Restaurants Of Manchester
The French Restaurant Manchester
Mana Manchester
Address42 Blossom Street, Ancoats, Manchester, M4 6BF
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Mana Manchester Reviews

"Every bite is seasoned with backnotes of excessive disposable income"
Restaurants Of Manchester (Thursday 21st October 2021)

Key: 5 stars = WORLD CLASS!   4 stars = FANTASTIC   3 stars = Good   2 stars = OK   1 star = Poor

Mana Manchester Review Mana Manchester Review
Mana - Michelin Plaque Mana - Lounge
Decor & Ambience World Class
High-end Scandi minimalism.  Everything screams of being well funded, and then designed and installed with an eye for sharp detail.  All the chairs and tables are high end, as is the crockery which adorns them. The tall ceilings are lavished with expensive pendulum light fittings, with the icing on the cake being delivered via that open kitchen sitting proudly at the back of the impressive space. Everything in the package fits and works together, just like a good dish.

Chef Simon Martin is a genius in many ways, brilliantly assembling and mentoring a talented team to keep improving on Mana's already technically impressive food levels, however, for the duration of our meal, he was openly berating staff for making errors, along with the use of various "F-word" expletives; loud enough for the whole dining room to hear from within that vast open kitchen.  It’s unsuitable in 2021 and also created an awkward atmosphere for the diners.

Mana Manchester Review Mana Manchester Review
Mana - Tea of Turnip & Lemon Thyme Mana - 'Autumn'
Value World Class
I shall get straight to it: The bill was £155* per person for the food alone, whether you go for lunch or dinner, plus whatever you choose to drink on top of that. The total bill on this visit was £660 for two people.

This kind of evening will never be cheap or even accessible.  It’s not supposed to be though and, in fairness, when a place is fully booked for months in advance, why would anybody with even a jot of business sense charge any less?

It’s an experience, not just a case of popping into town for some food.  And, as we know, people will pay to eat somewhere which has that desirable red plaque over the door for various reasons, not least the kudos it brings to their social media.

Back in August, we pre-paid for our dinner via the Tock booking system, which is pretty much the only thing that Grant Achatz has ever done which I dislike.  I see why venues use it, as too many customers are selfish morons with their "no-shows". But, as an honest customer, I’m not keen on fully paying for my dinner months in advance.

* At the time of writing, the food bill has increased from what we pre-paid to £185 per person (but now includes the service charge).  These are 2 Star prices for sure at it makes Mana the most expensive 1 Star in the country, with the exception of the mighty and 2 Star-worthy Ynyshir in the Welsh outback.  Ambitious pricing.

Mana Manchester Review Mana Manchester Review
Mana - Beef Heart & Sweetcorn Mana - White Truffle
Food & Drink World Class
At the prices mentioned above, every bite is seasoned with backnotes of excessive disposable income. You expect great things at such lofty prices, especially in the north of England.  And the standards of gastronomy don’t disappoint either.

Four snack courses were served in the waiting area with our excellent Kentish aperitif.  All snacks came sat on expensive props and set the tone well as a venue’s snacks are usually a great barometer of what’s to come.

We started off with a single Irish oyster, dressed with scents of dill, some punchy English wasabi and super floral Mertensia.  Fresh, sweet, and brought the taste buds online with a bang.

The Scottish langoustine course from Mana’s launch is still on the menu, and why not when it’s this good?  Barely cooked crustacean, served with cured yolk on a charred spruce branch, went down in a single bite.  Immense.

Mana Manchester Review Mana Manchester Review
Mana - Trimmed Irish Oyster Mana - Scottish Langoustine Tail
A single Devonshire mussel with garlic cooked for 2 months was next up, and was another delicious offering.  You couldn’t question the flavour one bit, and that’s a lot of effort/time to prep a single bite which is gone in 6 seconds.

And not wanting anything to go to waste, the next course was a delicate potato string cone, filled with the rest of the langoustine, seasoned with preserved elderflower.  The most flavoursome part of a prawn or langoustine is their head juice.  Ask any Spaniard, and give it a go yourself!

A taste bud reset was then put in front front of us.  Banks’ Tomato and unripe Habanero was served cold, in what reminded me of a mini Mexican Molcajete.  Bags of balanced acidity, accurate seasoning, subtle spice and huge flavour.  A well placed course for what lay ahead.

