Friday, 16 November 2012

Restaurant Bar & Grill, John Dalton Street

We were recently invited to the Restaurant Bar and Grill - in conjunction with Manchester Confidential - to try out their new menu and heated terrace area. Unfortunately there appeared to be a function taking place outside, so we did not get the chance to check out the terrace, but we did enjoy a delightful meal, courtesy of the restaurant.

When I lived in Birmingham, I often thought of 'Bank', one of RBG's sister restaurants, as a real treat to visit. Despite not having visited any member of the Individual Restaurants chain since living in Manchester, I was looking forward to finding out whether the Restaurant Bar and Grill would live up to my fond memories of Bank.

We dined at 7pm on a Wednesday evening, and were seated in the main dining area, overlooking John Dalton street. Despite the road not being the most picturesque of streets, it was still pleasant to be seated next to the large glass window. We were introduced to our waiter for the evening, Kenny, who - from reading other reviews - is either their only waiter, or the only one trusted enough to look after bloggers! Either way, he was a fantastic server, informative and friendly, attentive and unobtrusive. I certainly hope he is getting a big pat on the back from his manager for all of his hard work, as every blog I have read has said what a great waiter he is.

We were given our menus, which were quite a battle in themselves. Restaurant Bar and Grill appears to counter the Ramsay theory of keeping your menu short. From what I've read, and seen, they certainly seem to manage to produce high quality dishes despite having such a large choice. I might, however, recommend that they reduce the physical size of their menus: as a petite lady of 5'1, the luxurious leather bound item was nearly as big as my upper body!

Whilst we decided on drinks, bread was brought over with a Vietnamese style dipping oil. We had noticed that their menu features quite a lot of Asian influence. Whilst the dipping oil was perfectly balanced, I'd prefer this on a beef salad, and would rather stick to salted butter. I'm just being fussy though as Jamie certainly seemed to enjoy it.

To drink, I opted for a small glass of the South African Sauvignon, as I had already decided that I would be opting for a fishy starter. Jamie had decided on the chicken liver parfait, and complimented this with a glass of the Valpolicella.

Chicken liver parfait

Unfortunately we didn't get a shot of the accompanying sourdough bread, which was served in a mini toast rack. I loved this idea, and Jamie agreed - the accompanying toast for parfaits can so often cause problems with presentation that this mini breakfast item was a lovely idea. The parfait was just as one should be - incredibly rich with a delightful apple & pear chutney sitting alongside. Jamie was very pleased to see it encased with clarified butter... In his words, 'if you're going to eat parfait, you're basically going to eat a whole stick of butter, so you may as well have some more'. God help his arteries.

Thai squid

Having drooled over the Gourmet Kitchen's recipe for salt & szechuan pepper squid earlier in the week, I couldn't resist the Chilli squid with Thai herb & noodle salad; very well balanced I thought I could taste notes of white peppercorn, fennel seed and star anise, but I might just be making that up! It was a good dish, but I couldn't help but wish I went for the naughtier option of duck spring rolls (nothing against the starter I did have, just a case of food regret...).

Our mains nearly ready, Kenny came over to ask if we would like a wine to accompany our mains. He recommended a Malbec to go with my duck, and a Chilean Sauvignon for Jamie's fish. I should mention now that at the start of the meal, I had merely suggested to Jamie that we should each try a fish and a meat dish for both starter and main, to showcase the restaurant's variety, and perhaps try out their specials. After reading about the 35 day dry-aged steaks, he was wavering as to whether this idea should be carried out. I think he didn't want to be too cheeky by having one of the most luxurious items on the menu, and instead went for the salt-baked sea bass. We were intrigued to see what this was like, as it is something we had tried ourselves at home a few months earlier.

Before our starters arrived, but after we'd ordered, we saw fellow blogger, Simon who raved about the steak. Instant regret washed over Jamie's face. I suggested we ask if he could change his main - it would be unlikely that they would have started cooking sea bass already! He stubbornly refused & insisted I would be to blame if he didn't enjoy his main course.

I almost felt like we were on the Michel Roux documentary about Escoffier when the waiter appeared table side with the salt-baked sea bass. He appeared to fillet it well, and it's certainly no easy feat, especially with an audience! Jamie did however find a few bones, which I don't think really matters, but unfortunately Jamie is more of a scaredy-cat when it comes to fish bones than I am. I did take a photo of the impressive salt-bake around the fish, but our stupid camera must have deleted it. Grr!

Salt-baked sea bass
The sea bass came with either chips or house salad, and Jamie, of course, when for the former (not that I was complaining!). Having realised that orange actually works very nicely with sea bass the night before, he also opted for a rosemary & orange sauce. We also had a side of broccoli with cashew nuts and chilli oil. It tasted a bit like they had used chipotle or ancho chilli with these, which seemed unlikely - but I would love to know what chilli they did use if the kitchen reads this?

I, for some ridiculous reason, went for the most man-sized portion of food ever. Jamie managed to stop being huffy about not having gone for the steak, as he basically got to eat one and a half mains, as I struggled with mine. I'd also been craving duck (hmm...lots of food cravings.. I'm definitely not pregnant though!), but knew I wasn't going to be able to have it as I had seen their menu online. Lo and behold, my luck was in - it was on their specials list! Served with orange and er, I think it said "aromatics", I was very pleased to see this on the menu.

Half a Gressingham duck
It came with a deliciously rich jus and a perfectly-cooked fondant potato. This was very impressive as I've never had one cooked so well in anything other than a starred restaurant. The portion was huge, and though we were not paying, I felt would have been very good value for money. The plate had a whole duck breast and leg! I literally only managed half of it and Jamie ate the rest. The deep sauce and salty bird - cooked to perfection - was beautifully complimented by the segments of orange littered throughout. Kenny's recommendation of Malbec was a great choice - the aroma of cherries were bursting out of the glass which compliment the gamier flavours of the duck beautifully. Jamie also said his white wine went well with the bass.

We were pretty stuffed after all this, but when I saw that they had macarons on the menu - and that they were made in house - I couldn't resist. I also thought I would only get three as it listed three flavours, but there were actually five! Again, Jamie did well for himself, as he got to eat a significant amount of these. Though pretty to look at, they weren't at room temperature and the shell seemed a little too dense. They were still tasty, but have a little way to go before reaching Pierre Herme's standards. Looking at the menus online now, I wish we had have asked for a standard drinks list, as I see they have chocolate sazeracs on their menu, and I would have happily replaced macarons with one of these for dessert! - my absolute favourite cocktail.

Jamie opted for the black forest gateau Eton mess! Two of his favourite desserts combined - all they needed to do was pop a little creme brulee on top and he would have been in heaven. It was beautiful to look at, but very rich. I think someone with a sweeter tooth than Jamie's would have adored this, but Jamie felt it would benefit from more forest fruits running through it to counter the richness of the chocolate brownie and ice cream (actually, I added in the 'forest', Jamie said it should have had strawberry or banana as that's what Heston said was served in the messes at Eton...blah blah blah). I tasted the chocolate ice cream and it was gorgeous!

Having always associated Restaurant Bar & Grill with the clientele of Panacea, I didn't know what to expect of our dining experience. I can honestly say that the food was delightful and well-cooked, and I was pleased to hear that absolutely everything is made on site - even down to the ketchup that goes with their burgers! We felt that this would be a great choice for somewhere to eat as a large group, or a family meal, as the menu offers something for everyone, and it appears that you can rest assured that it will be as tasty as it sounds. I'd like to thank RBG for their generosity in inviting us as guests.

Restaurant Bar & Grill
14 John Dalton Street, Manchester
M2 6JR
0161 839 5511

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