ENGLAND are heading for the dreaded penalty shoot-out and we are preparing to tackle the final course of a tasting menu. Will it be a winner? These parades of dishes with paired wines can be as gruelling as World Cup extra time.
Fortunately we are only taking on WOOD’s £45 a head five-courser, usually available at lunch and early evening. A seven course step-up for dinner is £65. In each case the chef makes the pick on the day. Matching wine flights are respectively £27.50 and £35.
General manager James Cunningham, arguably the city’s best front of house, twists our arm to take the flight and we won’t be disappointed. He’s senior man holding the fort in the absence of football fanatics chef/patron Simon Wood (Oldham Athletic) and head chef Mike Jennings (Manchester United – and on holiday).
In a dining room resounding to the anguish of Three Lions fans in neighbouring First Street bars our worry is: will the WOOD ‘second team’ keep their eye on the ball? No problem even with mackerel coming in as a late substitute for salmon in the third course.
That was my favourite dish, radish compressed in yuzu replacing the promised beetroot, cubes of galia and water melon adding their own refreshing textures an wasabi tying the whole Oriental twist together.
In contrast the lamb two ways main felt less playful, the loin and slow cooked neck meat sharing centre stage with al dente baby leek and carrot on a bed of pea puree, the whole dish meant to be united by a blob of bagna cauda, but this garlic/anchovy dip felt underpowered.
Much more sprightly was the dish that kicked off our tasting menu. You felt the warm spices in the three hour braised pig’s cheek, perfectly matched by the chilli undertow of a pineapple salsa.
A further bold hit was the heritage tomato consommé. The real acidity in the tomatoes made lovely savoury marriage with the pick of our wine flight – a Matahiwi Pinot Noir from New Zealand’s Wairapara region.
The dessert course Citrus Tutti-frutti (main picture) is a signature dish of 2015 Masterchef winner Simon and this thick lemon posset with fruit gels, meringues and edible flowers was a satisfying charmer.
With immaculate service and a relaxed vibe, WOOD was a perfect escape from ‘England’s Coming Home’ and Southgate’s penalty shoot-out redemption.
WOOD Manchester, Jack Rosenthal Street, First Street, M15 4RA. 0161 236 5211.
World Cup at WOOD
IF you can't beat them join them. While we were tackling our tasting menu the upstairs private dining room was screening Simon Wood's favourite film, Top Gun, with gin accompaniment. The same venue will now be a chance to view further stages of the World Cup, starting with Brazil v Belgium on Friday 6 and England v Sweden on Saturday 7. WOOD are offering Tomahawk steaks for two to share for just £50 and 241 bottles of beer to any groups of eight or more. The same deal will apply to subsequent matches on July 10 and 11.