It’s been awhile since I first stepped foot in Grafene for their launch event back in July, and plenty has been written about the place in the interim. I suppose realistically you’re not going to slip under the radar by naming yourself after the Manchester discovered material that’s supposed to be revolutionising the world any minute. Well it’s nearly Christmas now and graphene still hasn’t produced me a capable toaster, let alone saved the planet, so how was its restaurant namesake faring I wonder? We went along to find out.
I’ve not had a proper taster menu for a bit, although I’ve had a few meals recently that definitely could have fit on seven or more plates to be fair. But with the party season getting in to full swing it seemed right to be enjoying something decadent such as this, and we opted for the wine flight too which was to prove an astute decision. They take their wine pretty seriously at Grafene – and it shows.
Once we’d buttered ourselves some homemade breads we were presented with the Wensleydale mousse mille feuille. The combination of cheese, chestnut and fruit in the form of morello cherry got me feeling pretty festive. Given that it only had one layer you could argue about the dish’s claim to be called a mille feuille, personally I think it’s closer to cheese and cracker territory, but naming aside, it worked really well. Little balsamic baubles hung in the creamy cheese adding further sweet notes, as did the Pommery Champagne which accompanied the course.
Up next the good old seared scallop, or three of them to be precise, a pretty generous portion for a taster menu in fairness – I’ve had less as a starter. This wasn’t a taster menu that left us ravenous throughout either, as some can, and was paced accordingly. Cooked just right, as these were, scallops have the most beautiful texture. The challenge with these shellfish is to add a bit of umami, hence why they’re often served with bacon, chorizo or something porky, here a lobster bisque really did the trick. A new one on me that, and I think a perfect partnership on the plate.
Unlike a scallop there’s no hiding your pork belly. An unashamedly crispy, fatty lump of pleasure which just needs a little sharpness to pique curiosity. Here the belly’s foil was tart quince, and more crunch from some rather pork scratching-esque scatterings. The next course of Halibut brought a return of that lobster bisque and a tiny square of dauphinoise. Set against that black mottled plate, a stunningly attractive dish I thought, there’s almost something intergalactic about it?
The main event, our last savoury selection before dessert, was Goosnargh duck. I’m struggling to remember ever having the meat cooked better to be honest, seared perfectly pink, with delicate clementine, star anise, and rosemary essences bringing the out the best in the bird. For me the presence of black quinoa was a distraction though, the nutty bite of the grain distracted my mouth from the perfected texture of that duck, I’d have left it out.
For pudding came first the sort of light, sweet thing that should follow a rather large meal. Lemon posset with fragrant, soft cardomom ice cream and the crispness of orange and pepper tiule propped up against its containing glass – then granola hiding underneath it all. A simple combination that brought out the best of each component. More alluring though was chocolate ganache cake, which is even more fun to say than lemon posset – let’s be honest. A glossy, rich, dark slice with its helpful supporting cast of pear sorbet and your usual artistically irregular arrangement of sweet nothings. We’d spotted a tray of the black stuff on the way in and had been waiting a couple of hours for this moment, it didn’t disappoint.
And nor did the experience as a whole, well thought out, well served, well done. There was room for improvement when Grafene opened their doors in the summer but there is much less now, it definitely feels like a restaurant on the up that has now found its feet.
The seven course taster is available daily at Grafene. On New Year’s Eve they will also be serving a special one off menu with live entertainment until 1am, further information via the link below:
Grafene, 55 King Street, Manchester, M2 4LQ
0161 696 9700