I’ll admit, I’m a foodie. But sometimes it can be hard deciding on what to choose from the menu. Narrowing all those main options down to just one. Eventually you pick, place your order with the waiter. You’re pleased and looking forward to it. Then, inevitably, your second/third/fourth choice of dish gets delivered to the next table and you get food envy! Ahhh….
Thats why I love a tasting menu. You don’t have to pick, the courses are decided for you and everyone gets the same – no food envy! Happy days.
Couple a new tasting menu with gin tasting and it might just be the recipe for my perfect night. This was the promise of Grafene’s Spring menu launch on Thursday. They teamed up with Sipsmith for a night of gin tasting and fine food. I visited Grafene, on Manchester’s King St, for the first time on my birthday last year and enjoyed a tasting menu with matched wine, for a good price – so I was looking forward to finding out what their Spring menu includes.
Gin (and vodka)!
The night started with a focus on the spirits and the Sipsmith ambassador giving us the low down on production and the history of Sipsmiths (turns out they were the first gin company to be granted a license in over 200 years!). Interesting, but the best bit was the tasting. We were treated to a G&T on arrival, followed by Sipsmith’s vodka, dry gin, V.J.O.P, London Cup and sloe gin.
I have to admit I was a little disappointed at them not bringing the Sipsmith’s lemon drizzle gin, we were told it’s sold exclusively at M&S, but its showing as out of stock right now. I will be hunting down a bottle soon!
Now I love a G&T and we infuse gin at home with all sorts of botanicals (I have this set, which I recommend), so really enjoyed the first drink. The rest were served straight, including the vodka! I sampled each of them straight, but admit I enjoyed them all a bit more when mixed with a bit of Fever Tree tonic.
The night was off to a great start and then the 7 course tasting menu began.
Grafene’s Spring Menu
Following some delicious homemade breads and butter, we started with a course of tomato,consommé, black olive and mozzarella.
The different textures of tomato worked well. I’d have liked a little more olive coming through. A refreshing and light first course.
The second course was octopus, served with sweet potato, ice lettuce, rhubarb and fennel.
This was fabulous. The octopus was well seasoned and the textures of the fennel crisp and sweet potato puree worked perfectly. I don’t recall having ice lettuce before – it looks freeze dried but isn’t. A nice additional touch.
Course three was slow cooked spring lamb. Lamb is a favourite of mine, in fact, I love all gamey meat. This was more like ‘pulled lamb’ (if thats a thing) and the dish was quite meat heavy. I’d have liked more of the pea puree and accompaniments. Others on my table complained that the lamb was only just warm. The waiters explained it had been difficult to serve up 40 plates at the same time and keep them hot in the kitchen.
Course four and we went back to fish. ‘Stone bass, daikon, seaweed, ponzu’ the menu said. Yes, I don’t know 50% of those ingredients either! Anyway, it was a fabulous dish. Great flavours, well cooked, hot.
Course five was guinea fowl breast and leg served with spring vegetables and broth. The leg meat was exquisite – full of rich flavour. The course as a whole worked well and was well balanced with a good portion of vegetables relative to the meat. Although it’s been quite ‘in-vogue’ for a few years now, I’m not a huge broth fan. Unless you have bread to ‘mop’ it up. In this case, I felt a slightly thicker sauce would have complimented the dish better and prevented a lot of the broth being left in the plate at the end. But that doesn’t take away from it being a great dish.
On to desserts
Course six was ‘Rhubarb, ginger, crumble, custard’. I enjoy rhubarb and who doesn’t love crumble! It was a light-take on a classic dessert, but tasty nonetheless. Also, beautifully presented.
Course 7, the second dessert (got to love tasting menu’s for multiple desserts!), was arctic roll with blackberries and basil. Arctic roll usually makes me think of being a child at a birthday party with a cheap arctic roll. This however was a nice sweet end to the menu.
Finally, petit fours and espresso martini’s (made with sipsmiths of course!) to finish off our night (the square petit fours were possibly the sweetest thing i’ve tasted all year!).
Overall, this was a great evening – well executed and a bargain for £40pp! The new menu at Grafene had plenty of variety, flavoursome and for the most part, well executed. This has to be one of the best restaurants in Manchester and not over priced. Hopefully I’ll be back later in the year to enjoy more of their food.