours nicely balanced by the potato fondant and ratatouille. A clear winner in both our eyes and a course we could have eaten again and again!
For Neil’s fourth course, he chose fish which I was really surprised by! Neil is not a massive fish eater but the slow poached Hake with leeks, wild mushrooms and chive butter was one of his favourite courses. His fish was very soft and flaky and very moist. The sauce that accompanied it was nice and buttery and complicated the fish well.
The first of my two desserts was creme brulee with elderflower sorbet, peach soup and szechuan peppercorns. I thought the presentation and idea behind this dish was ingenious – I never would have thought to make a creme brulee that way or add peppercorns into the mix! Instead of having a crunchy top, the Michael Caines twist on the dessert was to wedge the creamy custard mixture in between delicate sugar wafers. The ‘peach soup’ was lovely and sweet and rather syrupy but nice and chilled so it didn’t taste too sweet. A really unusual but pleasurable dish.
My second dessert was a lemon tart with creme fraiche sorbet. The pastry base of the tart was, of course, perfect. The sorbet was unusual but worked well, very creamy. A wonderfully done classic dish full of lemony bursts of flavour and a refreshing end to a large meal.
Neil’s dessert was chocolate delice with poached cherries and cherry kirsch ice cream. It was very rich and chocolately as expected and the flavours did not disappoint however, Neil did say that the portion size was probably just right and if it was any bigger, the richness would have been too much.
We decided not to have a coffee however, as our waiter knew it was my birthday, he presented us with some complimentary petit fours with ‘Happy Birthday’ written on the plate in chocolate sauce!! Such a lovely touch and an example of the attentive service and how friendly and unpretentious the staff were.
To wash our food down with, we had a bottle of Ponte del Diavolo 2010, a really smooth Pinot Grigo that even Neil (who is not often a wine drinker) really enjoyed.
The meal was a wonderful and memorable birthday treat and I would definitely recommend a visit to MC at ABode when visiting Manchester. Not only is the food wonderful it is also very reasonable at £23.50 per person for a five course tasting menu. Watch this space for a Manchester’s first Michelin Star……