• Reindeer moss to yakitori eel – how Mana made it to a Michelin star

Reindeer moss to yakitori eel – how Mana made it to a Michelin star

8 October 2019 by Neil Sowerby

CONGRATULATIONS, Mana. The Michelin Curse on Manchester is exorcised. We’ve taken back control after the wilderness years. A star is burning bright in Ancoats, which only a few years ago barely registered an eating place, let alone a restaurant as astonishing as Simon Martin’s.

Amid all the rejoicing, by some bizarre symmetry, came a reminder how stars do rise and fall.  A decade ago Greater Manchester lost its only Michelin star after Paul Kitching left Altrincham’s Juniper for Edinburgh to open 21212. Michelin 2020 has just stripped that restaurant of its star while handing out a record number to UK establishments.

One of those benefiting is Mana, open under a year in Ancoats with 29-year-old chef/patron Simon, born long after Manchester proper last held a star (The French in The Midland, 1977). 

Yesterday’s announcement gives us closure on that annual itch to scratch – ‘those evil inspectors have snubbed us again’. Now all that’s consigned to the dustbin of history, as they say. Mana, Manchester, Michelin – it has a ring to it.

It’s not quite a “where were you when?” moment but Monday, October 7 feels like a coming of age for the city’s vibrant dining scene. The Mana team also collected a record four gongs at the Manchester Food and Drink Awards and then headed off to await the arrival of Simon from the London Michelin bash.

The inspectors’ Twitter acclaim read: “Chef @Simonmartinmana nods to modern Nordic cuisine but retains his own identity. The perfectly paced set menu is further enhanced by the interaction with the chefs.”

ToM suspects there might have been some serious Champagne interaction with those chefs late into the night.

There is a vast amount of precision involved in creating the Mana menu – signature dishes dishes such as yakitori eel with blueberries and langoustine tail, cured egg yolks, grand fir and spruce (pictured above) and Cornish Oyster, chicken fat and English wasabi (main image). We trust hands will be steady by reopening at 6pm on Wednesday 9th.

ToM’s experience of Mana over four visits since our original five star review in December 2018 has been of a concentrated upwards curve in excellence. It seems even odder now that early on a social media troll accused Mana of merely copying dishes from Noma in Copenhagen (Simon’s previous employer). That was on the back of dishes such as foraged reindeer moss blended with chocolate for a dessert (to dip in a whisky egg nog). Of course, Nordic influences are there but Mana offers so much more.

Confirmation of Mana’s star billing took a while emerging. We hung on while the cringeworthy live relay from London’s Hurlingham Club kept handing out  new stars to Lake District boltholes. Just when we were cynically equating that trio of stars to the inspectors’ favourite holiday destination up flashed Mana MANCHESTER. Cue social media rapture. Later at the MFDF rivals gave the team a standing ovation.

Warrington-born, Shropshire raised Simon Martin looked less comfortable in the Hurlingham Club spotlight than in his £300,000 state of the art kitchen on Blossom Street. He admitted the pressure that came with aiming for the stars. He cited his biggest influences as Nomai and Gordon Ramsay, both of whom he worked for. He was also asked about his impressive high spec ‘aesthetically pleasing' kitchen. He said Mana had tried to "change a way a kitchen works”.

He told us: “We are hugely excited to receive a Michelin Star inside our first year. This is not only a landmark moment for Mana but also Manchester’s wider restaurant scene that will help to put the city on the menu for lovers of great food worldwide.

“At Mana we set out to give our guests an unforgettable dining experience and to push the boundaries on food provenance, preparation and presentation. A Michelin star is recognition of the exceptionally high standards we have set and we see this as just the start of the Mana story.”

Simon opened Mana after receiving backing from Manchester based entrepreneurs Joel Adams and Mike Holden, co-founders of LIFT-Financial, one of the UK’s leading financial planning firms.

Adams said: “Manchester has been waiting for something like Mana for many years – this great city deserves a world-class restaurant that will attract visitors and really help put Manchester on the world food map”.

Mana is currently open for reservations through to the end of 2019, while reservations for next year will be available from 9am on October 9. Look like being a hot booking. To give more people the opportunity to experience Mana, it will start to open for lunch on Thursday and Friday from October 31. The 14 course tasting menu costs £105, the shorter lunch menu £65.

Mana, 42 Blossom St, Manchester M4 6BF. 0161 392 7294.