Could Aiden Byrne's new venture bring Manchester the Michelin star that has eluded the city for 30 years? Katherine Alano finds out how the chef
is deploying new techniques to create fresh British cuisine
With a career steeped in high-end restaurants, chef Aiden Byrne and Living Ventures, the owner of 32 restaurants, bars and pubs, might be considered unusual bed-
fellows. But they have come together with Manchester House.
Byrne, a finalist at this year's Great British Menu in aid of Comic Relief, is no stranger to fine dining. After a career in some of the UK and Ireland's best restaurants, he moved back to his native North West five years ago to open the Church Green in Lymm, Cheshire, where he won three AA rosettes.
Manchester House sees Byrne dig deep in his gastronomic armoury, while also deploying new techniques to create fresh British cuisine.
"Over the past few years, the food in the North West has changed dramatically, and at Manchester House we've worked really hard to make the dishes different. They will be extremely technical and playful as well as seasonal," explains Byrne.
With a brigade of 25 chefs and the capacity for 76 diners, the restaurant offers six menus to suit all budgets - an Á la carte, three tasting menus (lunch, dinner and vegetarian, £95 for 12 courses) and a set lunch menu (two courses £22.50, three courses £27.50, six courses £50).
To start, diners can expect dishes such as truffle-poached chicken with baby artichokes (£15); and squab pigeon with cherries, pistachio and violet mustard (£16), which has become a firm favourite with guests.
A dish that Byrne is particularly excited about is "sea and soil with oxtail" (£13, pictured below). Oxtail consommé with beetroot-fed oyster and an oxtail doughnut is served on a bed of grass and sea vapour and is a perfect example of what level Byrne wants to take his menu to. The oxtail stock for the consommé is made in a pressure cooker, and is clarified with methylcellulose rather than egg white to give it a cleaner flavour.
"The oxtail consommé itself was extremely meaty so we diluted it with a beetroot distillation vapour which gives it that really earthy flavour of the beef and beetroot," Byrne explains.
"The oysters are fed on beetroot juice for more than 48 hours, by which point they take on the flavour and the deep beetroot colour."
To create the sea vapour, which is poured over the grass at the table, Byrne uses oyster shells, seawater and seaweed that has been fed through the distillation machine to get the aroma of the sea. "The whole idea was to have some fun and that is exactly what we have done," he says.
Main courses include beer-can chicken with onion macaroni (£24); turbot cooked in fermented cabbage with Morteau sausage (£29); and, in a nod to the locality, Boddingtons steak and ale pie (£24).
Desserts include Manchester tart, peach, pistachio and milk chocolate; milk and honey (all priced at £8.50).
But, of course, no menu from Byrne would be complete without the famous prawn cocktail starter (£12.50) that won him a place in the Great British Menu final, and his beef, grilled mushrooms, salsify and clay potatoes served alongside a horn of truffle-infused gravy (£57 for two), which earned him a perfect score of 10 by mentor and fellow chef Phil Howard.
Sample dishes from the menu
Truffle-poached chicken with baby artichokes £12.50
Frog's legs Kiev £12
Roasted scallops with pearl barley £18
Roasted cutlet of pork and salt-baked pineapple £25
Fire-roasted lamb rack, pine stock and sheep's cheese £27
Turbot in fermented cabbage with Morteau sausage £29
Szechuan, lychee and rose £8.50
Peach, pistachio and milk chocolate £8.50
Granny Smith with maple cream £8.50
Manchester House Tower 12, 18-22 Bridge Street,
Manchester M3 3BZ
Tel: 0161 835 2557