The bread course was a Pollen collab, served with superb cultured butter.

Mana Manchester Review Mana Manchester Review
Mana - Devonshire Blue Mussel Mana - The Rest Of The Langoustine
Raw Beef and Caviar v7.0 Celeriac skin and smoked Eel was next.  Rich, unctuous Spanish retired cow tartare with smoked eel was a huge explosion of flavour, topped with celeriac crisp, and a pretty rocher of caviar.  A triumph of taste, texture and contrasts; this ramped things up to the next gear and really got the palate feeling keen for more.

The fish course was Smoked Sea Trout with grain sauce, leek, and compressed cucumber with lavender.  Perfectly textured fish, the smoking was on point, and the greenery brought well needed freshness too.

The Fallow Deer main course was stellar, and by far the plate of the night.  Gamey protein with massive flavour, cooked over the Robata grill to give a savoury hit of smoke.  Saucing was precise and well balanced, with a tiny rocher of pumpkin mash and crispy nettle leaf to finish the outstanding plate.

Dessert was a well salted Butter Ice Cream; freshly made in the KitchenAid with dry ice, balanced out with fermented honey and some colour and perfume from the woodruff.  Simple, clean and fresh.

Mana Manchester Review Mana Manchester Review
Mana - Preparations from Summer Mana - Sourdough
But; the potato cone was a little soft and had lost its bite due to the filling.  The trout was hugely over sauced and lacked texture on the wider plate.  And the mussels also needed a pop of texture somewhere too.  You simply can’t question the flavours or standards of prep though.

As with previous visits (see our reviews below), broadly, the menu also felt oddly incomplete to us.  The first eight servings comprised of a broth then three snack bites, followed by four actual courses, which also felt quite snacky and required no cutlery to consume.  The bread and four "proper feeling" courses, which lifted the tempo massively, were then handed off to finish with just a single dessert course.  The experience hence felt like it came to an abrupt end with no prior warning that the superb venison was your lot for the night, in terms of savouries.  After the ice cream course, we sat around wondering if there was more to come, as no printed menu was put on the table. But there wasn’t any more to follow, so we ordered some expensive-beaned espressos in the hope of some petit fours to end.  Sadly that also wasn’t to be, so we headed into the night craving something indulgent.

And lastly; where’s the obvious local produce on the menu?  Considering the enormous influence from Rene Redzepi - a man who’s obsessed with locality and making the most of what’s on the doorstep, no matter where you are - the fact that there’s nothing deeply Mancunian or even northern English about the menu/produce used at Mana truly astounds me.

Mana Manchester Review Mana Manchester Review
Mana - Raw Beef & Caviar Mana - Gently Smoked Tea Trout
Service World Class
Calm, precise, measured.  Every drink was served ahead of the corresponding course arriving, and everything was announced with professionalism. Clear downs were prompt and discreet with everything totally under control.  It was spotless in terms of running order, charm and interaction levels.

Again, there was nothing really to criticise on this front, unless you’re doing £660 worth of nit-picking.  But generally, it was as top end as you’d expect, if perhaps a tad clinical in places.

Mana Manchester Review Mana Manchester Review
Mana - Fallow Deer Mana - Salted Butter Ice Cream
Overall World Class
After a few years of operation, Mana has evolved from what was largely a Noma v1 nephew into forming its own personality.  Back in the day, our local food ad/media outlets gushed about the endless originality on display.  We however recognised dishes that we’d eaten months earlier in Copenhagen (whilst reviewing for Even the restaurant name was akin.  The similarities have been reeled in a bit since then, but it’s fair to say that there’s still more than a few Noma influences knocking about.  But when you consider that Noma is widely regarded as the ‘best’ restaurant on the planet (whatever that means), there’s no real shame in that influence, as such restaurants shape the global culinary landscape for everybody and, besides, presumably not many diners in Manchester are lucky enough to have visited Christianshavn.  Still, I don’t see duck brains or reindeer penis being on the menu in Ancoats for some time yet.

Bringing the city its first Michelin star in four decades is a huge thing. It will now continue to drive the transfer of skills into our city from other similarly recognised venues across the country and well beyond.  Many chefs, as well as punters, seek out starred venues to work at and learn from.  So as chefs move to Mana to grow, others will intrinsically leave and either open their own venues or move to other local kitchens, taking that growth with them.  And that’s exactly what raises a city’s culinary game in a huge snowball effect.  The same has been seen countless times in every major city which Michelin cover and award in.  I expect that we will be no different here.

