Food profile - The Tunnel Club, Etihad Stadium, Manchester
PUBLISHED: 00:00 02 February 2018
Top of the Premier League, Manchester City also lead their rivals when it comes to fan hospitality. And for the top fan experience, you have to head downstairs, to The Tunnel Club, writes Louise Taylor.
I’m nibbling on a Thai fishcake with a feisty cucumber pickle while, just a few feet away, the other side of one-way glass, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is giving a post-match interview after yet another victory for the Blues.
Earlier, we pressed our well-fed faces to that one-way glass as the City squad trooped down the steps to the tunnel at the start of the match against Watford. So quick up front when he’s on the pitch, Sergio Agüero loiters behind his team mates in the tunnel. Apparently, being last off the coach is his superstitious thing, an insider tells us.
One moment we are seeing Pep on TV screens giving a press conference about the 3-1 win, the next we see him, through the glass, in person, striding out of that same conference room. John Stones is behind our table, chatting to camera...and there’s Sergio again, strolling around shirtless, oblivious of us gawpers on the other side of that one-way glass, snapping selfies frantically as our heroes go by. It’s quite a pleasant view...
We are, for one day only, members of The Tunnel Club, perhaps the most unusual access-all-areas corporate hospitality opportunity in the game of football. What would otherwise be the unlovely concrete bowels of the Etihad Stadium have been turned into a spectacularly stylish restaurant in which all eyes can turn to the windows onto the tunnel and the back rooms where the post-match chat takes place. Premier members of The Tunnel Club (there are gradations even of Tunnel Club membership) get to dine in fine style, and to watch the teams close-up as they prepare to go out. Then we enter the stadium through our own pitch-level door to take heated seats close enough to the dugout to see the frustration etched in Pep’s furrowed brow as he prowls the touch-line.
On arrival, a good couple of hours before the kick-off, we sip a welcoming flute of Moët & Chandon in the warm, while, outside, less fortunate fans begin to gather at the barriers to the team entrance in teeming rain to catch a glimpse of the players arriving.
There’s crispy flatbreads and rich garlicky hummus for us to nibble. One of us tries a starter of soy and beetroot cured salmon, ruddy and luscious, with a dollop of fennel pollen cream and celeriac noodles. The other enjoys serrano ham with celeriac remoulade and candied walnuts.
On to mains, and my fillet of British beef is teamed with a square of hotpot made of pulled brisket, plus carrots, spinach and a well-caramelised shallot. Seared tuna nicoise with potato, green beans, soused red onion and some punchy plum tomatoes proves another winner.
Talking of winners, the small matter of a football match interrupts our dinner, our digestion aided by a Raheem Sterling goal after just 39 seconds.
At half-time, we resume our seats to find puds awaiting us: a crème caramel with crunchy honeycomb, and a bombe Alaska - soft, singed meringue encasing vanilla parfait.
More football, then it’s back to the table for that fishcake snack, then cheese and biscuits, while, the other side of that one-way glass, we see players and managers face the cameras.
It’s a great meal, it’s a great game, and, as an experience, The Tunnel Club is unique; and, yes, it’s a very, very long way from the traditional football fan catering fare of a cup of Bovril and a pie.
For full details about the Tunnel Club: 0161 333 4487 or visit www.mancity.com/thetunnelclub/