Fashionable affair

24 July 2007

Nominated for both Restaurant and Chef of the Year in this year’s Manchester Food and Drink Festival Awards, Harvey Nichols Second Floor Restaurant, Bar and Brasserie seems to have been going from strength to strength over the last year or so. This is by no means unconnected to the arrival of Alison Seagrave at the restaurant, who’s been hailed far and wide in the City as an exciting new talent.

I’ve never been the biggest fan of true fine dining, but there isn’t the stuffy formalities or clinical feel that are inherent in others at this venue. With the recent small spate of closures in the Mancunian fine dining scene, it was refreshing to find a fairly buzzy atmosphere abound in the restaurant. I particularly like the interior at Harvey Nichols, its glamorous, bold and fun, but still retains the impressive-ness and level of style and quality that make it such an occasion restaurant.

Staff were of an exceptionally high calibre during our visit, not the most informal or chatty of waiters but those that consider their job a career, and are flawless at it.

We spent some time looking over the menu, and what can only be described as wine catalogue – pages and pages of wines from across the globe were at our fingertips, and this slowed down the decision making process somewhat.
We eventually settled for a French white, and managed to make choices from the a la carte menu. I chose the roasted vine tomato soup, basil oil and baby mozzarella and my companion went for the air dried mutton, malt loaf, figs and parmesan. Mine a fairly classic veggie option and his a more exciting, modern creation. Both were superb. My soup had been prepared to the highest standard that I think could possibly be achieved, resulting in a really rich, fresh, indulgent starter – definitely not a case of ‘just having the soup’.

The air-dried mutton was reportedly a tribute to innovative flavour combining. Wafer thin mutton similar in style to fine Italian prosciutto, but with a distinctly more homely and British flavour were combined with large shavings of parmesan. The Cumbrian producer Farmer Sharp, name dropped on the menu, has reportedly been in the beef and sheep business for over 400 years, in this time they have clearly mastered their craft and it’s great to see such a sophisticated eaterie acknowledging local suppliers so readily. Loading the juicy malt loaf with strips of mutton, parmesan and warm preserved fig was a taste revelation and a shining example of why this restaurant is developing its fine reputation.

For my main course I was waiting for a ‘Canon and confit shoulder of new season lamb, spring onion mash, pistachios and mint jelly’, and could hardly imagine what was going to arrive on the table, having ordered what seemed quite an unusual collection of food. What did arrive was a massive success, the ‘canon’ refers to the shape of the lamb, which had been coated in pistachio, the use of which was inspired. The lamb itself was amazingly good and tender. This sat upon the confit of lamb, and all combined with the mash, the mint and the pistachio made for a brilliantly devised, unique dinner.

The seared loin of tuna with peas, olives and sardine fritter was also an impeccably conceived dish. The peas being served as a warm and smooth jus in a shot glass that could be drizzled over the fish as required. The fish itself was very slightly over cooked for my partner’s liking but I got the impression he was just a bit unlucky with his particular serving. The addition of a lightly battered sardine fritter was very well received, adding a fresh rush of Mediterranean harbour to the overall fish experience.

We weren’t expecting to be able to handle dessert, but the staff recommended we did and we found it in ourselves to try something, Alison Seagrave is a patisserie chef after all… Needless to say, my honeycomb cheesecake with bitter chocolate sorbet was immense. It really was. The honeycomb added a fabulous new twist to this (well one that I’ve never tried before anyway).
My partners crisp rice pudding with stem ginger brulee and poached rhubarb, was thick strips of creamy rice pudding that had been deep fried into crisp and stodgy rice batons. Presented with a rhubarb sauce, my partner was left a little bit overwhelmed by the fillingness of this otherwise sublime dessert.
Our visit was one which confirmed high expectations. Stylish interior sat alongside exquisite and inventive food and drink make this a restaurant which thoroughly deserves its recent torrent of accolades.

Siobhan Hanley - Manchester Food and Drink Festival Director

Second Floor Restaurant, Bar and Brasserie
Harvey Nichols
Exchange Square
M1 1AD
(Entrance from outside store on Cateaton Street)

0161 828 8898

Mon- 12noon-6pm; Tue-Sat 12noon-10.30pm; Sun 12noon-5pm