Ryan Hayes reviews Spinningfields lastest restaurant offering. . .
Spinningfields is quite the food destination at the moment. Whether for antipodean high-end food at Australasia, char-grilled hung kebabs with marinated pouring butters at Oast House, or perhaps Manchester’s new Michelin Star contender, the up and coming site that will be Manchester House, there is a lot on offer and the previously office-dominated district is quickly becoming something of a culinary hub. Bar and restaurant giants Living Ventures are largely behind the area’s fast development, and owning so many premises within such a small radius calls for variety, with each new venue being treated as an individual offering, as opposed to the chains they became successful with (Living Room, Gusto, Blackhouse).
Enter Artisan. Located opposite Neighbourhood on The Avenue North, a short walk through the almost concealed entrance and up a flight of steps unexpectedly finds you in the largest open-spaced restaurant in Manchester!
There is something a bit All Saints about Artisan, or perhaps it is just classic hipster. You know the drill: electrical cables and ventilation ducts overhead, exposed brick, low lighting using unusual bulbs of the Victorian/Steampunk aesthetic (as if interior design duties had fallen to Nikola Tesla), open kitchen. It knows it’s cliental and confidently sets a relaxed but ‘buzzy’ vibe.
From the cocktail menu, I chose The Artisan (£6.50), a crisp and well balanced drink, packed with fresh pomegranate and vodka. No doubt a suitable drink for beautiful weather so enjoy it while you can. Gemma, my esteemed companion, ordered a Tropical Julep (£5.95) which was aptly described by the barman as alcoholic umbongo. No child’s play here though. The peach liqueur and pineapple juice complemented the sweetness of the southern comfort whilst the fresh mint and zingy lime provided the required kick.
The menu consists of, we are told, Old and New Classics. These dishes are designed to be shared, though you should prepare to fall out with your nearest and dearest. These little plates of heaven will bring out your most selfish side.
We were having real problems deciding what small plates to choose from, everything sounded wildly palatable. After much deliberation we began with Baby Scallops with Curry Butter and Cauliflower (£6.75). The texture of the thinly cut cauliflower, cooked perfectly al dente, against the soft baby scallops was a winning combo and left the mouth yearning for more of that sweetly balanced curry seasoning. Next up was the Houmous with Sugar Spiced Nuts and Crispy Flatbread (£5.25) Presented on a steel ghetto shelter plate, you start to see the artistic flare and savvy construction of what Artisan is about. The houmous is enhanced by the ridiculously addictive spiced nuts and accentuated by the delicate crunch of the dressed cauliflower, celery, red and yellow pepper.
We shared a big plate: the Whole Mackerel Baked on Pine (£12.95). Nailed through the head to a slab of pine, then roasted in the open oven and finished off with a filling of Ratatouille, this rather brutally presented piece of mackerel just fell off the bone and had absorbed all that pine smokiness. This was an immensely tasty and visually rustic piece of culinary art. We chose an accompaniment of Carrots In Caraway Honey Butter (£2.95) which were delicious, although perhaps the Salt Baked New Potatoes (£2.95) would have been a better match.
From the quirky pizza menu we opted for the Pulled Pork Artisan Pizza (£10), as they were out of the Duck and Orange variety that we really wanted to try. Now, pulled pork has been somewhat elevated to the hipster National dish over the last year (in Manchester at least). It has curiously found itself as de rigueur as the aforementioned exposed brickwork in every vaguely fashionable city-centre eatery. Perhaps because of this, the pulled pork pizza, though well made, seemed to be lacking the artisan magic we’d experienced in our previous courses. The pizza dough was light and crispy, but the toppings felt a little sparse and the pulled pork slightly disappointing in flavour.
For dessert, we were guided by our (obviously well trained, enthusiastic and attentive) server towards the Hot Chocolate Pudding with Coconut Ice Cream (£5.95). This will split the crowd, as it has a rich gooeyness that is beautiful to cut into, though the overall taste tended towards sickly and salty. It ultimately falls to the coconut ice cream to clean up and resolve the somewhat overpowering pudding. The Baked Alaska (£5.95) however, was an outrageously delicious finale. With a dark strawberry coulis and marinated strawberries, the first spoonful of this devilishly good looking meringue gives you sweet lemon freshness until you get deep and uncover the strawberry ice cream in the middle. So eager were we to delve into this, we forgot to snap a pic – just take our word for it and order one, you won’t be disappointed!!
Ultimately, our experience of Artisan left us with the feeling that it is clearly on the way to becoming THE place to share food and enjoy good cocktails. it is also worth mentioning that aside from the cuisine, Artisan caters for all occasions. With DJs playing from Thursday to Saturday, there is also a quirkily designed private dining room which can hold up to 26 people. Artisan is among the best in food, service and overall atmosphere that Manchester city centre has to offer. Highly recommended.
Artisan Kitchen + Bar, Avenue North, 18-22 Bridge Street, M3 3BZ
For reservations and enquires please contact: manchester.artisan.uk.com | 0161 832 4181 The private dining room (pictured above) is available to hire for parties and events.