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The Modern, Urbis, Manchester


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Whoawhoawhoa might have known there's a Northwest Mafia.

Am going to check it out too.

Check your quilt for Shirehorse heads (lesser the brass) if it's not good.

“Do you not find that bacon, sausage, egg, chips, black pudding, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, fried bread and a cup of tea; is a meal in itself really?” Hovis Presley.

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Whoawhoawhoa might have known there's a Northwest Mafia.

Am going to check it out too.

Check your quilt for Shirehorse heads (lesser the brass) if it's not good.

We have a sliding scale - a minor indescretion gets you a pigeon's head against your toes; intermediate naughtiness will earn a whippet's bonce in lieu of your hot water bottle; the worst cases do indeed end up with the top half of a shire-horse nestled under their duvet.

Do it again , and you'll be pushed into the Irwell with your pockets well-laden with the aforementioned brasses.

Cheers

Thom

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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after a significant lull the gastronomic wheels of Manchester are turning once again. Make an overnight of it and I'll also take you to Grado (Paul Heathcote's suprisingly great tapas place) and Vermilion (£4.5m insane Thai bar/restaurant sited in the arse end of Miles Platting).

Much as the Modern looks good and I hear decent reports about Grado, I am not sure the wheels are actually turning that much, or at least in the direction they should be . I mean on reading the moderns menu, it has a lot of similarities to the Chophouses and tapas, well, that is not really such a major turn in direction in Manchester e.g. El Rincon. I know I always ressurect this one, but for the wheels really to move in a major city like Manchester, it needs to be looking to raise the bar, and fill the niche that doesn't exist i.e. proper Michelin level restaurants.

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Yes, the old Michelin thing...

It's been a millstone around the city's neck for 33 years now (even, unfairly in my view, making the cover of Restaurant maagzine - I got quoted as saying "we need a messiah!" which sounds a bit Life of Brian out of context) and doesn't show any sign of shifting. You can't plan for it to change though, it's not going to happen from the top down with buckets of cash or investment, it needs a talented commited local chef to stick their neck on the line and take a risk on an off-piste site (a la Anthony Flinn in Leeds, though admittedly he hasn't got a star. Yet?).

Michelin is not the be all and end all though, and nor should it be. Also, after ten years of insane restaurant and bar development the last eighteen months, though featuring a smattering of small openings of note, have lacked launches of any real scale, ambition or interest. With The Modern, Vermilion and Grado all open, and Ithica (finally, possibly) to open shortly there is finally a much need bit of momentum.

As to whether The Modern is like the Chophouses? I don't think so personally, and nor does Roger who runs the Chophouses. Try The Modern, I I hope you'll find it a very different but equally satisfying experience.

Grado is something special as well, to call it a Tapas bar undersells it, as it is a serious Spanish restaurant which reminds me of Fino and maybe has a hint of Barrafina as well. The dishes there are refined and clever but still authentic, and with the service and fit-out it is a quality operation. I assumed it was one of Paul's roll-outs but he has really gone to town (to the level of asking local Glenfiddich winning food-writer Clarissa Hyman to secret shop it for him) and it will remain a one-off.

As a counterpoint El Rincon is a down and dirty (literally sometimes) tapas bar. I love the bustle and the atmosphereand have a soft spot for the place but let's not pretend it's good food (and I think it is getting worse lately). Anthing that can be micro-waved is (patatas bravas and meatballs will hit your table within a minute of ordering, sometimes still with cold spots) and I know one of Manchester's leading chefs who will not eat there after getting served what was, in his opinion, off fish on not one but two occassions. The waiter argued it was meant to smell like that. Seriously. That said, I love their tripe and blood sausage casserole...

And Vermillion...? Well what can I say. The food is good to very good, the decor is jaw-dropping, and the concept and location - mad, mad, mad. As I am fond of saying, so mad it might just work... Definitely worth a trip, it's quite an experience. I just love the fact that it is a labour of love/ego trip of an international prawn magnate.

