“Seeing how people came out of lockdown and responded to the reopening of established restaurants, compared to somewhere opening for the first time, it felt like people wanted to put their money in places that they already knew. Spots that they were loyal to,” says Ben Gretton, referring to the challenge of launching a new eatery as the UK emerged from peak pandemic.
“Starting a business was quite tough in that climate. Then we had the first Christmas — 2021 — which is always crucial for any hospitality venture. This was marred by more uncertainty over Covid. Everything was open but the government message was to be really cautious, which didn’t help,” he continues.
Suffice to say, the fact 10 Tib Lane has ridden out last year’s rollercoaster is testament to how good the place is. Fast approaching its first birthday in July, the concept was always simple — as Gretton puts it: do everything excellently, from produce sourcing to food and cocktails. However, the emphasis has switched from three-storey bar with bites to a building offering an enticing journey, from street level drinking den to upper floor foodie haven.
Finest pays a visit on a warm Wednesday evening, when the weather is made for laidback lounging in the booth by the front door, windows flung open to create an almost-al fresco feeling. The arrival of half a dozen or so oysters with shallot vinegar and chilli adds to the sense of the outdoors coming inside, or vice versa, and is an ideal pre-amble to the feast that follows.
Climbing a wooden staircase befitting an interior aesthetic — all natural colours, textures and materials — as seats are taken a second highlight arrives. Some might balk — or choke — at the idea of a triple whisky cocktail to begin a meal, but not us. The short-but-excellent drink, like a Martini’s long-lost Scotch and rye cousin, more than hits the spot.
A hearty dip defined by cumin salt and crunchy chickpeas, and triple-cooked potatoes with Spanish Bravas sauce are next, soaking up plenty of that poison. Both are delicious, although fade from memory when we see the exacting standards of our crisped sea bass. An accompanying salad of chicory, red onion, orange and grapefruit completing a dish so fresh it almost pops.
Similarly bold flavours are everywhere on the main courses. Each is reassuringly pared back and uncomplicated, accentuating the whole ‘prime produce’ ethos that 10 Tib Lane wears on its sleeve.
Confit spiced carrots are an unexpected winner. It’s not that we don’t get excited when this veg is done well, nevertheless, considering the other plates vying for attention it speaks volumes they barely get a look-in until these rose harissa, aubergine and garlic puree-topped roots are gone.
Elsewhere, mussels match the oysters for mouthwatering, although meats dominate. Whether you punt for lamb rump with peas, fava beans and chicken broth, or 8OZ sirloin steak with hot pepper zhug, is a matter of personal taste. Rest assured, though, the two melt in the mouth equally, served with photo-worthy pink hue. But for us, the real gem is a pile of blackened chicken thighs complimented by tangy pineapple salsa and charred corn.
Ideal accompaniment to the dark cherry, plum and vanilla tones of the rich Chapeau Melon 2020 we have refilled several times, talk of dessert makes us a little concerned about how much has been gorged. No matter, the tiramisu is light and fluffy, biscuit topping throwing sweet crunchiness into a rich, creamy mix.
The Chocolate Mousse is similarly delicate-yet-dense, sea salt and olive oil providing excellent depth of flavour. Overall, though, it’s the decadent, childhood memory-inducing Cookie & Cream that steals the final show; peanut butter toffee sauce, hazelnut and a thick slab of honeycomb completing the package.
“We’ve got good regulars now, I feel, and — like our menu — the space is constantly evolving. In some ways, we started off with something that felt a bit more formal than we had in mind, almost leaning towards a fine dining look. That was never the intention, and as we’ve grown the experience has become informal and more approachable,” Gretton says as the sugar high subsides.
“We’ve got people coming back to see us time and again, some are here just for drinks, others long lunches, and the feedback is always really positive,” he continues. It’s not hard to believe, given our experience. 10 Tib Lane has clearly cemented its place in the notoriously competitive Manchester scene because of this commitment to excellence. Hence achieving such success during one of the most turbulent, unpredictable years in the city centre’s history.
Tib Lane is open for food and drinks Wednesday to Friday 4pm – 1am. Saturday 12pm – 1am. Sunday 12pm – 10pm. Menus and reservations are available online.