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Manchester - The Cotton House and others


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Bapi, Thom and anyone else,

I'm going out in Manchester this weekend with a group of friends and find myself tasked with selecting a restaurant. The Cotton House has been recommended but from the website the menu looks pretty uninspiring and I have suspicions that it is the kind of place where people go in hope of seeing a minor celeb rather than for the food - but I could be wrong. Has anyone been here?

Other suggestions have been Stock and Albert Shed(?). I have heard good things about the Lime Tree and El Rincon De Rafa on this site so these are also under consideration (along with Gaucho as a back-up). Ideally I'm looking for something with a decent atmosphere (read conducive to drinking quite a lot). What would be your recommendations here?

Also, recs for bars/pubs and curry places would be welcome.

Cheers,

Tom.

P.S. - Is The Bridge on Bridge Street still open?

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I had an utterly dismal lunch at The Cotton House a couple of years ago. The food was a disgrace and the design is ridiculous. Anywhere that has deep fried Camembert as a starter - even if they are being post modern about it - should be viewed with deep suspicion. www.thecottonhouse.net

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The Cotton House is awful, I've been there a couple of times, at other peoples behest and found it to be very very poor, certainly not somewhere where you'd go for good food.

Stock is good, as are Palmiro and Piccolino. The Lime tree is excellent, but it's in Didsbury rather than Manchester itself, so that might put you off.

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I'd go to the Lime Tree, but it's highly likely to be booked up at the weekend. Jem and I, run by one of their old head chefs, is another good option if you take the Didsbury route. it's only 10mins into the city centre from either of these places.

In Manchester centre itself, would agree that Stock is good. Piccolino's is OK for an Italian place, but they always seem to have the worst service in the world. Albert's Shed is a cheap and cheerful place in Castlefield next to Duke's 92. Enjoyable but nothing special.

Sadly The Bridge shut last year. It has opened in a new guise, but not been to know whether it's any good.

Bars, well, there's shedloads in Manc. Depends what you're after. Harvey Nichols and Cloud 23 at the Hilton are the best of the luxury type. The Northern Quarter is currently the most interesting area for drinking, but it does get bloody busy at the weekend. Highly reccomended around here are Odd, Trof Bar, Rodeo if you like margaritas and Socio Rehab. Avoid Bluu at all costs at a weekend. It's hellish.

Adam

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Ohhh... Now this is one of those 'I could go on all day' style questions. I won't though, partly because I risk repeating or rehashing similar Manchester threads past (anything in the last twelve months should still be pretty current) and partly because I am at home, using my girlfriends computer, which has a sticky space bar and is driving me up the wall.

To recap - The brief (and I will be brief) is a weekend place for group of friends with good drinking. Ok, here goes:

The Cotton House is awful.

The Bridge is in new hands, and has reverted to 'pub grub'.

For curry, try EastZEast underneath the Ibis at the BBC end of Princess St.

Avoid Rusholme.

Groups of mates find happy eating/drinking at Rafas El Rincon (down and dirty but tremendously enjoyable basement tapas) Piccolino/Croma (both reliable mid-market Italian's), Sam's or Mr Thomas' Chophouses (hearty Brit stodge in snug surroundings - see Jay's recent review).

Chinatown is still good. Yang Sing can be fun if you let the waiter/waitresses do the ordering and Red Chilli is unbeatable if you explore the scary Sichuan dishes (and the lamb chilli broth). Jay took a gaggle of chefs/'celebs' there recently and at least one proclaimed it the best Chinese they had ever eaten.

Otherwise if food is to take a back seat to drinking and atmoshphere then try the Northern Quarter. There are plenty of places there that do decent bar food such as Odd, Centro and Trof but most importly this area has the best bars in town. Socio Rehab for cocktails, and wonderful beer lists in Trof, Odd, Centro and more.

Stock is ok, but I'm never overly impressed and it can be a bit poncey. By contrast the food at Harvey Nichols brasserie can be excellent but the atmosphere can be weird and a little sterile as the dining space is completely open (though you do get to peer into the food hall).

Outside the city centre may not be an option, but if it is then GemandI and the Lime Tree and excellent, but very different, options.

There, that's briefish isn't it?

Cheers

Thom

Edit to add: Gaucho is actually a good call. It's a weird, though impressive, subterranean space and the steaks really are knock-out. I know several chefs who go there religiously for their red meat fix.

Edited by thom (log)

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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Have been to The Bridge since it re-opened. It's now good gastropub fare, rather than being exceptional as in the past. Beer's better kept though. But if you want beer, go to the Marble Arch, just outside town.

Places in the N4 are great bars, but, the obvious Market (where you probably wouldn't no get in for Easter w/end evenings) excepted, aren't great for food. Odd's lovely, but food-wise? And I don't tend to think the chophouses are as good as their rep. food-wise or anywhere near as good as jay's review, but YMMV.

And, again poisonally, I'd take Jem & I over t'Lime Tree anytime. But if you're going that far out, and fancy a curry, as Thom's pointed out in the past, the Nepalese restaurants in West Didsbury (the Great and Little Kathmandu) are supoib.