So is Manchester's dining scene perfect? Nope. Does it have it's Michelin star? No. Any sign of one in the offing? Not really, sadly. But without doubt it feel like things are picking up again and am I personally getting excited about dining in the various new and imminent openings? Oh yes!

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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This is a great lively discussion.

The Michelin thing is an issue for Merseyside as well and we probably suffer the same problems.

I am looking forward to exploring more of Manchester's food at some point. If only I wasn't always stuck in traffic when I try to get there! as Thom well knows.

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This is a great lively discussion.

The Michelin thing is an issue for Merseyside as well and we probably suffer the same problems.

I am looking forward to exploring more of Manchester's food at some point. If only I wasn't always stuck in traffic when I try to get there! as Thom well knows.

Except on Merseyside we already have our own Michelin-starred place (well, almost). Thank you, Fraiche.

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I wouldn't feel hard done to on the michelin score if i were 'manchester' probably quicker to list the regional city that does have a town centre starred restaurant rather than those who don't? (can't be bothered to actually do this but am pretty sure)

the box tree is a good half hour on the train out of leeds and birkenhead is hardly the town centre either

pool court in leeds was the last one in leeds centre and that was only a 5-6 table annexe to the brasserie, and so far off the radar even i've only set foot in it once.

The economics of running a michelin starred place in most provinicial centres doesn't add up given the cost of sites, vagaries of evening trade etc, if anthonys gets a star it would be the exception but if you've been you know it's not a prime site and they did well to get it at a good price.

you don't win friends with salad

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I do feel that things are looking up in my fair city. I was in Grado last night and had a long chat with the maitre'd there. She has been recruited by Heathcote to be the maitre'd at Elliot's, Paul's new Manchester venture. She has come from the Vineyard at Stockcross, so she knows a thing or 2 about fine dining. The plans are for a full Paul Heathcote quality restaurant - far more along the lines of Longridge than anything else, and his aims do seem to be very serious. I'm a big fan of Heathcote when he's doing things properly. My visits to the Longridge restaurant have been of Michelin-starred quality and felt it was harsh for it to lose its star in last year's guide.

So with Grado, which is fantastic by the way, the City Cafe doing very good things and the Modern, it makes a change to have a number of restaurants actually worth going to. If Elliot's manages to achieve the high standards that it is aiming for, then things do seem to be on the up here. Not sure about Abode, but that's another story!

Adam

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So with Grado, which is fantastic by the way, the City Cafe doing very good things and the Modern, it makes a change to have a number of restaurants actually worth going to. If Elliot's manages to achieve the high standards that it is aiming for, then things do seem to be on the up here. Not sure about Abode, but that's another story!

Adam

Zigackly! Vermillion is great (if barking) and The Modern, Grado and City Inn are all also strong (though with the latter the chef is about to do a flit to The Hilton down on Deansgate) and we still have Elliot's and Abode to come.

I think Elliot's should be great but I'm really not sure what to expect at Abode. Michael was always adamant he was going to bring a Michelin star to Manchester but he's not the first person to say that in the last few years... They now seem to have downgraded some of the plans for the F&B in the restaurant but he is shipping a serious chef in so maybe he will do well in what is a very tricky basement site.

Gary, I think you are spot on RE The Michelin thing. If you are looking purely at a regional city's centre (as in it's central business/retail/leisure district) how many in the UK can claim a Michelin star? Off the top of my head I don't think Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham or Bristol can. With Birmingham I always lose track of whether Simpsons and Jessica's are actually in the centre or are on the peripherery or in more residential areas?

Several knowledgable industry people have told me that property prices (amongst other costs) make it impossible to run Michelin star restaurants in city centre's outside London. Considering the amount of Michelin stars surrounding the cities listed above you would have to say that is borne out. The market is there, but either the restaurants don't add up to work in the city OR the public simply won't do that style of dining in the city (cue discussion of provincial public transport systems and their impact on regional dining patterns etc etc).

