WHEN Aiden Byrne left Manchester House to open 20 Stories earlier in the year he discarded tasting menus. Which felt a bit like Lionel Messi not using his left foot. Now they’ve made the biggest comeback since Tyson Fury as Aiden reopens the fine dining destination at Tower 12 Spinningfields with an eight courser (£45) and a 12 courser (£90) on board.
The name has changed. Previous owners, Living Ventures have retained their right to the brand name, so Aiden with his new backers has reinvented it as restaurant MCR. For the moment, in what has been a breathtakingly rapid resurrection, the restaurant looks much as it did (minus the chef’s table and with fewer chefs) while Aiden’ menus are very much greatest hits from his first time in charge. Expect some remodelling of both venue and menus in the spring.
Offered the chance to sample the smaller tasting menu before the official relaunch on Friday, December 7, ToM can report the food offering is terrific. Just drool over our main image, the opening salvo of the menu – crisp chicken skin, crab, sorrel, gold rush apple juice. It looks intensely fresh and tastes even better.
Maybe the Iberico Secreto ham overwhelmed the braised beef cheek and choucroute in our main, but the overall quality of the dishes impressed throughout until the concluding Manchester Tart – what else? Other stand-outs included the two below, both of which involve pouring soup or sauce at table – mushroom and jerusalem artichoke and a Byrne classic, Ribblesdale goat’s cheese and onion soup.
We felt Aiden had lost his way going to 20 Stories (review here). Maybe he felt that way, too. Certainly the Drake & Morgan-run restaurant bar didn’t make the best use of talents, which earlier in his career earned him a Michelin star. But then the death of Living Ventures creative force Tim Bacon had robbed Manchester House of some of its momentum. The group closed it on October 9, Aiden stepped down from his post as chef director of 20 Stories on November 2 and 18 days later announced he had backers for ‘Return of the Byrne’.
For Aiden this means a more relaxed approach to service without compromising the quality of the food.
He told us: “We are so happy to be be able to make this happen before Christmas, but we just had to make it work. So many people made contact when the news broke last week, while it’s been a crazy week turning this around. It means that we can bring back the tasting menu and get back to basics. Doing what I love, sending food and watching as our customers connect with the food.
“While we are focused on delivering an experience and the 12 course tasting menu, the key ingredient for the new restaurant is putting the guest at the heart of everything we’re doing. If our guests want something other than what is on the menu, if we have the ingredients then we can make it work for them.”
Suitably for a business district there’ll also be an express lunch of three or six courses. We say order the biggest tasting menu you can and add on the regional cheeses option!
restaurant MCR, 18-22 Bridge Street, Manchester, M3 3BZ 0161 835 2557.