Food profile - Grafene, Manchester
PUBLISHED: 00:00 14 September 2016
Manchester's latest restaurant, Grafene, has a name which smacks of cutting-edge science, writes Louise Allen-Taylor
For all you non-scientists, graphene is the thinnest material on earth, discovered at the University of Manchester and destined to become part of our lives in so many ways.
Grafene, meanwhile, is a very smart new restaurant and bar, so named (or ever so slightly mis-named) in celebration of that Nobel Prize-winning discovery.
If you were really stretching a point - and graphene is legendarily stretchy - you could argue that Grafene, like graphene, is extremely adaptable. There is a very fine seven-course tasting menu (£49.50) and an à la carte menu in the same modern British style. There is also brunch, lunch and afternoon tea, and an enticing bar treats menu. This is a place for fine dining, a late breakfast or even a post-work pint (the beer from The Runaway Brewery, just the other side of Manchester, is excellent).
Grafene is styled in an intriguing mix of textures and decor: aeroplane fuselage-style metal here, colourful brick tiling there - and has a mix of spaces, including a couple of private dining areas amid the chic but comfortable booths and tables.
Grafene’s premises in Chapel Walks, just off King Street, were once home to Le Petit Blanc, which closed in 2010. If Raymond Blanc was slightly ahead of his time, Grafene - a £1m investment by Paul and Kathryn Roden of Losehill House Hotel and Spa in the Peak District - seems better timed to catch both the wave of enthusiasm for modern British cuisine and the foodie resurgence of King Street.
A starter of beautifully crispy lamb breast comes with saffron yoghurt, pomegranate, spinach and aubergine (£10). Our other starter is pickled mackerel sitting in a puddle of chilled sorrel soup with little cubes of kohlrabi and slivers of apple (£9) - a very green, fresh concoction. Make sure you try the superb bread from Grafene’s own bakers.
My main of pork tenderloin is an artful obelisk of piggy yumminess with a little flavour bomb of a smoked ham hashcake and white asparagus, topped off with fine dining’s answer to pork scratchings (£21). Our other main is an excellent 8oz Himalayan salt-aged sirloin steak (£23) with a peppercorn sauce (£2). The side dishes at £3 each prove superb: dripping roast potatoes, a deeply cheesy cauliflower cheese and summer greens dotted with smoked almonds.
An apple tart with vanilla ice cream is lovely but, at £8 for a very small portion, disappointing on the pocket if not the palate. The cheese board at £10 proves much better value with a good selection of British cheeses and some delicious chunky biscuits.
Grafene makes much better use of this space than the rather cramped Le Petit Blanc ever did. As well as being a stylish and relaxing room, it has cherry-picked some very friendly and accomplished staff from other winning establishments. Is this Manchester’s foodie future? It certainly seems to have a winning formula. w
Grafene, 55 King Street, Manchester city centre M2 4LQ, 0161 696 9700, www.grafene.co.uk