Anyway, back to my point (if indeed I had one!). I tried to get across in the Restaurant magazine article that that the lack of serious fine dining was not just Manchester's problem. Liverpool (remember I'm only talking city centre's here!) is also short and what is there really hinges on Paul Askew (local boy done good). In Newcastle most of the serious dining happens through Terry Laybourne (local boy done good). Take Anthony Flinn (local boy done good) out of Leeds and the fine dining scene isn't exactly blossoming there (especially as No 3 has downgraded it's offering).

So, at the risk of repeating myself, I do believe what we need is a local boy (or girl) to take the plunge and set their stall out to raise the level of cooking in the city. Maybe the talented David Gale will take the plunge after The Hilton? Possibly Alison Seagrave will strike out on her own after Harvey Nichols? Will Paul Kitching finally bit the bullet and go urban on us? We shall see. Lord knows it's a big leap to make, and I am well aware that it is easier to pontificate on the sidelines than it is to be the chef-patron who puts their bits on the line and works their arse off seven days a week!

Oh well, it promises to be an interesting twelve months of eating in our fair city.

Cheers

Thom

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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From the FT link in Andy Lynes post on the Michelin thread.

Reading our minds?

At the top end of the market, the economics of haute cuisine can be punishing. Chefs who have been burned by them know that Michelin stars are not fixed points in the restaurant firmament, but something more mutable and dangerous. Like real stars, they can fizzle and burn out. Sometimes they will shine brightly for years. Sometimes they are a curse. Pierre Gagnaire has direct experience of this: in 1996 he was the first chef in a century of Michelin history to go bankrupt when he had attained their highest accolade of three stars. “A thread still connects me to those years,” he says today. “I learned something. I learned that Mr Hilton was right when he said ‘location, location, location’. My restaurant was in St Etienne, an industrial town like Manchester or Liverpool, where there were no tourists.” He shrugs. “And I began to be expensive.”

Ok, three stars not one, but the principles remains true I think even at one star level.

Edited by Infrasonic (log)
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Found this Googling around.

Top tourist destinations (world)

No1-London

56-Edinburgh

73-Manchester

So perhaps in a few years it may be possible to sustain a Mcr city centre star?

Ohhh... Nice stat! It's commonly quoted by Marketing Manchester that our fair city is the number three UK tourism destination after London and Edinburgh so that does add up.

Then again I did hear a rumour that these figures are inflated by including all the tens of thousands of annual bed nights spent at Manchester airport's hotels by people staying over to fly out early the next morning. Technically they count I guess, but in terms of bringing revenue into the city? Possibly not.

And then you take out the 75,000 people a fortnight from London, Ireland, Scandinavia and the Far East visiting Old Trafford... Oh come on, I'm a United fan but even for me that was to good an opportunity to miss!

And Allan, I knew being too lazy to double-check Michelin's website would come back to haunt me! So that only leaves Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham and Bristol to prove my hypothesis? Anyone want to knock another off my list?

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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Your point's valid - Edinburgh's just the exception to prove the rule. When you consider the number of high-end "failures" in city centre locations - and I include in here some very aspirational restaurants that took one shocked look at their P&L figures for the early openings, promptly passed a brick and tamed down the food to be more marketable - then it is, as you say, horribly difficult to run a starred restaurant in a city centre.

In the case of No.1 Princes Street, it helps greatly that it's part of the Balmoral Hotel. Indeed, I woud suggest it's only because of this that it's a financially viable proposition.

Allan Brown

"If you're a chef on a salary, there's usually a very good reason. Never, ever, work out your hourly rate."

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Well, back to The Modern...drinking and possibly eating there in an hour...looking forward to it.

