• How to make Masterchef work for you – Simon Wood’s best menu yet?

How to make Masterchef work for you – Simon Wood’s best menu yet?

29 March 2019 by Neil Sowerby

SO how many Masterchef winners make a success of running their own restaurant? 2018 champion Kenny Tutt has jettisoned his job as a bank manager to launch a restaurant in his native Worthing this May. Good luck to him.

As this year’s nerve-jangling cook-off competition comes to the final crunch we suspect that it’s unlikely most of this year’s crop will attempt that professional step-up. Psychologist Geoff, who dropped out of the final four, has said he wants to be a food writer (one of the world’s toughest professions, believe us). 

Who knows from the all-female final three – Irini, 60, Jilly, 42, and Delia, 28? The latter, currently a police officer, has time on her side, like 36-year-old Kenny. As did 2015 Masterchef winner, Chadderton’s Simon Wood, then 38. Four years on, having created a high profile fine dining destination in First Street with a similar operation on the way in Chester plus a more casual project in Cheltenham, Simon’s a lot greyer but still disarmingly youthful and finding time to run the London Marathon.

It seemed a good week for ToM to check out the new menu at WOOD. Both food and service are an object lesson in how to get the transition from amateur to pro right. It helps to have as your kitchen buddy head chef, the experienced Mike Jennings. Much bouncing of ideas must go on before harmony on the plate is achieved.

That harmony was much in evidence as we tasted the new dishes on the eve of their unveiling. OK, we felt a plethora of wild garlic overwhelmed the mushrooms on toast and, against a backdrop of liquorice and prune flavours the subtle roundels of rabbit were a mite pallid.

That apart, a wonderful advertisement for that most difficult of beasts, a relaxed top-end destination. 

The assiette of lamb with lavender and honey and Leagram’s wonderful Ramshackle Sheep’s Curd ranks among the best dishes to come from this kitchen. You wanted to yell ‘Spring’s here!’ Ditto, among the desserts, very signature WOOD, Yorkshire rhubarb in a white chocolate cup (main image), as lip-smacking as it is pretty. Paired with a rare recent sighting of the perfect pud wine, Domaine Durban, Beaume de Venise, from a now exceptional wine list that doesn’t rape the wallet.

If that was an old favourite, we’ve now got a new one – Exmoor caviar. No, us neither. Simon scatters it over a fleshy scallop in the most innovative of the new dishes, dressing pappardelle-like strands of white beetroot in crab oil and aged white balsamic below a fleshy scallop.

Apparently he caviar is farmed in Devon, where up to 30,000 Siberian sturgeons are kept in huge tanks through which about nine million gallons of natural spring water from the River Mole flow every day. It’s wonderful what adventures Masterchef victory can channel you towards.

WOOD Manchester, Jack Rosenthal Street, First Street, M15 4RA. 0161 236 5211.