Cards on the table, if we hadn’t been invited to the Lowry Hotel’s River Restaurant, it’s not somewhere I’d have chosen to go for my tea.
Nowt against the fancy Lowry you understand, I’m just not one for eating in hotels. For all yer Midlands and yer Feras I prefer my overnight accommodation to keep things simple: give me a bar flogging bottles of lukewarm lager and a room with an air conditioning system that even the code-breakers at Bletchley Park would’ve struggled to get to grips with, and I’m a content, if temperature-fluctuant man.
But we were in the vicinity, somebody else was footing the bill and I thought me and Jose might become best mates, so over the river we wandered.
We were on the set ‘Chef’s Menu’ – 3 courses for £24.95 – which may not put a kitchen through its full creative paces, but it’s what we ate so it’s what we’ll judge.
Beetroot arancini had a decent outer crunch and inner give, but the accompanying romesco sauce didn’t do much to oomph up the root veg’s blandness earthiness. A blue cheese wafer with a good snap helped things along, but half a dozen more wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Confit chicken – a cylinder of cooked, cold bird not dissimilar in appearance to an oesophagus-shaped lump of fresh cat-vom – passed a few minutes in a nice enough way, and a shard of chicken skin is a welcome addition to any plate no matter what course we’re on, but the mushroom ‘ketchup’ was a tad flat; the ‘spiced’ artichoke gratingly un-spiced.
Slow cooked ox-cheek, fibrous and spoonable, and its mattress of smooth parsnip puree was a sound bit of cooking, but a chunk of salmon was verging on dry and the accompanying bean stew claggy. The whole lot needed a bit less pan and a fist more salt.
‘Home-cooked’ (whatever that means) chips at 4 quid a time did none of the good things that good chips do.
Asbestos Tongue didn’t clock any chocolate on the dessert menu so declared dindins done, deciding instead to pick up something caramelly from Sainsburys Local, a shop you’re never more than 12 metres from in Manchester.
Value for money? At the time of scoffage my thoughts were that it was all steadily solid stuff delivered by a smiley pleasant chap, and that perhaps I was being over-critical to make up for it being on someone else’s coin, and not meeting Jose.
But I went to Hispi for lunch the next day and had three bang-on courses for 19 quid, all fresh and vibrant and generous and cooked properly, and was reminded that these cheaper set menus don’t have to be side-show jobbies for those not going the whole sous vide lobster.
I’ve seen twitter photos of the Lowry’s fancy stuff. Looks good. A bit more of that finesse would’ve been welcome here.