Edit; had a couple of glasses of wine in the bar and the old spot toad in the hole with onion gravy from the bar menu. Very nice. Like the bar space, will try the restaurant next time. Bar staff were a bit rabbit in the headlights, but I'm sure they just need to settle down with some busy nights.

Hotel restaurants. Ramsay seems to have sussed the economic advantages of those doesn't he...Perhaps The French @ the Midland could up its game and recover its star (from the early seventies :shock: )

Edited by Infrasonic (log)
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Then again I did hear a rumour that these figures are inflated by including all the tens of thousands of annual bed nights spent at Manchester airport's hotels by people staying over to fly out early the next morning. Technically they count I guess, but in terms of bringing revenue into the city? Possibly not.

And then you take out the 75,000 people a fortnight from London, Ireland, Scandinavia and the Far East visiting Old Trafford... Oh come on, I'm a United fan but even for me that was to good an opportunity to miss!

well, the airport hotels DO employ rather a lot of local people, so I would say they add rather a lot to the local economy. Manchester airport is the fourth biggest airport in the country in terms of numbers (after the three London ones), so its a major regional and national attractor.

The problem for local tourism is that something like 80% of inbound passengers are on the return leg...ie. not coming to visit the city/region.

It no longer exists, but it was lovely.

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well, the airport hotels DO employ rather a lot of local people, so I would say they add rather a lot to the local economy. Manchester airport is the fourth biggest airport in the country in terms of numbers (after the three London ones), so its a major regional and national attractor.

No no, there is no dispute about the airport's importance as a employer, driver of inward investment etc etc, my point was purely about distorted tourism figures.

The problem for local tourism is that something like 80% of inbound passengers are on the return leg...ie. not coming to visit the city/region.

Yes, exactly, that's the badger.

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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Popped in for a drink (read :too much red wine) and to check this place out yesterday evening. The bar was quite sedate and chilled out, which was quite a relief after the queues of the Northern Quarter. Great views and a lovely space sadly let down by the staff on the night. Although it is supposed to be table service, this concept had not been inculcated in to them as five of them prefered to stand around at the bar chatting instead of seeing if anyone needed a drink. Hence I had to go up and ask for the menu I had asked for five minutes earlier, and to ask for some more wine a little later. Apologies for being pedantic too- but saying you don't have any cucumber to serve with the Hendrick's gin is fucking lazy, there's a bloody great big restaurant one floor below- so go and get some! Bertie/ Thom have a word please- and please ask them not to piss in my drinks for writing this, when I have lunch there next week.

On the plus side the restaurant had a great buzz and looked great as did the menu so I am looking forward to it.

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Bertie/ Thom have a word please- and please ask them not to piss in my drinks for writing this, when I have lunch there next week.

On the plus side the restaurant had a great buzz and looked great as did the menu  so I am looking forward to it.

Hmm, yes, the bar isn't working quite as well as we hoped. Wrists (and other bits) will be slapped...

Hope the lunch is better!

It no longer exists, but it was lovely.

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Bertie/ Thom have a word please- and please ask them not to piss in my drinks for writing this, when I have lunch there next week.

On the plus side the restaurant had a great buzz and looked great as did the menu  so I am looking forward to it.

Hmm, yes, the bar isn't working quite as well as we hoped. Wrists (and other bits) will be slapped...

Hope the lunch is better!

Who's the head barperson? Generally a decent experienced head bar should be able to martial the floor staff into shape, even if they're inexperienced part timers.

Surely if it's quiet (as when I was in the other night) then some sort of ongoing training should be in progress (whilst keeping a beady eye out). Don't hold the wine glass by the bowl. How to pronounce Viognier etc. etc. :biggrin:

Friend of mine has just been headhunted by City Inn for that reason, get the bar/floor staff up to standard with cocktail/wine knowledge and service. It does seem to be an ongoing problem in Manchester.

