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We have in the past had a couple of good nights out at Opus One- the restaurant within the Radison Blu Edwardian hotel in Manchester. So when their PR company asked if I would like to go and try their summer menu, I didn’t need much persuasion.
You always know if I consider it a fine dining experience because I get my favourite dress out – and this was such an occasion!
It was the night of the Olympic opening ceremony and I was a bit worried that we’d be the only people in there. So I relived to see quote a few tables taken. The last time we were there, the head waiter had come and asked us if we were celebrating anything that night. When we said no, she kept insisting until finally she decided it was our anniversary and brought us a plate of anniversary petit fours at the end of our meal! So we giggled like teenagers when the waiter welcomed us to our table…and asked if we were celebrating anything special! No, we assured him, just the joy of the weekend!
Menus delivered, drinks orders taken and water poured. I had looked at the menu before coming out, but still couldn’t decide on what to have. Sometimes I wish a waiter would decide for me. Apologies for this to everyone I have ever, and will ever, eat out with!
The food is all about the best of British, something which I have always liked about this restaurant, and they do source a lot of the menu from within the north west.
To start I went with ‘tastes of wood pigeon’. This was a sublimely tasty way to start. A teeny breast, perfectly roasted, pink and tender was served alongside a bit sized puff pastry pasty filed with the meat, some meaty jus and, the best bit, a little Kilner jar of potted meat with salty, tangy diced vegetables. It was all topped with a slither of air dried ham. I was enjoying all the elements, when our waiter came over and suggested I try them all at once. The tangy potted meat alongside the jus and roast breast was indeed a winning combination.
My other half chose the northwest seafood bisque with a cockle and dill vinaigrette. The bisque came served in a teapot with a small cup- posh cuppa soup! On the side was a good chunky prawn and the vinaigrette which was ridiculously tasty. Like a delicious cockle soup, we drank it up as there wasn’t really anything else to do once the prawn had been dunked. The vinaigrette was the highlight of the dish and we both agreed that it was far more than a vinaigrette.
We were drinking a bottle of the house chardonnay and water, and the staff were brilliant at gauging when to come and top us up, and when to wait. We weren’t over hassled but they were there enough to ensure glasses were never empty.
I went a bit leftfield for my choice of main course, with wild mushroom and Cheshire brie turnovers. Two small pastries (I know, again!) with Cheshire ‘brie’ (I suspect it was the excellent Tiresford Guernsey Gold) served on a deceptively large bed of spinach, a pot of wild mushrooms and a veloute of courgette (creamy, delicious courgette soup). If wild mushrooms are mentioned on a menu, it is always the dish I go for. The courgette soup was big and tasty, and the pot of mushrooms added a rich bite to the pastries. But really, if I had thought about it more maybe it wasn’t the best choice of main course because eating dainty little pasties didn’t feel like eating a main.
Lamb was order of the day for husband. There was a barrel of Cheshire lamb, a little copper pan containing a neck-end hotpot and some creamy potato with Cheshire cheese. I didn’t get to try this, but apparently the hotpot was the favourite element. The ‘barrel’ looked lovely and pink on the inside and cut like a dream. Apparently though it needed a touch more seasoning to bring out the flavour.
Unusually for me, there was no room for pudding (I’d been out in the day and had a massive lunch. Schoolgirl error I know!) but Andrew decided to take one for the team and ordered iced chocolate parfait. It came with a pot of hot chocolate fondue and sticks of mini marshmallows which had been flambéed in cognac. These are such a good idea – one I will use next time I make hot chocolate fondant pots. Anyway, back to the dish, I didn’t get a chance to try the ice cream, but the fondue was like that thick, rich hot chocolate you get in Spain- perfect for dipping the marshmallows in. There was also a Vimto parfait on the menu. Oh how I wish there was room for that- I am tempted to go back one day soon just for dessert.
The service was brilliant throughout- there aren’t many places where you sneeze and the head waiter discreetly brings you a couple of tissues.
The cocktails here are also a must-try. It’s a very classic cocktail list, always made with care. I really wanted to stay for one, but was so full I literally couldn’t fit it in!
If I had one criticism, it was the way the food was presented. All three courses came on a rectangular slate atop a white rectangular plate. It looked nice enough but we both thought that your main course should look different to your starter. Also, with the mains, it was a bit tricky to cut your food up with the slate wobbling slightly on the plate.
Worthy of a mention is the fact that we were also treated to live singing throughout the evening from local lass Lucy Hope. I am always a bit weirded out by singers who come to your table and eyeball you, but Lucy managed to sing whilst working her way around the restaurant and bar without making me shift in my seat. Loungy classics, many in French, made for really relaxing background music. I got chatting to Lucy in the ladies afterwards and she was so pleased to be singing in a venue with such a musical history (it was of course the Free Trade Hall which has seen artists as diverse as Ella Fitzgerald and, er, the Sex Pistols, perform there). She said she is there on Fridays for the summer so if you are looking for somewhere special this could well be it.
Opus One is a great place for classic British ingredients used to their very best.
Thanks to Mason Williams for inviting me to review Opus One.
Raddison Blu Edwardian, Manchester