Having exacting standards is one thing, and that’s clearly the case here via the technically brilliant prep and sharp service.  But enforcing that via a public tirade of effing and blinding isn’t at all 2021.  Some diners may think that it’s good entertainment, but Ramsay’s infamous Boiling Point was filmed in 1999 and shot mainly "back of house".  That’s exactly where such ‘upskilling’ still belongs.  Michelin are also currently performing a drive on encouraging positive staffing treatment too, although that’s possibly just self-PR.  But leadership styles, as well as food styles, have to move with the times.

And I’m far from being one of the ‘you needed a kebab on the way home’ brigade, but when you’re serving in the Omakase or modern Scandi bite-sized style, nine courses plus snacks and bread just falls short by a course or two.  Generally, the few places who do this - Noma themselves included - give you twentyish ‘courses’ for good reason.

Finally; for us at least, more local produce is needed too; as much as the best course’s garnish had a Nantwich nod.  We are not in Belgravia so don’t need to use too much produce from 150+ miles away.  Mana needs to be a tad more "Manchesta", in my opinion.  Admittedly, I’m not asking for an Eccles Cake made with house fermented currants and dressed with citrus ants, as much as I’d have bitten your arm off for one at the end of the night.

Mana Manchester Review Mana Manchester Review
Mana - Wild Kopi Luwak Mana - Kitchen / Pass

"Mana is serving technically the best food in Manchester."
Restaurants Of Manchester (Oct 2018, Jan 2019 & Feb 2019)

Key: 5 stars = World Class!   4 stars = FANTASTIC   3 stars = GOOD   2 stars = OK   1 star = Poor

Mana Manchester Review
Mana - Dining Room
Decor & Ambience Fantastic
When ex-Noma chef Simon Martin, announced he was returning home from the multiple "best restaurant in the world" in Copenhagen, to open a fine dining restaurant in the hipster and student hangout of Ancoats, it would be an understatement to say that he raised an eyebrow or two in Manchester's hospitality circles - not least for the fact the kitchen alone cost £300,000.

For that money, he has delivered the most immersive gastronomic experience in Manchester, with the chefs literally working alongside diners in the stunning open plan, table height, stone surfaced kitchen, which boasts one of the city's few Robata grills.

Whilst the minimalist decor may have been drawn up by James Roberts Design of Cheshire, it owes more to Martin's adopted Copenhagen than Chester.

The lights hang down like long icicles from such a height, they give the room an almost cathedral like feel, whilst tall white curtains offer privacy from the wave shaped windows, contrasting the beautiful dark wood floor.

The handsome chairs and tables have Hans Wegner influences all over them, and I wouldn't be surprised to learn if any of the plates or teapots had been bought at René Redzepi's auction, when he closed the original Noma.

The glassware is equally stunning, with each wine glass hand cut especially for Mana; making the waiter's job all that bit more nervy.

There's no expense spared in this kit out and, with just 28 seats, the business plan surely depends on a fully booked diary.

If, like us, you suffer with information overload and like to know what you're eating as you go along, then you will need to print the menu off in advance, as it's one of those places that presents you with the card as you leave, rather than when you arrive.

Mana Manchester Review Mana Manchester Review
Yakitori Style Eel Chocolate Reindeer Moss
Value Good
We have visited Mana four times now - which should have helped them pay back some of their kit out - and, within that time, it has been interesting to see them adapt to Mancunian expectations, with a variety of lower price offerings introduced, and up front payments dropped. At the time of writing, they have now just announced a weekend lunch, at half the price.

There have also been improvements made to the food offering with more generous servings of seafood and meat than when they first opened, whilst the mark-up on the wines is certainly generous.

Whenever you speak to anybody about Mana, and ask them for their thoughts - casual diners or well travelled foodies alike - the first thing they normally reply, before there's any mention of the quality of food, is just how expensive it is.

In fairness, many of these people possibly visited in its early days, when £95 for a heavily veg-centric offering was hard to justify. It's unlikely that any of these diners have returned, let alone as often as we have, however we can confirm that the menu has adapted accordingly.

