How Mana gained Manchester's first Michelin star in 40 years

PUBLISHED: 00:00 04 November 2019

Simon Martin at Mana

Simon Martin at Mana

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The Michelin judges have put our region firmly in the foodie spotlight with 13 stars awarded in this year's prestigious guide.

Lancashire Life Newcomer of the Year 2019 Winner, Mana, Ancoats, from left, Sponsor Jon Harris from Hallgarten & Novum Wines with Simon MartinLancashire Life Newcomer of the Year 2019 Winner, Mana, Ancoats, from left, Sponsor Jon Harris from Hallgarten & Novum Wines with Simon Martin

When Michelin announced the new stars in their 2020 guide, our region put on a sensational performance - with no fewer than 13 precious stars, the holy grail of culinary perfection. Four dining rooms were brand new entrants on the prestigious list with a further seven retaining their one and two star status.

What makes the achievement even more remarkable is that the results also made history. Thanks to Mana super chef, Simon Martin, Manchester's more than 40 year Michelin hiatus was broken.

And it happened just 11 months after opening, on the same night his restaurant was also awarded four gongs from the Manchester Food and Drink Festival and a week before Mana was named Newcomer of the Year at the Lancashire Life Food and Drink Awards.

'It's still not sunk in, it's a brilliant feeling and when I was there, waiting to hear, I was so nervous,' said Simon.

Ben Wilkinson, head chef at The Cottage in the WoodBen Wilkinson, head chef at The Cottage in the Wood

'Ever since everything has been crazy, everyone wants to come and eat here and we want to make that happen. We're looking at opening on Thursday and Friday lunchtimes as well now to accommodate demand. 'We had 150 CVs sent to us in the three days after the announcement and our website crashed with 30,000 people trying to get onto it. I didn't expect it to be this crazy. I'm looking forward to things settling down so I can get properly back in the kitchen and start moving forward again.'

It's a remarkable achievement for the former semi-professional motocross star who "fell into cooking" after injury prevented him from taking the sport further. Encouraged by his dad to start cooking - to "stop him being lazy" he worked at the Chester Grosvenor.

'I was just making sandwiches and not doing it very well,' remembered Simon. 'My family aren't a foodie family so I'd never been around the food world and my heart wasn't in it. But then I went and worked in the Michelin restaurant there and everything changed. I loved it.'

After that he worked for Gordon Ramsay before going to NOMA in Copenhagen, widely held as one of the best restaurants in the world. But it was a need to be back home, closer to girlfriend Lucy Jinks that brought Simon back to the UK.

'I left NOMA for love,' said Simon. 'I loved it in Copenhagen and if it hadn't been for Lucy I'd probably still be there now. But I'm so glad I did come back - imagine if I hadn't. She's really pleased for me and she's the best person for me to share this with. I've got my eye on next year now; I'd love to get two. But we'll see.'

Moor Hall at Aughton retained its two stars with Northcote and White Swan at Fence retaining their one star status. It was a big announcement for chefs in the Lake District and Cumbria, too.

Allium at Askham Hall, near Penrith, The Cottage in the Wood at Braithwaite and the Old Stamp House in Ambleside were new entrants to the guide with others retaining five stars between them. It means seven restaurants now proudly enjoy membership of the internationally respected guide.

Gill Haigh, managing director at Cumbria Tourism, said: 'Cumbria's growing reputation as a foodie destination is further enhanced by this announcement, firmly placing us on the international stage not only for our stunning landscape, but for our culinary delights.'

The Cottage in the Wood head chef Ben Wilkinson and his gourmet retreat in Whinlatter Forest, which he runs with restaurant manager Monika Zurawska and co-directors Kath and Liam Berney, already had three AA Rosettes. The former Midsummer House and Holbeck Ghyll chef loves creating tasty food without fuss and showcasing the quality of produce found in Cumbria.

'It's fantastic to get this recognition from The Michelin Guide,' said Ben. 'The whole team at The Cottage in the Wood works so hard and this award is an amazing achievement for everyone.

'I've been a chef for over 20 years and I've dreamed of getting a star every day. I don't think it's sunk in yet. I can't want to get back into the kitchen to get cooking as a Michelin starred chef.'



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