There's a lot of fur coat no knickers going on :laugh:

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Surely if it's quiet (as when I was in the other night) then some sort of ongoing training should be in progress (whilst keeping a beady eye out). Don't hold the wine glass by the bowl. How to pronounce Viognier etc. etc.  :biggrin:

Friend of mine has just been headhunted by City Inn for that reason, get the bar/floor staff up to standard with cocktail/wine knowledge and service. It does seem to be an ongoing problem in Manchester.

There's a lot of fur coat no knickers going on :laugh:

Maybe new bars should keep wines of difficult pronounciation off the menu till the staff get used to the easy ones, or put pronounciation guides on their crib sheets ('Shat--oh--nerf---do---Pap').

Broadly, we think the service up there is better than 99% of places in Manc., but the bar service (rather than drinks making) side is the side where we're still in most need of improvement.

And, boy, does the CIty Inn need it.

Edited by BertieWooster (log)

It no longer exists, but it was lovely.

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And, boy, does the CIty Inn need it.

What City Inn needs is a chef now David Gale is off.

What the City Inn bar needs is a door. A bloody big one. Facing towards Piccadilly approach/London Road. It is absolute insanity that they have a prime site facing one of the highest foot-fall routes in Manchester adjacent to the main commuter station and the whole hotel is orientated away from it, facing onto a side-street.

The bar faces onto the main drag but has no entrance and minimal windows. No-one realises even realises it is there. A monumentally missed opportunity. In the locale I find the service in Malmaison can be appalling, as could Rossetti (soon to be Abode) so City Inn could, at the very least, have become the default place for commuters to grab a couple of drinks before getting on the train.

I did hear that they were going to knock a door through to the street, but nothing so far.

Madness.

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 went to The Modern last Monday when I was in town buying a suit. I had previously been to same site when it was Le Mont. When I last went, I was the only one dining!! Felt like a bit of a nerd, but when I go shopping, I like to get myself a nice lunch. Le Mont was expensive, and a bit up its own arse. The modern is better, a lot less formal. Again though, I was the only one there. Admitadly, it was a cold january Monday, but once up the lift, and to the bar, your committed really!! The menu a guess is modern british, nothing mega cutting edge. I went for the set lunch menu, 3 courses, £15.95 I think, I can't remember.

The entrance to the building is really understated, I understand they are to yet do a full launch, they will need maybe an A board or something to let people know, because you could walk past it everyday and not know it is there!!

I had corn beef hash with fried egg to start, yummy (A dish that is creeping up again everywhere) and Chicken breast for main. I cant remember the description, I am totally rubish for remembering exact dishes. I enjoying eating out, but I am not going to start over analysing things and taking notes!! It was a fair size portion though, I could not finish it, but I had space for a marmalade sponge pudding!!!

With 2 cokes the bill came to under £20, which is fine for what I was looking for. Somewhere in Mancs that you can go for a quality lunch without all the pomp of some places. I quite like going to Harve Nics as that is guarteed to be a bit busy, restraunt side can be a bit pricey for lunch, but is a safe bet. I am still to try City Cafe and Lounge 10. Any feedback for that?? I don't want to turn this into a general disscussion, but anyone been to Linen at the casino??? Very intrigued into Elliotts as well from paul heathcote when that opens!!!

Wooop, first post!! Hello everyone by the way.

Regards

Oliver

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Welcome Oliver, you've broken your posting duck!

City Inn can be quiet (the curse of midweek hotel dining) but is/was very good. This could all change once the chef, David Gale, leaves in the next month or so so get in there quick.

Lounge Ten is fine, but I always feel it is about the fun rather than the food. It can be buzzy and intimate (crammed!) at prime times but might be a bit dark for lunchtime dining (and the "erotic" murals could be off-putting).

I too rate Harvey Nichols. The restaurant is expensive but the brasserie, though exposed and a bit of a corridor, is a reliable standby. Linen is all over the place, from very good to very poor in one sitting.

Cheers

Thom

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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