You could also argue that £105 is still good value for a Michelin Star restaurant - and Mana is certainly that level, even if the inspectors haven't yet been.

On the flip side; whilst the wines are of excellent value for the vineyards on offer, there are only nine available by the glass, with the cheapest bottle coming in at a hefty £32 (Domaine Bouché, Etre à L'Ouest). For the £70 pairing, you also get quality over quantity, with little more than three quarters of a bottle served.

Mana Manchester Review Mana Manchester Review
Charred Onions & Fermented Barley Milk Curds, Lovage & Walnuts
Food & Drink World Class
For a chef with a pedigree of having worked at 2 and 3 Star Michelin restaurants under René Redzepi and Gordon Ramsay, it is no surprise that Mana is serving technically the best food in Manchester.

The moniker of "Manchester's Noma" may have been applied due to Simon Martin's most recent background, if not its name or, even, - for those in the know - some pretty obvious adaptations, however the techniques he has learnt from "the best chef in the world", are very much apparent, as is his skill of schooling and encouraging his kitchen staff, of which he is very much a team member.

Whilst the menu represents the best produce the British Isles have to offer, the Nordic influences shine through, especially the seafood emphasis, and it has been interesting to see how dishes have been adapted or added over our four visits. There still hasn't been a bad one amongst them!

Absolutely cooked to perfection, the Yakitori Roasted Yeast & Blueberry Eel has remained throughout, as has the Jersey Cow Curd and Lovage; an other delightful dish.

Barbequed greens, glazed with dehydrated scallops and beeswax, and ironically served with a huge stag antler steak knife, leave even the most meat hungry carnivores scratching their heads and questioning how on Earth it could possibly be their favourite dish.

The foraged Scottish Reindeer Moss, having moved around the menu before finding its place as a chocolate covered dessert, is one of a few perfectly executed favourites to have made their way from Christianshavn to Ancoats.

Despite all the wonderful dishes, let alone the technical nature of their creation, the highlight for many diners, though, is the phenomenal sour dough bread, served with a marvellous creamy butter, flown in especially from Sweden, where it is made by a 90 year old lady, called Gita. Other than the wines, it appears to be the only non-British ingredient on the whole menu.

Desserts, whilst probably technically impressive, are the least memorable part of the meal. A bowl of berries will always seem like an anti-climax, after what came before, no matter how tasty and cleverly constructed the blob of accompanying plum kernel cream.

On all four of our visits, and somewhat inexcusably, there was no vegetarian menu, nor could seafood allergies be catered for. Fortunately, five months into service (March 2019), Mana have just introduced a Vegetarian Tasting Menu, which pretty closely resembles their normal offering.

Mana Manchester Review Mana Manchester Review
Langoustine & Spruce Winter Branch & Thyme
Service World Class
The restaurant's design lends itself to an immersive experience and, like at Noma, the kitchen team are as much a part of your meal as the food. All fourteen chefs, led by Simon Martin himself, take it in turn to deliver and present a dish, stopping long enough to have a friendly conversation or answer questions.

The sommelier, Sam, remained the only constant waiter throughout, and Mana seem to have found a gem in this affable Mancunian. His pairings were as well chosen as his attentiveness, whilst his knowledge and detail of each of the small family-owned vineyards offered was equally impressive.

On the last three of our four visits, Mana scored an incredible 25/25 for service on our pretty tough scorecard (only three other restaurants have ever achieved that level - Michael Caines, The French and Manchester House). In fact, the only issue we encountered, dated back to their first few weeks of opening, when they were still in the bedding in period; a dish, intended to be eaten by hand, was served without additional servettes, handwipes or water.
Mana Manchester Review
Barbecued Brassica, Dehydrated Scallops & Beeswax
Overall World Class
Technically the best restaurant in Manchester, and - on all four of our visits - consistently better than many Michelin Star restaurants we have reviewed in the UK and Europe.
At £105 for food and £70 for matching wines, you will need deep pockets for the full experience. Although, from March 2019, there's now a £50 weekend lunch menu.

Whilst the menu, with its foraged ingredients and locally sourced produce, goes to show that restaurants can adapt to a post-Brexit Britain, it's not yet clear if the price point can survive a post-Brexit economy.
Mana Manchester Review Mana Manchester Review
Cornish Oyster & Chicken Fat Sheeps Milk Mousse & Apple Kombucha

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