Manchester is the perfect place to spot a celebrity. You might see Jared Leto method acting in a Northern Quarter doorway, or a Real Housewife peddling her jewellery range in Menagerie. On any given day you could catch a Corrie star in a corner shop or just as easily spy a footballer filling up his top of the Range Rover.
That’s why we shouldn’t have been that surprised to witness Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola strolling past Embankment Kitchen. I was mid-way fork to mouth when I saw the handsome Spaniard carrying a takeout towards Salford. “Wait, wasn’t that…?” I said to my husband. “Yup,” he replied, quick as a flash.
While it might not come with a superstar or a C-lister, there’s no doubt that Embankment Kitchen offers one of the finest views in Manchester (sorry 20 Stories). The vista from the dining room takes in Manchester’s historic Cathedral, Harvey Nichols and, er, The Arndale Centre. (Fine, appreciate I’m pushing it there, but it is iconic.)
Embankment Kitchen’s brasserie and bar sits on the ground floor of City Suites luxury self-catering apartments on Chapel Street (itself no stranger to a celebrity guest or two.) It’s open for breakfast/brunch every day but serves dinner Thursdays-Sundays only. Parquet flooring, cream walls, touches of bronze, blue-toned seating and strategically placed blossoms make it a pleasant place to sit. I suspect a high percentage of guests dine there but EK are keen to attract locals as well as visitors.
That falls in part to head chef Marika Healey, a former MasterChef: The Professionals contestant. But her menu doesn’t contain the kind of culinary fireworks needed to impress Marcus and Monica on the telly. Instead, it stays safe enough to satisfy a wider range of guests and groups.
Ever tried organising a family meal when mum’s gluten free and your kid only eats pizza or burgers, your nan eats like a tiny sparrow, but you’d happily put your uncle forward for a competitive eating challenge? Plus you want somewhere with a decent wine list and a contemporary setting because it’s a special occasion? Embankment Kitchen is exactly the sort of place you’re looking for.
The menu features a range of pizzas, burgers and pasta dishes. Mains include fish and chips, steak or even salads. It’s a people-pleasing selection but Marika has put her own stamp on things. Burger buns are black brioche, relishes are homemade, and that fish and chips I mentioned? It’s actually samphire and beer battered haddock with hand cut chips, homemade tartar sauce and pea and wasabi puree. Prices are accessible. Starters are all under £9, and mains (apart from steaks) never top £17.95. Portions are generous and presentation good.
We’d tonked it all the way across town from Piccadilly so were ready for a cocktail. A refreshing Mojito Classic (£8.50) and a strawberry and lychee version (£8.95) soon did the trick. As you’d expect from a hotel/apart hotel restaurant, starters have been inspired from all over the world from buttermilk fried chicken goujons to crispy Asian duck spring rolls.
Crispy fried squid (£8.50) was coated with a dusting of Marika’s invention with a smoky chorizo and turmeric aioli and crispy kale. Goat’s cheese terrine (£8.50) is a new vegetarian starter from the spring menu. It’s rich, creamy and well balanced thanks to a pickled baby leek and candies walnut crumb but the handmade walnut crackers had gone a little soggy.
My husband couldn’t be tempted by any of the other main courses. He enjoyed a 28-day aged British beef sirloin steak (£22.95) which sits at a reasonable price point between steak frites (£16.95) and a Chateaubriand (£65.95 for two) – the most ‘spoil yourself’ item on the menu. They’re all seasoned with EK’s homemade beef rub and come with your choice of bearnaise or peppercorn sauce, red wine jus or chimichurri.
I chose another spring menu newbie, lemongrass and garlic confit Gressingham duck leg (£16.95) – well it chose me really as I’d caught a scent of it as soon as I’d walked in. It’s a huge hearty dish which comes on a mountain of sweet potato, kale and spring onion hash with a gravy made from red wine, plum and ginger.
Obviously we consider ourselves professional eaters but were stuffed, defeated by the even thought of dessert. But that’s fair considering the first two listed on the menu are sticky toffee pud and something called Chocolate Nemesis. What’s great about eating in apart hotels is that there’s always the tempting option of a lie down if you’ve eaten yourself silly.
Friendly staff make sure the service is efficient and you got the feeling they were genuinely happy to be there. It wasn’t too fancy, fussy or formal, they weren’t trying too hard and there were no long explanations for each dish. We felt relaxed immediately, and sometimes that’s the point.
Embankment Kitchen, CitySuites ApartHotel, 16 Chapel Street, M3 7NH
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