It no longer exists, but it was lovely.

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The Marble Arch is fantastic and well worth a visit if you like 'pub' pubs. In fact, I took Bapi and Gary there on our last Manchester jolly. Whether they remember it or not is another matter...

Like AJNichols it was my local (within 50m) from 1999 till 2004 and I loved it dearly. It's lock-ins were legendary and I kind of liked the fact that the only food you could get were Seabrooks crisps or Tunnock Teacakes and Caramels.

I used to do a mini-pub crawl from there to the Pot of Beer and the Beer House (The Pot of Beer is now RIP, has the Beer House followed yet?) which was a joy as I was never more than 150m from my front door.

The pubs were part of the reason we took the pioneering (at the time) decision to move North of Miller St (in the words of a 'local' friend of mine - "You're paying how much to move to Collyhurst!?"). The only things I missed (as a pub-chav) were Sky for the football and a pool table.

You've probably discovered them anyway AJNichols but there's a pub down the back-streets across Rochadale Road called, I think, the Hat and Feathers which has an excellent pool table, and football can be had in the atmospheric confines of the Hare and Hounds on Shudehill.

Halcyon days...

Have you made your decisions yet then Tom?

Cheers

Thom

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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I put it to a vote and its looking like Rafas on Thurs night and Stock on Friday (people were lured by the menu on the website, which i admit does look decent). After dinner probably bars in the Northern Quarter -someone has mooted the idea of bars in Deansgate Locks but from previous experience I'm keen to avoid this like the plague.

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Also considered this place for dinner tomorrow night (partially based on the Kobe). My mates' girlfriend works FOH and he recons its generally pretty good. From the menu on the website (www.blackhousegrills.com) looks like an 8oz kobe fillet is £50 which is a big leap of faith.

It's part of the same empire as EstEstEst, the Living Room etc.

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Weirdly enough, someone in the office suggested this place only yesterday.

It is indeed done by the gang behind Living Room (they have refurbed the old Est Est Est site after they bought the chain last year) and they are very much gunning for the Restaurant Bar and Grill market (which actually is also worth recommending - people take it for granted now but it is always a safe bet for a big night out).

I went for the soft launch and my team have been since and on both occassions the feedback was generally good. It's not cheap, and the concept can feel a bit contrived (ie a tank of live lobsters which is never touched regardless of how many plates of lobster the kitchen actually sends out) but the food is not bad at all.

I had steak (not kobe) and lobster which was actually excellent and cooked to perfection and a clam chowder which was not bad at all. The menu is exactly as you would expect from a pseudo-American high end grill joint but the emphasis on quality ingredients lifts the interest levels a bit.

I found the decor a bit bland (how many more cream and brown/leather banquette and exposed brick places can we take) but it is undoubtably expensively put together. I also found the clientele a bit Cheshire or, worse still, wannabe Cheshire. This may be better or worse on the weekends.

Oh, and don't be fooled into believing they have a 'bar' area. They have a bar along which you can stand/sit squeeze but you in a narrow corridor between the entrance and reception and end up getting jostled by diners or staff for as long as you can bare to stay there.

I think you'd certainly have a good night there and be well looked after but it depends if the atmosphere suits and if you are happy with an largely unexciting but accessable menu, albeit with decent quality ingredients and competent cooking. It's a polished place but I must admit I've not rushed back. Maybe I'm being a bit harsh.

Cheers

Thom

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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'Manchester so much to answer for.........................'

Again these Manchester threads- albeit important- seem to depress me in regards of good places to eat, but hey I will not reiterate the same debate. :wink:

Stock has nice surroundings but food mediocre to poor. The Bridge let me add was always very overated, very average.....maybe it is better now??

El Rincon is good though, I would have it anyday over somewhere like Barrafina

Great for pubs though my favs being Pervil and The Britons protection or the little brewery shop in the Arndale (forget name.....). :wink:

No shortage of bars, socio rehab I find very,very pretentious.

Sorry to not be me of much help.

What I would do is get the tram to Altrincham and.................

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  After dinner probably bars in the Northern Quarter -someone has mooted the idea of bars in Deansgate Locks but from previous experience I'm keen to avoid this like the plague.

Don't go anywhere near this hellhole of an area! Full of overdressed arseholes who just want to show how much money they have/how many shots of truly awful flavoured vodka they can drink. The N4 is much more civilised and you can get a decent pint in most of the bars. Highly reccommend the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in Trof. I like Socio, although it is a bit wanky at weekends. Adam, the head barman, is a really good bloke and very knowledgable about cocktails. They can make anything there and beats the bar service at most of the places in town. The one place I forgot to mention for drinking is Mojo, which is a fab place to get very pissed, although it is mayhem at a weekend.

Adam

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  After dinner probably bars in the Northern Quarter -someone has mooted the idea of bars in Deansgate Locks but from previous experience I'm keen to avoid this like the plague.

