Restaurant review - Grand Pacific, Manchester,
PUBLISHED: 00:00 22 June 2017
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So does Grand Pacific in Manchester make you really feel you're dining at an old colonial hang-out? Janet Reeder went along to find out.
There are some of us old enough to recall the days of Reform when this former gentlemen’s club of the Victorian era had been one of Manchester’s celebrity haunts.
Could it be 17 years ago, I was drinking there with jeweller Stephen Webster, who went on to design a ring for Madonna’s wedding to Guy Ritchie? How time flies. Since then, the celebrities and footballers have found new places to flaunt their fame and as Reform went into receivership and morphed into Room it has simply never been the same.
Then came Tim Bacon. Before he lost his battle with cancer, just over a year ago, the chairman and co-founder of the Living Ventures chain set the wheels in motion to bring back the lively, irreverent atmosphere of the restaurant in its heyday.
The building itself retains the beautiful Venetian Gothic architectural features of its inception in 1870-71 with the atmospheric dark wood panelling and stunning original fireplace left intact. But the interior has been given the vibe of an old colonial hotel in the Far East so there are designer touches incorporating a pineapple motif and a long marble bar that wouldn’t seem out of place in a Graham Greene novel.
Of course, this is no longer Manchester in the late 1990s. Club life has been replaced by a thriving dining scene so while people may want a drink (or several) at the bar they’ll also want to dine in some style.
I did pop in for just a drink and tried their hibiscus cocktail a few days before booking for dinner and was a little bit disappointed by my drink- it had too much ice so when I went back with my friend in tow, we ordered a bottle of wine and drank a glass sitting by a soaring Gothic window on one of Grand Pacific’s luxurious cream leather chairs.
When our table became available we were escorted into the beautiful dining area, where the cream upholstery and pineapple theme continued. Oriental-lantern style light fittings were dangling over marble topped tables in an attempt to persuade us we weren’t in Manchester at all but in Raffles Hotel, Singapore, or somewhere equally glamorous. It’s all good fun.
The menu is small and ‘fusion’. More akin to that at Living Ventures’ excellent Pan Asian restaurant in Spinningfields, Australasia, than their fine dining establishment Manchester House (they also serve up light lunches, afternoon tea and a value for money three course Sunday lunch at £15.95).
I started with creamed goats’ cheese (£6.50) which on paper seemed an odd partnership of pineapple, watermelon and avocado mousse but in reality worked a dream with the brunoise-style fruit ‘dressed with the creamy light cheese and mousse.
Across the table, the deconstructed chirasi shushi bowl (£8.75) delivered the freshness of tuna and salmon sashimi, an intense hit of pickled mackerel, shredded wasabi and slices of avocado and cucumber. It was a good size too. Enough alone for a light lunch.
The main course of tempura seabass £17.95, made pieces of battered fresh fish the star, enhanced by Szechuan spices and rolled cucumber and avocado and spindly crispy oodles.
King Oyster mushroom (£1.95)was a revelation, scored like a steak the mushroom soaked up the flavours of the light dashi broth, while the egg surrounded by crispy crumb and fried added texture. The potatoes, which while delicious, seem a bit incongruous in a Japanese inspired dish. Still it was very very good to eat. We accompanied the mains with rice, oriental greens and broccoli.
The desserts are designed to complement the rest of the menu so there’s quite a bit of fruit in the final courses. I chose baked bananas (£5.50) which were cooked so the skins were black then turned origami-like into little shoes, served with a sticky salted caramel sauce and a creamy coconut ice cream. Simple but indulgent, while my guest opted for a classic summer pudding (£5.95) packed with berry flavours and served with cream that proved the perfect end to our Pan Asian journey.
Grand Pacific, 50 Spring Gardens, Manchester, M2 1EN 0161 839 9365