The Rabbit in the Moon: Relaunch review

The Rabbit in the Moon astronaut

Back in January 2017 when The Rabbit in the Moon launched it’s Asian fusion 17-course tasting menu, it was something new for Manchester. We visited with friends just a week or so after opening and were thoroughly impressed. The grungy decor and loud music was certainly different, but what totally stood out was the quality of the food.

It wasn’t only us that thought the Rabbit in the Moon was the best tasting menu in Manchester. When we spent an evening with other Manchester foodies for an Action Against Hunger charity evening, it was consistently bought up as being a favourite, mainly due to its stand out creative menu. The bacon steamed bun in particular was well received and Lee’s favourite (not pictured) was a razor clam udon noodle dish – surprising for someone who usually prefers meat and testimant to the quality of the food!

The Rabbit in the Moon Jan 2017

The Rabbit in the Moon Jan 2017: Iconic crispy pork ‘rabbit ears’ poking out of the moon, branded bacon steamed bao bun, sardine pastry and duck broth.

So, when we heard the restaurant was closed for a re-fit and was relaunching with a new menu, we were excited! I looked forward to it all week and purposefully didn’t read articles from the previous weekends press launch. I wanted the menu to be a surprise.

On arrival, the restaurant has a very different atmosphere to its previous incarnation. The music is quiet and subdued. The decor more muted. Lighting has been added (those pictures from last time are so dark because the restaurant was so dark!). We were first to arrive for the 7pm sitting, so managed to get a picture of an otherwise empty restaurant.

The Rabbit in the Moon restaurant

The 6th floor restaurant is set up to maximise the views across the Manchester skyline. Unfortunately lines on the exterior of the building block it somewhat, but every table still has a decent outlook. Further tables are found downstairs.

The menu

Me at Rabbit in the Moon

The menu is limited. The tasting menu is the only food on offer and the only alcohol is wine and champagnes. A small selection of tea and coffees grace the back page. So no gin or whiskey aperitif here! I don’t mind the limited food menu – if theres limited food on offer, it usually means that it’s done well, so this only increased my expectations for the evening.

We started with a glass of Ridgeview English sparkling wine, which was lovely. If you haven’t tried English sparkling wine yet, definitely give it a try! Then we opted for a Reisling for the rest of the evening. The Rabbit in the Moon doesn’t have a wine pairing option.

The tasting menu is eight courses. Thats somewhat down from the previous 17. Its still billed as ‘Asian’ and although I wouldn’t say the Asian flavours were at the fore of the meal, they were consistently present.

A marketing email I received explained that the restaurant had ‘upped it’s game’ with a menu ‘more visually and technically impressive’ which is ‘ingredient led’. However, after experiencing the 8 courses, we were somewhat disappointed. It’s not that anything was particularly bad. More that there wasn’t any dish that stood out, especially when compared to our previous experience when there were so many stand-out dishes. Keep reading for a brief course-by-course run down.

On to the food

Course one: Snacks

Course one was a selection of three ‘snacks’.

  1. Porthilly Oyster served with pickled ginger and wasabi pearl. Also served with some kind of deep fried vegetable (not listed on the menu).
  2. Native lobster with Thai flavours and crispy shell,
  3. Smoked eel with oyster sauce and avocado served in a steamed bao bun

The Rabbit in the Moon course 1

These ‘snacks’ were good. I was pleased to see the branded steamed buns remained on the menu and the smoked flavours of the eel were strong. The lobster mix was flavoursome too, introducing some Thai flavours to the menu. I’m not an oyster fan, but as oysters go, this was good – the pickled ginger and wasabi combined for a really pleasant flavour, meaning the ‘sea’ taste of the oyster that I don’t enjoy only came through at the end.

Course two: Scottish langoustine and sesame toast, served with hot and sour Beef soup

The rabbit in the Moon sesame toast

A bright and colourful dish, topped with ham fat, this was a tasty dish, if a little small. The beef broth was very strong but complemented the toast. I liked that this was a technically strong dish – certainly not something you’re likely to be able to make at home! The colours added a delicate yet playful nature to the plate.

Course three: hand dived scallops, XO sauce, duck tongues

The Rabbit in the Moon Scallops

If you’re an avid reader of the tall wanderer, you’ll know that duck is one of my favourites! I don’t recall having duck tongue before though. Scallops are another favourite of mine, so this dish ticked my boxes. In my opinion though the crisp on the top was too delicate to eat and didn’t add anything. This was one of the prettiest dishes of the evening – I really liked how it was presented, with the bright base contrasting the neutral tones of the scallops and crisp.

Course four: Soy and ginger glazed pork cheek, choi, oyster emulsion, cinders.

The Rabbit in the Moon Pork Cheek

This dish I wasn’t a fan of. Firstly, it doesn’t look appetising on the plate. Secondly, it was pork cheek, yet made to taste like seafood! Pork is a great meat when cooked properly. Its full of flavour and tastes like nothing else. Yet here, the pork flavour was overpowered entirely by the oyster emulsion (and possibly some other fishy ingredients not listed on the menu), to the point we both questioned whether we were eating pork, or salmon.

Course five: Fillet of beef, black bean sauce, fried rice, salt and pepper prawn

The Rabbit in the Moon Beef filler

A visually striking dish, the Asian influence was clear. Around the edge was crispy chilli beef and a small fried egg too. However, the beef fillet, blackened though it was, was not a touch on the veal fillet we enjoyed by Jean-Christophe Novelli recently. The flavours were somewhat lacking. For me, it was just average. Plus, when I usually have crispy chilli beef from the Chinese I eat a LOT of it, so the muted portion left me underwhelmed (more on that later). The black from the beef also coated my teeth and lips. Thats fine when dining with your other half, but less welcome if you’re in a business meeting!

Course six: Aloe Vera, Lime, Lychee

The rabbit in the moon palate cleanser Aloe, lycee

This palate cleansing dish was refreshing, light and cleansing. It left me ready for dessert! There isn’t really a lot to say about it….. The Rabbit in the Moon table decoration were certainly entertaining though!

Course seven: White chocolate, mango, passion fruit

The Rabbit in the Moon White choc mango and passionfruit

Possibly my favourite course of the night, but then I love mango, passionfruit AND white chocolate. The chocolate on the top could have been thicker as it was a bit delicate to eat, but great flavours overall in this dish.

Course eight: Raspberry and saffron chocolate, pink peppercorn eclair, matcha crepe

The Rabbit in the Moon petit fours

Unfortunately, I wasn’t really a fan of the petit fours. The matcha was overpowering and is an acquired taste in my opinion. The pink peppercorn éclair was ok. I left the raspberry and saffron chocolate until last, expecting it to be the best, but I didn’t like it. Perhaps it was the saffron, but the flavours didn’t work for me (and I’m a big dark chocolate fan!).

The Rabbit in the Moon Overall….

So overall, after having such high expectations, I was left a bit disappointed. My disappointment only grew when I realised the total bill came to over £240. I don’t feel it was good value for money and reflecting upon our favoutite courses, we both struggled to pick stand out elements that we’d enjoyed. It was all just ok.

I feel like The Rabbit in the Moon had a great niche before and perhaps the relaunched restaurant is attempting to appeal to the masses, but the food just doesn’t match up to its previous stature. The small portions also left me wanting more and after a few drinks, I have to admit that I ended up having two weetabix before bed! Thats not ideal when you spent so much on dinner.

If you want an impressive meal that is good value for money in Manchester, there are certainly better options. Some of my favourites include Grafene and The French, whilst Hawksmoor is my recommendation for a lower-key high quality meal.

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