Chef, hospitality spokesperson and all-round good guy Tom Kerridge returned to Manchester this week to support his kitchen team at Bull & Bear. The restaurant within the Stock Exchange Hotel has now reopened for the first time since lockdown and they’re all set to welcome visitors once again.
The Bull & Bear menu celebrates Tom’s style of cooking: refined versions of British comfort food prepared using outstanding produce. The dining room is elegant enough to make any occasion feel special, but the atmosphere remains laid-back enough for more casual dining.
Alongside the lunch and dinner menu, they have now launched a new set menu (Mon-Fri lunch-6.30pm) featuring a selection of signature British classics. It’s excellent value at £24.50 for two courses, or £29.50 for three and there’s always a sommelier on hand to match wines to any course if it’s a boozy lunch you’re after.
Dishes on the Bull & Bear’s set menu will change every few weeks and will feature some of Kerridge’s signature dishes; two starters, two mains and two desserts.
Red Pepper soup with cheese straw and rocket pesto is the current set menu starter, with the other option of rotisserie beetroot, melon and burrata salad with toasted hazelnut dressing.
They’ve gone for heartier mains. More hight than width, the B&B burger is a stacked tower with a hash brown, honey mustard pulled pork, coleslaw, melted cheese and a crunchy pickled gherkin in a brioche bun. On the side is a ‘Caesar salad’ – half a Romaine lettuce drizzled with dressing and topped with crunchy breadcrumbs. If burgers aren’t for you, choose deep fried sea bass with B&B chips and tartare sauce.
Make pudding at least one of your courses – bitter chocolate and cherry mousse is a suitably grown-up option, but the Bull & Bear’s rich, silky duck egg custard tart is arguably one of the best desserts in town.
You might get to see Kerridge himself calmly working the pass as he divides his time between his various restaurants, pubs, books, podcasts, events, and charitable concerns. We struck lucky and managed to get him to sit down for a quick chat.
ToM – Welcome back Tom. Tell us more about this new set menu.
TK - “Pre-covid, the menu was more small plates where three or four different things come to the table when they’re ready. When coronavirus hit, we started looking at how to do less table visits. The logistics of service are now in line with what we do at the Bar & Grill in London or the Hand & Flowers (Marlow), starter, main course, and dessert. It’s a lot easier to implement a set lunch which fits into the bigger a la carte menu. We want to encourage guests to come back in. We’ve got all the protocols in place to make people feel comfortable and they haven’t got to break the bank to come out and do it. I’m very glad to be open again. Here is just a big room that’s buzzy with screens, an open kitchen and some noise. It’s a brasserie style energy that we try to create.”
ToM - How often will you change the menu? and will it always be two choices for each course?
TK – “No, but we don’t know what it will be. This is almost like a relaunch. It’s not about ‘this is what it is,’ it’s more about, ‘what do people want?’ We try our best to make sure people leave happy. People in Manchester, people in Marlow, they want the same thing, and that’s nice food, a nice time and to feel that they’ve got value for money and go away loving it.”
ToM - How’s it been going for you in Manchester?
TK – “One of the major reasons we’re here is because the food scene in Manchester is one of the best most talked about, most eclectic, most driven in the country. If you want really chef driven, individual food, Manchester’s got Mana, an amazing Michelin star restaurant.
"But it’s not just about Michelin stars, it’s about a burger that’s amazing, or it could be a pizza done well and cared for, street food or curries. That makes a brilliant food scene and that’s what Manchester has. Everywhere has taken a knock this year with covid but there’s an energy and vibrancy in Manchester.”
ToM - How’s the last year been for you?
TK - “It has been very difficult because hospitality isn’t something you can do by Zoom call. You go to work to be amongst people. That’s why you started to see pubs, restaurants and hotels doing so many things up and down the country for the NHS and for their local communities. People are our vocation and our lives. Being part of hospitality is making sure you can still find ways to get on and do it.
“Personally, I’ve probably had a busier year than ever. We’ve been working very hard to stay relevant and creative. Across the group there are around 250 staff, so even though most of them have been staying at home, they still feel a part of something that’s forward-thinking and things haven’t stood still.
“I’ve been talking about it a lot. When you accidentally find yourself in a position where you’re a voice in the industry and the industry is battered, you’ve got to represent it. When I did Question Time it’s the most pressure I’ve ever felt. To find yourself on a political show that everyone is watching and then all of a sudden, you’re representing an industry of three million people, I’m thinking ‘please don’t say anything stupid or daft.’ That pressure was massive, but you go on there because you want to do something.”
The Bull & Bear at the Stock Exchange Hotels, 4 Norfolk Street, Manchester, M2 1DW is now open.
SET MENU | 2 Courses £24.50 | 3 Courses £29.50 Available Mon-Fri 12-6.30pm