WOOD on First Street is the flagship restaurant of chef Simon Wood of MasterChef fame. Winning his title back in 2015, Simon quickly made the jump from working in IT into the restaurant industry and has managed to create a restaurant experience that stands on its own.
Simon is completely self-taught (which is utterly amazing watching his skills and knowledge) and tells me that he always wanted to be a chef. While we cooked, we discussed all things food, about his ‘playful authenticity ethos’, and if MasterChef was really as tense as it all looked…
Simon’s ‘playful authenticity’ is all about delivering something high quality in a fine-dining manner but that also manages to be comforting and nostalgic at the same time.
The dish Simon cooked with me was a fantastic example of this – a pigeon breast served with a bacon butty sauce, plus a bacon frazzle on the side – creating the perfect embodiment of a playtime snack I hadn’t had in years.
There it was, the ‘playful authenticity’ in full force, and I totally got it. How many chefs do you know who can present you with something that has both the finesse of fine dining and the comfort of home cooking? Not many, I think you’ll find – but Simon is certainly one of them.
For the sauce, he cooked off his homemade bacon in some butter (lots of butter, naturally) with onions and thyme. This was then blended with fine breadcrumbs and cream until it was silky smooth. This was kept warm while we concentrated on the bird.
The main part of the dish was a lovely breast of pigeon. It is pretty rare to see pigeon on a menu these days, but Simon is a firm believer in the power of championing British produce at every opportunity. It was simply basted in butter with thyme and cooked in the hot oven for a few minutes.
The dish was garnished with radicchio, endive and baby thyme which complimented the burgundy red of the beautifully cooked pigeon and brought a welcome crunch. Simon even let me plate one up…but you can definitely tell which one is mine.
Tucking in, I was amazed by the flavours on the plate. The pigeon was excellently cooked with a plump, pink middle and a crispy skin that was topped off with a sprinkling of course sea salt. The bacon frazzle was sublime. Super crispy and fatty it really did taste like the real thing.
The whole thing felt undeniably British, in a very discrete way, which I think is how you can describe the food offering at WOOD as a whole.
All in all, it was great getting to know Simon and talk about his ethos with WOOD. I enjoyed learning a thing or two along the way as well, although I don’t think he will be taking me on as a Sous Chef any time soon.
Anjou Squab Pigeon
Part of the new menu at WOOD
Wood, Jack Rosenthal Street, Manchester M15 4RA
0161 236 5211