HE secretive citadel of the Freemasons is flinging open its doors to food lovers from this week. Masons, destination restaurant/bar of the new Manchester Hall convention and events centre, is soft launching its Modern British menu from October 28 to November 2, before its glittering VIP unveiling on that day and official public opening on the 3rd.
We couldn’t resist popping in to see how they’ve transformed the former Freemason’s Hall on Bridge Street and check out the food and drink offering. The entire multi-million pound revamp is still a work in progress but the soft greens of the clublike 60-cover dining room were cosseting and there was a quiet confidence to chef Nathan Wightman’s menu.
At first glance the ex Shoulder of Mutton Ramsbottom chef is perhaps playing a mite safe but the blend of traditional and global grew on us big time in dishes such as Pan Fried Salmon (£18.95) and Pea & Leek Tart (£11.95). All ingredients have been carefully sourced from across the British Isles including Connemara organic Irish salmon from Ireland and Dukesmoor steaks from Wales.
Our faves? Definitely, an amuse bouche of truffley Celeriac Veloute (served with a thimble of Oloroso) and Sticky Toffee Pudding and a gorgeous main of Gressingham Duck Breast (£20.95). One novelty – side dishes are included in the price.
Chef Wightman, from Ramsbottom,
The wine list from Boutinot is familiar but wide-ranging and includes a strong selection from UK vineyards. Great fun is a cocktail trolley service, serving a mean Martini at table.
Manchester Hall Director Deepa Parekh, ex-MD at the members-only Circle Club, tells us: “We can’t wait to start revealing Manchester Hall’s secrets, starting with Masons Restaurant Bar. There’s no doubt in my mind that Nathan is about to prove a breakout star of Manchester’s restaurant scene.
“Masons isn’t about fine dining. It’s about the best quality food sourced from across the British Isles combined with exemplary customer service. Enjoying fantastic food shouldn’t be an intimidating experience and Masons’ ethos will be to combine attention to every single detail in our cooking with the most welcoming personal service. Masons isn’t a stuffy venue, but a place to unwind and relax with friends and colleagues in the heart of the city.”
While the interior of the restaurant has a few nods to the iconic building’s Freemasons’ past this has been kept deliberately low key – such as in the Freemasons-inspired dining booth which seats up to four people.
Masons will serve breakfast (Full English is £7.95) from 8.30am-12pm Monday to Friday; and 10am-1pm at weekends. Normal opening hours will be 8.30am-11pm Monday to Friday; 10am to 11pm on Saturdays and 10am-8pm on Sundays. There is 40 per cent off food during the soft launch period.
Masons, Manchester Hall, 36 Bridge Street, Manchester, M3 3BT. 0161 359 6952.