Grafene on King Street in Manchester has a new chef and a new menu, so I took a friend for a mid-week treat to see what we though.
Chef Ben Mounsey has only been at the helm for a few weeks, but he has already changed the look of the Grafene menu with his very modern take on classic British ingredients and dishes. He says that his dishes “avoid the obvious” and from what we saw and ate that night this is very true.
Currently the menu is £45 for three courses with bread and ‘surprises’ which in my opinion is great for the quality we received.
My mate date is a pescatarian. She was handed a veggie-friendly menu and, frankly, I could have happily eaten everything on it. Good start.
Before our starters our first surprise arrived. A small dish which we both though would make a perfect brunch: squid ink bagel, egg cream, cured salmon, samphire and crispy salmon skin. I’m usually a bit ewwwww about salmon, but as I get older I’m trying to embrace it and I admit the crispy skin was very tasty.
I chose crab as it screams spring. There was a perfect risotto with spiced brown crab meat and topped with meatier white crab meat. Slither of radish and pickled mustard seed were tiny bit mighty. I mean seriously, pickling mustard seeds. May seem overkill but the devil is in the detail. And that wasn’t all. The other side of the bowl was a velvety bisque.
Georgina shares my love of a good mushroom dish and went with an amazing rich consomme with ceps, truffle and shimenji. It smelled amazing, and the photo doesn’t do it justice, but she assured me it was rich and deeply savoury.
Bread. I hate it when restaurants bake really good bread because I could happily eat it and nothing else! And let me tell you this is damn good bread. Two little warm loaves – the treacle and rye was the winner for me, and the tomato butter which came with the Henderson’s Relish loaf. We made sure the bread wasn’t whipped away and shamelessly ate the whole lot, dipping in the butters because to leave them would be rude.
The Goosnargh duck was recommended confidently as being the best duck dish in Manchester. Beautiful pink meat, the plate was dotted with black garlic and asparagus puree and charred fennel added substance.
There was cod on the other side of the table. It was a lovely thick piece and I was seriously miffed that I didn’t use the aforementioned bread to dip in her artichoke cream/foam. Dried samphire was intense, as it should be.
A break before pudding
The interior has a modern vibe with touches to remind you of Manchester’s great status. I loved the mustard and grey scheme, and the way tiled flooring butted hardwood flooring. I also had serious sink envy in the ladies! In fact, it has been a while since I mentioned the loos in a restaurant, but trust me these were good uns!
Here comes the science bit *pushes imaginary specs up nose*. Graphene is the strongest material known to man, made up of an atom’s thickness of carbon. Manchester is home to the National Graphene Institute and is where graphene was first extracted from graphite. So our fine city knows it’s shiz and hence the restaurant name! OK, break over, back to pudding…
We were, it’s safe to say, nicely full. But we weren’t in a rush so asked for a break before dessert in order to natter some more, people watch and make room.
Before pudding, another surprise dish arrived. I, as a rule, don’t like coconut flavoured things. I don’t mind it in stuff, like Thai curry, but you’ll never catch me eating a Bounty Bar! So I wasn’t jumping up and down when I discovered it was coconut ice cream atop more coconut. Weirdly though, I still ate it. Proof if needed that I am a greedy cow!
Eccles cake and cheese. A concept I first encountered years ago at St John in London. This time chef Mounsey has taken it to another level. Sweet crunchy puff pastry was an empty shell. It came served with a puddle of dried fruit, caramel and (I think I remember correctly) chocolate. And yes there was cheese – in the shape of Lancashire cheese ice cream. Fabulous.
Everyone recommended the brownie. I know a thing or two about brownies so my friend ordered accordingly. It was less brownie, more a plate of deconstructed chocolate wonder! There were salted shards, dried mousse, buttermilk and mint oil. Deffo not a brownie, but absolutely delicious.
Yes we were full. Yes there were petit fours with coffee which included the nicest Florentine I’ve tried. Yes we ate them. I refer you to my previous greedy cow observation.
As we rolled out into the night I clocked a couple of areas which would be great for groups, and started working out how many friends I could squeeze in. And the table next to us were being served the venison and brisket which both looked amazing and I need to try.
I’ve put my money where my hungry mouth is and booked to back for the taster menu in a few weeks so hubby and I can try more of the menu, including hopefully that venison. There’s also a ‘British Tapas’ lunch menu which I am sorely tempted by, and would like to go out with a drinker so they can try the new cocktail menu too.
There was nothing to fault: the quality, the value, the staff. We were so well looked after by Dennis and Zac that I wanted to have a night out with them! Manchester has seen reconstructed classics before- remember Room? I loved Room. But they were in a much more ‘retro’ vein – Ben’s food is slicker, more refined, more exciting. I foresee many more visits to Grafene in my future, and suggest you do too.
SHE LOVES: chilled out fine dining. A breath of fresh, northern air.
Grafene. 55 King Street, Manchester. M2 4LG. firstname.lastname@example.org