By Jo Cooksey
British Fine Food
We have wanted to visit Grafene on Chapel Walks since it opened but just never seemed to have got around to it. Now we have and we are extremely pleased. This British Modern Fine Dining restaurant is superb and if it isn’t on your list of ‘must do’ Manchester restaurants then it should be.
The restaurant is named in honour of the Nobel prize winning material, Graphene, that was developed at Manchester University. Apparently, it is the strongest material on earth and the implications for its use are far reaching. Grafene, the restaurant is another modern development made in Manchester. The interior is industrial yet intimate, in a palate of muted dark blue and mustard yellow, with glossy herringbone tiles and a mixture of tables and booths.
New Chef At The Pass
The owners, Paul and Kathryn Roden, recently brought in a new Head Chef to take charge of the kitchens. Ben Mousey, late of the three AA Rosette, The Lawns on the Wirral and the Michelin starred Restaurant Fraiche , has had a career that has taken him around the world. In turn Ben has brought his Sous Chef, Alex Prescott over from The Lawns and after the meal we had it is obvious they make a formidable team
While we browsed the food offering we ordered one of Grafene’s specialty G & Ts. The specially curated list pairs craft gins with a matching Fever-Tree tonic and even better they are £6 to £7 each. Bargain! I had a Monkey 47 , an award-winning German gin that contains 47 unique Black Forest botanicals teamed with Fever Tree Light tonic and it was just perfect. We dined off the main dinner menu, on the £45 for 3 courses, bread and surprises deal.
The first surprise was an amuse-bouche of a squid ink black bagel, fresh salmon, a Hollandaise mousse, crispy samphire, scallop roe powder and crisped fish skin. The bagel was too tough to cut with a knife and fork, so we had to pick it up. A little messy but who cares when it tastes divine?
Next up was the bread board. Warm, crusty bread and butter would definitely be on my last supper list but now I would have to specify that it would have to be Grafene’s home baked treacle rye mini loaves with tomato powder dusted butter. Nothing else will do.
Top Flight Menu
On to the starters. For me, beautifully soft pork cheek with a curried carrot and golden raisin veloute and charred heritage carrots and pickled carrot shavings. The combination of the sweet and sour was exquisite and had me ooh’ing and ahh’ing throughout. My companion chose the lamb with nasturtium leaves, beets, spinach and a rich verjus. An earthy, well balanced dish with beautifully tender lamb.
If the starters were good the mains were on another level. Mine was torched monkfish with baby turnips, baby Pak Choy, an unctuous urchin butter and a linseed cracker. My dinner buddy chose corn fed chicken breast and wing with croquettes, charred baby gem lettuce and a cauliflower puree. Both dishes were just divine.
At this point another surprise arrived at the table; a pre-dessert dessert. I thought I was in heaven. Unlike double denim, double dessert is an excellent idea. Ours was a little bowl containing a quenelle of creamy, refreshing coconut sorbet, sat on a bed of smoked, dehydrated coconut crumb, that had a subtle yet glorious hint of fresh mint. On the side was a little jug of sweet, intense fruit punch sauce to pour over.
Frankly, I would have been happy with just that for after’s but our puds were still to come. Today was a good day. Now there was a slight standoff when making our choices because we both wanted the rice pudding with rhubarb and liquorice but when we are reviewing we always try and choose different dishes to get a good overview of the menu. In the end I decided on the deconstructed Eccles cake with a Lancashire Bomb cheese ice cream. Wow! This actually made me laugh out loud. The combination of the sweet currents and a savoury ice cream was unlike anything I have had before and I loved it. Am I losing the plot? The Abel Heywood’s Manchester Tart had me close to tears recently and now this. I blame my age but I’m still having the rice pud next time though.
We’ll Be Back
The biggest surprise we had was the depth and complexity of the flavours we encountered throughout the meal. No one flavour fought or overpowered another, rather they all melded beautifully in to each other, creating a symphony for the palate. We recently dined at a new, very ‘lofty’ restaurant, that we enjoyed very much but to be honest it wasn’t a patch on Grafene.
As I said, this was the first time we have eaten at Grafene but from what I have heard Ben’s menu and style of cooking is an improvement on previous incumbents’. We don’t have anything to compare it with other than other restaurants and I have say this is some of the best fine dining Manchester has to offer and I think their only rivals, or running mates, depending on how you look at, are the team over at Wood.
We were guests of Grafene but as always, the review and opinions are our own and unbiased.