"To be fair To The Lowry, we visited The River Restaurant the night after returning from our staff Christmas trip - an annual festive tour of Europe - during which we'd spent a week eating in some of the top restaurants in Switzerland, Austria and Germany, including an amazing 16 point Gault Millau restaurant in Liechtenstein the day earlier. And whilst it may not be an equal playing field comparing all our Gault Millau and Michelin starred meals to The River Room's 2 AA Rossette's, we were able to compare like-for-like and pound-for-pound with Choice, The Modern and The French, three similar Manchester restaurants we'd visited the week earlier.
Ignoring the fact the staff had seemingly forgotten us shortly after giving us the menu during pre-prandials in the bar, the first thing you notice about The River Restaurant is the amazing modern decor and the light colours, a wonderful array of white's and creams. Beautiful - there can't be many better rooms to eat in Manchester!
It should be pointed out that prices at the River Restaurant are amongst the highest in the city, starters range from £7.50 for soup to £12.50 for Terrine of Game and Main's from £14.50 for Risotto to £32.50 for a 16 oz T-Bone steak. Whilst this is slightly cheaper than the Midland's French Restaurant, sadly the quality doesn't compare despite the Lowry Hotel's extra star advantage. The two restaurants shouldn't really be compared though - The French is a lavish dining affair, one in which the diner is made to feel special, whilst The River Restaurant is less stuffy, more modern and less complicated. Perhaps it's just the prices that made us compare like for like.
And that is our only grumble at The Lowry - the wine list is exhaustive and the food is good, if not worthy of the price tag. The Cured Salmon with Buttermilk Panna Cotta and Capers starter looked and tasted beautiful, a real work of art but at £10.50 you had to ask if you were paying for the chef's superb design work rather than the quantity of the ingredients. My Lobster and Sweet Corn Chowder (£8.50) was also excellent but would have been better complimented with bread - I'm not sure if the waiters just forget to provide us with any or if they'd simply ran out as side plates had been provided. The main courses were a similar story. The chef is certainly capable of creating amazing artistic servings and tasty too boot, but pound for pound there's better to be found elsewhere in town. The Gressingham Chicken Breast (£19.50) was good but nowhere near the quality I experienced at The Modern, where an amazing Goosnagh Chicken Breast cost £9 less, and my partner complained her Cheshire Beef Fillet was far too small and not worthy of the £26.50 price tag, especially when compared to that on offer at the celebrated Harvey Nichol's 2nd Floor Restaurant, available £5 cheaper. For desserts I opted for Rice Pudding with Poached Damsons from the Lake District (£7.50). It was slightly too stodgy for my liking and not in the same league as the one I had experienced at The French (45p more) nor the one I had at Grado a week earlier (£2 cheaper). The Lancashire Buttermilk Pancake with Roasted Fig and Almond Ice Cream (£7.50) on the other hand was out of this world and highly recommended!
We couldn't fault the service; our waitress, from the Dordogne, was friendly, informative and efficient, although the business party on the table next to us had complained quite loudly about having to request their bill three times to various members of staff. Interestingly, we overheard the other table next to us complaining that the food wasn't worth the price. I wonder how many other diners were having the same thoughts? The saving grace for The River Restaurant is that most of the diners seem to be hotel guests who charge their meal to expenses. And that sums up the River Restaurant best, if cost isn't an issue - give it a go - you certainly won't find many better locations to have a good meal in Manchester, or should that be Salford? But if you're ever in Liechtenstein on the other hand..." - Restaurants of Manchester (18/12/07 ~ visited on a Monday night)