By Jo Cooksey
To paraphrase the old saying, ‘As one restaurant closes, another one opens.’ Last year, Italian restaurant, Avalanche closed on Booth Street but a few weeks ago 1761 opened in its place. Curious to see what had changed we accepted an invitation to dine.
New Opening, Old Building
In its former incarnation the interior light and white, very modern. Now it’s cosy and sumptuous, with the feel of a Victorian dining room. Lots of wood, leather, tweed and fabulous chandeliers. I love this look but what I couldn’t get my head round was the sparkling, white stone bar. I thought maybe it was left over from the old Avalanche but I couldn’t see it on any old photos. Suffice to say it doesn’t fit the look and feel of 1761.
Floor to ceiling windows run around the restaurant frontage and we were seated next to one. Great for people watching. Our waitress bought us a very moreish glass of fizz, containing a rosemary skewered, Manchester Gin soaked apricot, called a Concilio et Labore, to enjoy while we browsed the menu. I ordered a couple of the nibbling dishes while we made our minds up. We had the Pork Scratching’s with Baked Apple Puree. Wow! These were the lightest, if greasy, bits of pork rind ever. No Mr. Porky’s here. Our other choice were the Popcorn Cockles and they were amazing. Little hot pops of pickled shellfish with a hit of chilli.
The restaurant pitches itself as a Manchester eatery and there are design nods to this. The metal bee motif front door handles have been specially commissioned and the website quotes Tony Walsh’s ‘This is the Place’ poem. The menu is Modern British with hearty comfort food dishes and the Sunday Lunch offering is 100% Mancunian sourced. So, what to have?
For starters, my dining companion chose the Mushrooms on Toast (£7.50) and I had the Salt Cod Scotch Egg (£6.50). The mushrooms were luscious and earthy with shavings of parmesan and truffle. My Scotch Egg was crispy on the outside with a soft yolk and served with samphire, which I adore. All in all, perfect comfort food and a great beginning.
For the mains, my buddy chose the Three Rivers Gin Battered Haddock (£12), the batter of which was declared to be crisp and the fish inside moist, along with perfect beef dripping chips, mushy peas and tartare sauce. Being Northern born and bred, I am rather partial to a hash of any description so I ordered the Corned Beef version (£10.50), served with a dippy egg and topped with a well-done slice of bacon. This would have been perfect except someone in the kitchen had run amok with the salt cellar. Nooooo! I hate overly salty food. What a shame because the unsalty bits were lovely and I would be interested to give this ago again in case it was a one off. I had noticed on the drinks menu that 1761 serve a locally brewed stout, which I thought would go well with the hash and it was delicious. If they still have it on draught it’s the Thwaites Manchester Imperial
We both have a sweet tooth so pudding is always on the cards. I chose something I have never seen on a restaurant dessert menu before, quince. Mulled quince to be precise, with honeycomb, granola, wine syrup and Mascarpone (£6.50). I loved this dish even though the quince could have done with being cooked for longer. It is a fruit that takes a while to yield its softer side. The honeycomb was lush, one of my favourite things and I liked the crunchy addition of the granola. My companion really enjoyed the Manchester Tart (£6.50). The pastry was short and rich, the custard creamy and the toasted coconut just right. There was also a Vimto syrup and of course banana. I don’t care what anyone says, Manchester Tart should always contain a banana quota.
I have to say the restaurant had only been open about 10 days when we visited and hopefully any teething problems with the food have been ironed out by now. The service we received was exceptional in all quarters and we would certainly return.
In addition to the cosy, comfort of 1761, below stairs is a Chesterfield filled champagne bar, named for the grand dame of the Bollinger dynasty, Lily’s. At the head of the stairs is a rather marvellous quotation from her, with which I fully concur, “I drink Champagne when I'm happy and when I'm sad. Sometimes I drink it when I'm alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I'm not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it -- unless I'm thirsty.” Stepping into Lily’s is how I imagine stepping back to the 1920’s, into an ex-pat colonial club, in the likes of Cairo or an Indian hill station would have been and I found the place fascinating. It will be all the more so once Europe’s (I think it was Europe’s and not the world’s), largest fish tank is revealed. I can’t wait to go back and have a look at that whilst sampling their rather delicious sounding cocktails, like the Sparkling Cyanide or the Camphor Cure. Or even a glass of Bollinger.
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We were guests of 1761 but as always, the review and opinions are our own and unbiased.