<div style="display:inline;"> <img height="1" width="1" style="border-style:none;" alt="" src="//googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/viewthroughconversion/1028731116/?value=0&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0">
6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Cheshire Life today click here

Restaurant review - The Rivals, Manchester

PUBLISHED: 00:00 12 January 2018

Ham Hock Terrine at The Rivals

Ham Hock Terrine at The Rivals

Icon photography studios manchester

Sheridan’s The Rivals was the first ever production at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre. The 1976 staging starred Tom Courtenay and Patricia Routledge and heralded a golden era of exceptional theatre in Manchester.

Open kitchen at the Rivals Open kitchen at the Rivals

With stars like Helen Mirren, Vanessa Redgrave, John Thaw, Bob Hoskins, Andy Serkis and more, treading the boards here, it was also a place for some stellar star spotting.

Indeed the Royal Exchange Cafe, as it was back then, was all part of the dramatic fabric of the place. In those early days you could pick a newspaper from where it hung on the wall and read it munching on simple but wholesome favourites like granary bread and cheese and home-made soup, surreptitiously glancing over at director Nicholas Hytner, or actor Albert Finney. Post-performance, the cafe was where everyone retired to for drinks before going home.

In recent years, there were attempts to transform that area into a high end restaurant and for me and those other people who remember it as a more casual dining space it just didn’t work. The more corporate feel wasn’t quite suited to the space. Who knows? Maybe behind the restaurant doors lurked Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp enjoying a glass of Burgundy together. I wouldn’t know because the nearest I went was the foyer cafe, for cappuccino and cake.

Now not only has the cafe in its latest incarnation been transformed into a restaurant called The Rivals, after that first production, it has as its new owner Rupert Hill, himself an actor, known largely for his role as Jamie Baldwin in Coronation Street but latterly co-owner of the Castle Hotel and Gullivers in the Northern Quarter, the Eagle in Salford and Bakers Vaults Stockport.

Rivals at the Royal Exchange Rivals at the Royal Exchange

The changes are apparent as soon as you step through the door. With walls adorned with recycled timber doors, an open kitchen backed by dark green tiling and retro light fittings, some of which have been plundered from Royal Exchange productions, there’s already a more appealing ‘boho’ vibe.

Rupert has done for the Royal Exchange what the Unabomber DJs Luke Cowdrey and Justin Crawford have done for Manchester’s Refuge and created a space that’s suited to the city’s appetite for relaxed but cool drinking and dining.

What a terrific location to meet people and you don’t have to be a theatre luvvie to enjoy it. You can drink or dine pre-theatre, pop in while a production is being staged or visit when there are no shows on at all.

The menu has a seasonal feel, so ham hock terrine, £6.50, seems exactly the right thing to feature midwinter: meaty, satisfying with a kick of piccalilli and crunch of crackers. Roast pear, paired classically with blue cheese, was served with a plentiful helping of candied
walnuts and strips of chicory, giving it a modern twist.

Soup at the Rivals Soup at the Rivals

Highlights from the main courses included a featherblade of beef cooked until it was meltingly tender. It elicited ecstatic sounds from the other side of the table, an aubergine ‘steak’ and a hearty lentil bake, all tasting authentically home-cooked but with a cheffy flourish as far as its presentation. The only downside was a chocolate tart which was a little too dense for my companion’s tastes. There was much to enjoy from a magnificent cheese board and home-made truffles.

With a wine and beer list that has plenty to offer discerning customers, the newest addition to the Royal Exchange is a worthy ‘rival’ to other newcomers, who (lucky for us) are changing the face of the fast-growing food scene in the city. w

The Rivals, Royal Exchange Theatre, St Ann’s Square, Manchester. 0161 615 6666.


More from Food & Drink

Two mavericks of the food and drink world collided with beautiful results at The Art School, Liverpool, writes Rebekka O’grady.

Read more
Friday, January 12, 2018

Sheridan’s The Rivals was the first ever production at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre. The 1976 staging starred Tom Courtenay and Patricia Routledge and heralded a golden era of exceptional theatre in Manchester.

Read more
Manchester Restaurants
Thursday, January 11, 2018

Digest this mini review in 60 seconds

Read more
Cheshire Restaurants Pubs and Bars
Friday, January 5, 2018

Putting the spotlight on retailers whose business is an important part of community life

Read more
Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Just back from the jungle, Jennie McAlpine on missing her family and serving tea fit for a queen. Mairead Mahon reports

Read more
Afternoon Tea Manchester
Friday, December 29, 2017

Gin tasting is increasing in popularity across the country, we round up some of the best events across Cheshire. Some of these events sell out fairly quickly, but the organisers do often host multiple events throughout the year.

Read more
Friday, December 29, 2017

Our guide to some of the best food events in the county throughout 2018

Read more
Things to do in Cheshire Summer in Cheshire
Thursday, December 28, 2017

PAmpering and Prosecco were on the menu at the fabulous five star Lowry Hotel - the occasion? An exclusive Cheshire Life luncheon with a difference.

Read more
Cheshire Life Luncheon
Monday, December 18, 2017

If you’re in need of some last minute Christmas gift inspiration, particularly for the people who seem to have got just about everything, why not consider giving a Restaurant Gift Voucher – you could also offer your babysitting services on the side!

Read more
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

Cheshire Life Application Link

Local Business Directory

Cheshire's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area

Property Search