Wow, try saying the title of this blog post ten times fast and get your tongue tied in a knot!
Peter Piper might have picked a peck of pickled pepper but I’m chuffed to be sharing with you what my partner in dine and I chose from the menu at the new-look River Bar & Restaurant at Manchester’s acclaimed Lowry Hotel last night.
Yep, that’s right, our meals haven’t even digested yet and I’m already putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to tell you all about them. I’ll let you in on a little secret… that usually means I’ve got a lot of great things to say and can’t keep them in any longer. So, tongue twisters aside, let’s get stuck in.
The Lowry Hotel is notoriously fancy. It’s where the rich and famous head to and where your shabby old trainers need never set sole. It’s a smidge outside the centre – enough to enjoy a peaceful night’s kip but still close enough for convenience – with its own dedicated car park (which last night was packed with 19-plate sports cars that I believe belonged to the Manchester United rabble).
It’s fancy in a classic kind of way though. Modern but still cosy, which is a motif that was definitely carried through from the sparkling lobby, up the winding feature staircase to the newly-refurbished River Bar & Restaurant.
It’s quite clearly a hotel restaurant with the breakfast room just visible to the left of the door and a carpeted bar just before you head in but it’s really, really cool. Cosy colours, whacky light fixtures, clashing prints and a ‘busy’ aesthetic are my cup of tea so I was agog with interior envy.
Lustrous velvet upholstery, waistcoat-clad hosts and laidback lounge music give a certain sense of luxe – so you really know you’re dining out somewhere special – while quirky artwork, a Scandi-style feature floor and fresh-faced staff bring everything back down to earth. Polished (literally and metaphorically) but without one single whiff of pretentiousness.
There is a cocktail list but it’s modest. I picked out a Velvet Amor (£14.95) which was a luxurious concoction of Champagne, cherry and vanilla. For the best part of 15 quid, it could have been a little livelier on the fizz front but it was delicious and looked very beautiful with its physalis berry embellishment nonetheless.
The wine list, however, is an absolute volume separated into different ‘Parts’. We picked out a fruity Sauvignon Blanc and a rich, hearty French Malbec from the by-the-glass selection which both went down a treat. My partner in dine enjoyed his white with a mushroom and truffle-based starter, while I enjoyed my red with a gingery sticky toffee pud to finish.
“Fine dining in Manchester”
Speaking of starters and desserts, let’s get down to the good stuff – The Lowry River Restaurant food menu. I’ll start by warning that you’ll be spoilt for choice, especially if you go in the next couple of weeks. We were given the a la carte menu, the vegetarian and vegan menu, and the festive menu to choose from and took our sweet time whittling it down.
In the end I went for the Satay Tofu Bao Bun with jalapenos & pickled vegetables (£7) to start, the Pumpkin Ravioli with sage cream, pumpkin fondant & crispy kale (£18.95) and the sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream & toffee sauce (£7.50) for dessert. The starter was a giant in portion but not in flavour but the pumpkin ravioli was absolute knockout.
The vibrant autumnal hues clashed against the black crockery making for a visual feast, with the aromas and big flavours too boot. The salty kale cut through the sweetness of the pumpkin just perfectly and the smell of sage dancing around the dish was just beautiful – the perfect winter warmer; I didn’t want it to end.
My pops went for the Wild Mushroom on Toast with duck egg, mushroom ketchup & truffle butter (£8), the 8oz fillet steak with crispy triple cooked chips and the most divine peppercorn sauce I have ever tasted (£35) and a Pistachio Soufflé which took 20 minutes to arrive but was 200% worth the wait. I have his word that the steak was “melt in the mouth” sublime and can personally vouch for how fabulous that light-as-you-like soufflé was.
I’ve eaten a pistachio soufflé before at Raymond Blanc’s place in Knutsford but it was a while ago so I can’t really justify a comparison. I guess what that does mean I can justify though is a return trip to both… just for confirmation, you know… Am I right or am I right?
So, The River Bar & Restaurant is expensive, clearly, but you really are paying the full package and what they dub ‘fine dining in Manchester‘. The venue is gorgeous, service is faultless, flavours are great, choice is extensive and inclusive, and even the most subtle of finishing touches have been thought about. From asking if you’d like to leave your coat in the cloakroom to bringing out a wooden block to rest your steak knife on. I like that. I really like that.
I was very kindly invited to review The River Bar & Restaurant at The Lowry Hotel but all words, photographs, opinions, teeth, hair, boobs and nails are my very own.