OF all the special start the year dining deals ToM compiled the one that stood out was James Martin’s, so we couldn’t resist road-testing it.
The Casino 235-based restaurant’s standard five course tasting menu offer is £30, with a £17.50 add-on for five matching wines. You get the wines free throughout January and February if you order the tasting menu.
The kitchen is still in the capable hands of Martin’s long-time sidekick, head chef Doug Crampton, and on the evidence of our early evening dinner (they don’t do weekday lunchtimes, it’s a Casino thing) it’s on top of its game.
The wines we were sceptical about beforehand, the equivalent of £3.50 a glass, but it’s a consistent fruity bunch, sourced from Italy, Germany, South Africa and France, even before the giveaway. The pick the soft, spicy Peter & Peter Pinot Noir from the Rheinpfalz thatv was perfect with second course confit duck rillette, an elegant combo that featured smoked duck breast, whipped liver parfait, cherry puree and pistachio.
It followed a sweetly satisfying roast onion consomme with goat curd tortellini and preceded my favourite dish of the five, a chunk of grilled hake with nutty lengths of salsify, green apple puree and roasted apple puree.
Malt glazed beef cheek (below) with wood blewits and blobs of mushroom puree was challengingly fungi-led. The same intensity was evident in a glorious spiced muscovado tart (a kind of treacle tart on steroids) with blood orange accompaniments.
You can have cheese for an £8 supplement, but we were more than satisfied with the deal we had.
We dined in the shadow of one of those giant metallic antique cockerels James Martin apparently hijacked from under the nose of Marco Pierre White, who also coveted them (it must be a Yorkshire thing). All part of a colourful dining space that manages to seem muted in comparison with the garish casino fit-out that assails you as you mount the escalators from street level.
The setting does put some diners off visiting. Which is a shame because even without such a very special deal this is one of the city’s best food offerings
James Martin Manchester, Manchester 235, Great Northen Warehouse, 2 Watson Street, Manchester, M3 4LP (0161 828 0345). Offer valid Monday to Friday, excluding Valentine’s Day. Present this voucher to your server.