I’ve spent the last two and a half years of my life relentlessly saving money. I squirreled away every penny I could, firstly to buy a house and then to pay for a wedding.
For some people the saving experience can be a positive one. It proves they’ve got the willpower to keep their spending in line; it makes them feel good about how sensible they are.
I’m not one of those people. I wanted to shoot myself in the face.
Going out to restaurants is one of my favourite things to do in the entire world. Dozens of the best evenings of my life have been spent in nice restaurants with good food, company and conversation. When everything is on song, it’s a near peerless way to spend a couple of hours.
But for the last 30 months – big gourmet honeymoon aside – I’ve had to put this part of my life on hold. And it’s been excruciating. I’d get excited about big new openings and places that had picked up rave reviews and then have to stop myself from getting carried away because I knew I couldn’t go.
Since the self-imposed restaurant ban came in to force, several highly-regarded restaurants have opened AND closed. I feel genuine pain at the thought that I never had the chance to try them.
Fortunately now, as a finally married homeowner, I no longer have to live this way. For the next few months at least, the saving shackles are off and I’m going to dive back into Manchester’s restaurant scene head first to find out what I’ve been missing.*
Here are the five restaurants at the top of my hitlist. If I can get to at least four before the year’s out, I’ll be a happy man.**
Anybody know anyone who has been to these? Are there any restaurants that I’m missing?
Stanley Street, Salford, M3 5EJ
0161 832 4080
I’ve been wanting to go ever since seeing chef Robert Owen Brown’s highly informative and piss-myself funny presentation on game birds at the Manchester Food and Drink Festival (MFDF) a while back. Handing out dead birds at the end to anybody who fancied one sealed the deal. This is my kind of chef.
2 Church Lane, Prestwich, Manchester M25 1AJ
0161 798 5841
This came to my attention when it was named Best Restaurant at last year’s MFDF and I spent hours trying to figure out why the hell anybody would open a nice restaurant in Prestwich. I’m still puzzled by that, but the menu looks great. I love that they’ve got the confidence to stick just 12 dishes on there. Classy.
The Lowry Hotel, 50 Dearmans Place, Chapel Wharf, Manchester, M3 5LH
0161 827 4041
You’ve probably guessed by now that I’m drawn to expensive things and this is pretty much as expensive as you’ll get in Manchester, with a typical starter over £10 and a lot of the mains in the mid-£20 range. Reviews are good and it’s got a few accolades, but I really just want to see if it can live up to its price tag.
36 John Dalton Street, Manchester, M2 6LE
0161 839 9907
From what I’ve read about the place and what I can see on the menu, the chef’s got a lot of ambition, which is rare in Manchester. Whether he’s trying too hard and attempting stuff that is beyond him remains to be seen, but I do like a tryer, so I want to give him a chance. Plus, Vertigo’s an awesome film. How can you say no to Hitchcock?
Malmaison, Piccadilly, Manchester, M1 1LZ
0161 278 1000
Two words: Josper Grill. Smoak’s desperate need to be cool, as demonstrated by its vomit-inducing website and we’re-too-hip-to-spell-properly name, makes me want to self-harm. But if it can deliver a top notch steak, as its equipment and menu suggest, all will be forgiven.
*If I’m totally honest, it wasn’t quite as bad as I’ve been making out. Thanks to very generous relatives and the odd lapse, I’ve been able to eat at all these generally well-thought-of places in the last two years. Some of them (mostly the ones which weren’t crushing disappointments) more than once:
The French Restaurant
Michael Caines @ Abode
No.4 Dine & Wine
Sam’s Chop House