There’s a massive long list of things that we used to do but don’t do anymore. In fact, it’s less of a “don’t” and more of a “can’t” situation – as the COVID-19 pandemic did away with our most cherished social experiences.
One of the best is undoubtedly the classic dinner party, a time when friendships are forged, cookery skills are put to the test and copious amounts of posh plonk is supped. Some people go even further and then start popping their car keys into the fruit bowl, but we won’t go there for the time being.
The British dinner party is SO loved and cherished that it even has its very own TV show – Come Dine With Me – which we’ve all probably been watching whilst on lockdown, biting our knuckles and wishing we could have some mates around for a big lasagne and a bottle of vodka.
Alas, it’s not meant to be and we will all have to bloody wait until this pandemic disappears, and even then, I suspect that most people will be too wary and/or scared to ‘knock on’ for a good while after that.
This all makes the closure of one of Manchester’s most exciting and innovate food experiences all the more tragic – because its very existence is owed to the power and pull of the dinner party – and COVID pretty much scuppered the whole thing straight away.
I’m talking about The Walled Gardens, a restaurant concept created by award-winning vegetarian chef Eddie Shepherd, and one which takes place entirely within his very own living room in Whalley Range. You book your ticket, head on down to his gaff and then sit around his dinner table with up to 8 other strangers and revel in Eddie’s truly outstanding dishes and welcoming hospitality.
As you sit down and put your booze (it’s BYOB) into the little ice cooler box, the small talk begins; “What’s your name?”, “How did you hear about this place?“, “Where did you get that top from?!” all the while Eddie puts the final touches to the first couple of courses.
You’re treated to an amazing array of 12 different courses – ranging from the traditional to the contemporary to the truly bizarre – but everything is vegetarian and everything is sublime. You’d be hard-pressed to find veggie dishes better than this pretty much anywhere else in the world – Eddie is a true master.
His tasting menu is always changing and adapting both with the seasons and whenever Eddie comes up with something new. With 17 years’ experience as a professional chef, operating pop-up restaurants, designing menus and offering consultancy and training in contemporary plant-based cuisine – you’re always in good hands.
Each dish has been meticulously created to not just taste phenomenal, but also to make you change the way you look at, think about and cook vegetables, making what has traditionally been a ‘side dish’ into the main event.
Divulging too much information on the food would be a great disservice to the whole experience, as the surprise and wonder of each dish is half the point – but I must say that the Marinated Halloumi in a Charcoal Batter that I had when I went was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted (before or since).
Fermented with rose water using an ancient Japanese technique known as ‘koji’, this breaks down the structure of the cheese – creating a unique texture and mouthfeel that you’ll never have experienced before.
Last year saw The Walled Gardens on The Guardian’s list of ‘20 of the UK’s Best Restaurants‘ as chosen by Britain’s top chefs, and it certainly deserves its place amongst the UK’s biggest and brightest.
Has COVID permanently put an end to Eddie’s idea?
Of course not, reservations for the restaurant will be released on February 1st – ready for when we’re finally allowed out of our houses and back into other people’s.
Book yourself in below…