Don't go anywhere near this hellhole of an area! Full of overdressed arseholes who just want to show how much money they have/how many shots of truly awful flavoured vodka they can drink. The N4 is much more civilised and you can get a decent pint in most of the bars. Highly reccommend the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in Trof. I like Socio, although it is a bit wanky at weekends. Adam, the head barman, is a really good bloke and very knowledgable about cocktails. They can make anything there and beats the bar service at most of the places in town. The one place I forgot to mention for drinking is Mojo, which is a fab place to get very pissed, although it is mayhem at a weekend.

Adam

................not one in the same I hope ??? :wink::biggrin::wink:

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Highly reccommend the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in Trof.

OOh, haven't tried that, will do soon as I can. We serve Brooklyn for the simple reason that I love it (we also serve fat rather than thin chips because I prefer them----the true nature of power!!)

It no longer exists, but it was lovely.

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................not one in the same I hope ??? :wink:  :biggrin:  :wink:

Nope! He's far more skilled a drinksmaker than me. Having said that, I do make a bloody good martini! :wink:

OOh, haven't tried that, will do soon as I can. We serve Brooklyn for the simple reason that I love it (we also serve fat rather than thin chips because I prefer them----the true nature of power!!)

Where do you work? The Sierra Nevada's amazing stuff, but it is £4 a pint.... More Chelsea prices than Manc!

Adam

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just to report back - we ended up in Rafas on the Thurs night, Grill on the Alley for lunch of Fri and Stock for dinner Fri night. Sadly no time for curry.

As promised Rafas was very good, I agree with RDB that this is at least on a par with Barrafina (albeit in a different, less polished way and with less queing and spending). This was followed by drinks in Revolution on Deansgate which is not something I would wish on anyone.

I was pretty impressed with Grill on the Alley, we all went with the Kobe burgers and got one normal burger to share by way of comparison. The Kobe was definiately superior with a much richer, beefier flavour (although my judgement may have been clouded in part by a desire to justify spending £16 on a burger). This was served with tripple cooked chips and home made relishes and caremalised onions. Staff were knowledgable on the menu and provinence of the meat. Other dishes that came passed looked tempting. All in a pretty slick operation, as Thom notes very much of the Restaurant Bar and Grill mould and I would think likely to be as sucessful if it keep up the same standards. Cocktail list looked decent also.

Stock was an interesting experience. Impressive dining room but with an overall 80's feel of fine dining to it, complete with a soul/jazz singer in the corner who frequently took leave of his post to circulate the dining room seranading people with Lionel Richie classics. The atmosphere was clearly special occassion and attempting to be romantic - as a group of 4 blokes I suspect many of our fellow dinners (almost all couples) were questioning our status. We started with Morretti at the bar (amusingly served in pint galss rather than the standard morretti glasses as the bar tender stated that he doesn't like to use the morretti glasses as the are little bit gay). The menu was short (about 5 starter and 5 mains) but well practiced and execution was good. We started with a mixed seafood platter (for 3 rather than 4 at the suggestion of the waiter - I'm always impressed when waiters actually try to offer decent advice and save you some money) and mains included a rib roast (for 2), rack of lamb with almond and pistachio crust and quail stuffed with cous cous. It was all decent but (with the exception of the lamb) nothing to get excited about. We had a good Gavi with the starters and a sterling red (sadly I cannot remember any detail apart from the it was called "Blau Blau" - I would be interested to know if anyone has come across this before as it was definately worthly of seeking out again) with the main. A good night but not somewhere I would rush back to.

As usual (and as discussed at length on this forum) this trip cemented my view that the quality in Manchester dining is at the lower end. Next time I will insist on curry or Juniper.

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Tom,

Cheers for the update, I wondered how you got on!

Glad Rafa's hit the spot, it's one of Manchester's hidden secrets and is astoundingly busy every day of the week.

Cheers

Thom

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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As promised Rafas was very good, I agree with RDB that this is at least on a par with Barrafina (albeit in a different, less polished way and with less queing and spending). This was followed by drinks in Revolution on Deansgate which is not something I would wish on anyone.

Glad you enjoyed Rafas Tom, I love the down a side street ,in a basement, dark and intrigueing old world feel about it. This is what I associate with good tapas bars in Spain, where as Barrafina to me is a bit too modern, with the feel of an American diner about it.

I think your experience and views on Stock are pretty spot on

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As usual (and as discussed at length on this forum) this trip cemented my view that the quality in Manchester dining is at the lower end.

One possible bit of good news is that Michael Caines is taking over one of Manchester's hotel-associated restaurants. I know Jay slated ABode in Exeter a while back, but anything approaching fine dining would be welcome in Manchester at present!

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He took it over some months ago, though the refurb hasn't started yet. The rumour doing the rounds that he's intending to pitch the semi-underground restaurant at the Rossetti at Planet Michelin seems somewhat ludicrous though (though just being a 'nice' restaurant would, as you say, be good enough).

It no longer exists, but it was lovely.

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I know Jay slated ABode in Exeter a while back, but anything approaching fine dining would be welcome in Manchester at present!

Abode in Canterbury actually click. I had a very different experience from Jay and had some really terrific food there (although the service was very, very slow) so don't abondon all hope just yet.

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