Cheshire Life Luncheon - Room Restaurant, Manchester
PUBLISHED: 00:16 13 December 2011 | UPDATED: 21:42 21 October 2015
Room - justly declared as the new holder of Cheshire Life's Manchester Restaurant of the Year award - was once known as the Reform Club. Our guests enjoyed a superb lunch at a venue where clearly no reforms are needed WORDS BY RAY KING
As guests at Cheshire Life’s December luncheon reached the top of the stairs at Room, we were transfixed by the Grand Old Man’s stony gaze.
The larger than life-size figure of one of Britain’s most celebrated prime ministers – William Ewart Gladstone – at the entrance to what has been, for the last 15 years or so, one of the most celebrated dining rooms in Manchester, represents an important slice of the city’s heritage. For it was in this magnificent Victorian gothic building at the top of King Street that history was made.
Opened in 1871 by Gladstone himself, the Reform Club became the epicentre of the city’s radical free trade politics from whose balcony a young Winston Churchill, then MP for Oldham and soon to be Chancellor, addressed a jubilant crowd in the street below following the Liberal landslide of 1906.
The building’s recent history has been hedonistic rather than political. Amid the gothic glory Bernard Carroll fashioned the Reform restaurant, a monument to 1990s Mancunian bling. It was fantastic, but it was never going to last...then along came a quirky chain of restaurants that ultimately, too, went the way of the old Liberal Party, into oblivion.
But not quite. That wonderful space was simply too wonderful not to be enjoyed and a couple of years ago Room was resurrected, this time as an independent operation, since when its fortunes have been transformed.
Steered by flamboyant general manager Jamie James and anchored in the kitchen by the considerable talents of head chef Pete Taylor, Room has not only been rewarded this year by a second AA Rosette, but also crowned Cheshire Life Manchester Restaurant of the Year – and deservedly so. Even the GOM would have been impressed.
We gathered in Room’s spectacular cocktail bar for pre-luncheon canapés that heralded the top quality, inventiveness and fun, yes fun, of what was to come. Blinis featuring rabbit, ham hock and foie gras terrine, salmon tartare and beetroot gravadlax and shots of curried cauliflower soup with mini spiced onion bhajis demonstrated the kitchen’s evident skill, eye for fine detail and pure wit and the accompanying Duval Leroy Brut champagne was in excellent form.
Luncheon proper was served in the Rose room, a stunningly decorated, intimate and dare one say slightly decadent private dining room ideally suited for purpose.
The starter was a wonderful example of Pete Taylor’s culinary panache, a clever and delicious reworking of that British stalwart, fish and chips. But there was nothing prosaic about this opener: the fish comprised perfectly executed, bite-sized pieces of fried monkfish and sea bass with Cornish crab, a light and creamy curry sauce and a couple of delightful chips.
Rey Santo Viura Verdejo from Spain’s Rueda region, supplied and described by Alex Wood of HallgartenDruitt, provided the perfect crisp, citrus fruity accompaniment.
The main course showed Room’s serious culinary credentials – an inspired collation of Lyme Park red deer, provided by one of the luncheon guests, that sublime estate’s assistant head warden Chris Neale, roasted fig tart, earthy chanterelle mushrooms and the fantastic complimentary flavours of vanilla and celeriac.
The venison – perhaps the healthiest and most ethically reared of all red meat - was truly memorable, not only for its delicious flavour but its local provenance. It took a very good red wine to match its excellence and HallgartenDruitt’s choice of Suikerbossie Petit Verdot-Pinotage – produced in South Africa by the great great grandsons of Boer President Paul Kruger and British Field Marshall Sir John French - delivered generous redcurrant, raspberry and smoky flavours with delightful vanilla and peppery notes.
Pudding was another exercise in culinary fun – Manchester tart delivered with all the sophistication of a courtesan with English raspberries, praline and delicate coconut espuma, superbly matched with sweet, late-harvest sauvignon blanc from Chile. The cheese board, a celebration of the region’s best from Pendrill’s, showcased Katy Hollinshead’s Kidderton Ash Goat’s, Heler’s Joseph Gold, Claire Burt’s gold-medal Burt’s Blue and Butler’s Blacksticks Silk.
How lucky we are to have such delights on the doorstep, and how well the accompanying late-bottled Port slipped down before we headed off with our Trevor Sorbie goody bags!
Cheshire Life luncheon menu
Viura-Verdejo, Rey Santo, Rueda, Spain
Petit Verdot-Pinotage, Suikerbossie, South Africa
Vina Echeverria Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, Chile
Local cheese plate
Room Restaurant, 81 King Street, Manchester M2 4AH. Tel 0161 839 2005; www.roomrestaurants.com
Open Mon-Wed noon-10pm; Thu-Sat noon-11pm; Sun closed but available for private hire.
Set lunch £12.75 for two courses; £16 for three. Set dinner (5.30pm-7pm) £14 and £17.50.
A la carte starters from £5.95, mains from £14, desserts from £5.75.
The print version of this article appeared in the December 2011 issue of Cheshire Life
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