Lover of tapas, but want to keep it British? Manchester’s Grafene restaurant and cocktail bar kindly invited me to try out their tapas menu before heading to The Palace Theatre last night, and I have to say I was super impressed.
I review a lot of Manchester eateries over at Lovin Manchester, so you check out the full review there too, but here’s a little account I did for the blog…
Served up everyday from 12-3pm and 5-6.30pm, this contemporary dining establishment situated between King Street and Chapel Walks has captured the best of fine British dining in tapas form.
From the Manchester Rarebit and Rendered duck leg with herbs and beet piccalilli, to the Salt cod with saffron and leeks and the Crab with devilled brown meat, bisque, radish, barley, we’re not surprised this menu has fast becoming a lunch time favourite.
Also, just a little side note, how sassy and stylish are the toilets?! Anyway, moving on to the menu…
The menu is Head Chef Ben’s reflection of how he see’s ‘modern British life’. It shows British eccentricity with an often-eclectic combination of ingredients (which lets face it, us Brits sure can eat an eclectic mix of foods), as the dishes include cleverly reconstructed classics and plates to challenge a diner’s perception of familiar foods.
For example, the corn fed chicken came on a plate with small breaded croquettes, charred gem and cauliflower all in a creamy sauce. It didn’t need a main carbohydrate to taste this up.
The Salt Cod dish was sliced very finely, with the tastiest cream sauce and artichokes, decorating the plate as per the below.
The duck was a personal favourite, as it arrived came on top of two crisp breads, which when lifted up from the plate, were soaked in a rich liquorice tasting sauce that went beautifully with the duck. I’ve never quite tasted a sauce like it, especially not paired with a stronger tasting meat.
And in my opinion, the burnt beef brisket ends were deliciously soft with a melt-in-the-mouth texture, almost a little similar to pulled pork. I would say it reminded me of a classier, higher quality version of a pulled pork pile-up which I would never complain about.
Now the Crab was the most unusual. Underneath the crab meat was what tasted like – and had a similar texture to – a chunky orzo pasta rice, almost risotto like. It worked perfectly together, although a very unexpected pairing.
It’s options like this that make you feel like you are really experience unique food tasting.
And lets not leave this review without a mention of a sweet treat. The Brownie in a Bowl finished off the courses, and boy was it an indulgent brownie. Think crunchy and crispy chocolate of a meringue texture laced between soft, rich chocolate sponge pieces and slices, complete with cream and mint garnishing.
The portion size is perfect – not too over-facing and definitely not sickly.
This innovative British Tapas lunchtime menu gives the opportunity to sample dishes drawn from the Dinner Menu in more of a relaxed format, with three plates costing for £17.50 and five for £25.
Diners can also enjoy an aptly names cocktail, ‘The Mancunian’ consisting of bourbon whiskey, homemade cinnamon and nutmeg sugar, dark chocolate liqueur, blazed sugar on cinnamon bark.
Grafene have also just launched a brand new menu, in which highlights include the starter dish of pork cheek, curry, carrot and veloute – a nod to the restaurant’s name and Manchester’s scientific heritage as the chef completes the dish with a graphene crisp.
Ben also celebrates classical northern food with his version of venison, black peas, celeriac and leek, and a dessert of Eccles cake, currants, yoghurt, butter, tea. His love of Manchester music shows through in ‘Sally Cinnamon’ (named after the classic Stone Roses song), a concoction of popcorn, nimixtilised melon and granola.
The new menu aims to capture the finest ingredients from across the country, such as Lancashire lamb served with nasturtium, beets, black garlic, wool; duck from Goosnargh alongside asparagus, fennel, mushroom, and milk, rice pudding, with rhubarb from Yorkshire, and liquorice.
If you’re into fine dining and spending time at stylish, modern restaurants, with quality food and friendly service, you’ll love this place!