I’m never normally one too shy to follow a plate of canapes around a room. That said, when there’s cocktails of the calibre they serve at Banyan Bar & Kitchen on offer, it’s easy to get distracted. That was the situation back in autumn last year, when found ourselves at the launch of the new venue. We got a bit boozy, set the world to rights and had a great night but managed to miss the opportunity to sample much to eat. We got the bar but not the kitchen. So to set things straight I popped over there last week for a proper sit down dinner.
The Corn Exchange has made a really solid start since opening and you get the feeling it’ll properly come into its own this summer when the outside seating areas get a bit of sunshine. There’s a real buzz about the place now it’s filled with restaurants, and quite a global feel to it with cuisines from most parts of the world represented. Perhaps swayed by our international surroundings we began with a couple of Japanese inspired dishes, teriyaki belly pork and tempura king prawns. I thought the pork looked particularly attractive lined up on a contrasting blue plate, and the sticky, salty, sweet sauce was also a nice contrast to the fattiness of the meat. The prawns were certainly big boys, it was a large portion for a starter, not that I’m ever one to complain about that. I thought the batter could’ve been a little lighter though, it was a tad doughy, but I did enjoy the chilli and lime dipping sauce and thought the pak choi worked nicely.
I was feeling in the mood for meat and so opted for the fillet steak. I’m not sure if I was playing it bit safe with that choice, but then with a fillet the pressures really on to cook it just right. That test was well and truly passed though, it was lovely and pink in the middle, and the peppercorn sauce also impressed as did some large crisp onion rings. The other dish to jump out to us both was the Portuguese marinated half chicken, our waiter confirmed it was his favourite too, and it lived up to the billing. Subtle spice and succulent flesh.
Our desserts arrived on another couple of pieces of cracking crockery. The chocolate torte was really deeply dark and delicious, I particularly liked the sprinkling of salt crystals on top that brought out savoury notes in the caramel sauce. Honeycomb ice cream completed a really well constructed and presented plate. Bakewell tart isn’t something you see often enough on menus to my mind, and I must say it rather stole the show. Tender moist almond sponge layered between jam and crisp nut shavings with raspberry ripple ice cream. It somehow simultaneously brought a scent of childhood whilst also feeling all grown up with an aroma of amaretto.
To close things out a couple of after dinner drinks. First the smoked paloma was something really special, a mix of tequila, mezcal, ginger, grapefruit and hickory smoke. Those famous two Mexican spirits are both pretty on-trend at the moment but I’ve not had than any better than in this particular cocktail. On a more traditional tip the Sinatra select brought together Jack Daniel’s Gentleman Jack, Grand Marnier, chocolate liqueur and Cocchi Americano for a real fire side style sipper that could surely warm any heart.
Manchester is a very competitive place right now and, with innovative new restaurants opening all the time, it’s slowly staking its claim to being a bit of a foodie destination. I can imagine that competition will be no more keenly felt than in a building that houses a whole host of other tempting dining destinations, but you’ve always got a chance if you do things well, and Banyan get a lot right.