Swish, open kitchen styled restaurant and Manchester's only Michelin starred restaurant (2020)
Mana is the first restaurant in Manchester to be decorated with a Michelin star (2020). It opened in June 2018 under the helmsmanship of head chef Simon Martin who gained experience previously at Noma, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and The Chester Grosvenor. This is a stylish restaurant with a large, open kitchen and I was pleased to see the Head chef not only in post, but also happy to interact with his diners – something that is commonplace at many European 3 Michelin starred restaurants but slightly more difficult to come by in the UK for some reason. This was an elaborate and intricate dining experience with some great moments. It is hard to reserve owing to its popularity and is ideally suited for people wishing to treat their other halves for a romantic occasion.
This was probably one of the hardest restaurants to finally get a table at so I was already intrigued to look at the fanfare. Atmospherics-wise, this the space inside is large with electronic music playing through and not many changes required on table covers post lockdown as it already was spacious enough.
First to arrive was bread which was 48 hour proved sourdough bread with own cultured butter – this had a wonderful crust and light crunch with soft bread and was frankly gorgeous. Mushroom on toast with M25 Shrenki caviar was an absolutely delightful texture of toast with the smooth mushroom purée (albeit it a little faint) but the salt from caviar and floral notes added a pleasant, aromatic finish. Devon blue mussel was next which was a superbly fresh, soft, intestine take as the mussel had been prior removed and turned into a mouse and placed back in, served warm with gentle black garlic. Very well balanced and beautiful essence of the sea.
Beef with pork (nice and sweet) and aged beef charcuterie was a delicate offering served with langoustine on the side that came with spruce and cured egg yolk. This was an extremely plump and sweet langoustine, so top marks here. Japanese custard, nettles with raw caramelised scallop was utter Unami. An oily and rich dish with crunch coming from the fried nettles and the smoked eel was well done.
An interlude of tomato sorbet in broth with British jalapeno heat was subdued in the mind from the cold of the sorbet and refreshing. Inoculated grain sauce covering onions and roses grown in Daresbury produced sweet onions with a good streak of umami throughout.
Goosnargh duck slowly baked with artichoke & bread sauce with artichoke leaf was a very supple duck, well-rendered fat and lashings of umami again with the accompanying sauce which was never going to go down badly. A herbal & aromatic relief provided from sprinkling on the top lemon thyme and this was a knock-out dish. Beef and camomile tea stirred with bouquet garnet was a particularly nice touch and reminded me of my many garnets that I had to prepare during my cooking courses.
Guernsey ice cream with marigold, honey and made with plum seed that actually has cyanide but taken out was thankfully very good. The dairy, was smooth, with a touch of savoury in the mix as well. Apple pie made with fermented brown butter and custard foam was very sour and not my cup of tea sadly. Not even the sweet from the apple could balance it. The apple texture and base were wonderful but overtly salty and sour custard was almost impossible to enjoy.
It’s worth reflecting on what I really enjoyed about this experience: not being asked how everything is in between each course unnecessarily (I and many people will say if not); the executive chef visiting each table and whilst there was strong creativity and presentation here, most flavours were very good.
Although I was initially charged £140 for the experience, I was sure that wasn’t quite right from the booking and a mistake was acknowledged and the lunch set menu was £65 (check your bills always!). Once rectified, I think this is extremely good value for money for the creative skill and efforts gone in. I have no doubt you may not be this lucky by the time you read this post-more lockdowns and the industry strives to get back into making ends meet more – it is simply bound to have the result of rising menu prices everywhere to survive is my instinct. That said, if you can make it here, I doubt you will be disappointed on any level.
Food Grade: 85%