Wednesday, 15 July 2015


Manchester's food scene continues to grow and grow with numerous new places to eat popping up on what almost seems to be a weekly basis. One such venue is the Urban Cookhouse which was handily close to the hotel we were staying in during our latest visit to Manchester and with an appetizing looking menu on offer we thought we would go check it out!

Located on Princess street in the heart of the city centre, the neon sign of the Urban Cookhouse beckoned us in from the gloomy northern weather and as we trotted up the stairs for our 5 o clock reservation we were promptly greeted and taken round to our table. We didn't really need to book however as it was empty however it was good to see as our meal went on that it began to pick up. It's always hard for a new venture to attract customers especially in a city saturated with good food like Manchester so it was good to see they were attracting business.

We were seated around in the dining area next to the open plan kitchen which was great for nosing at all the other food. Cushioned benches line the back of the bar whilst there are also raised window seats with stools for those wishing to people watch on the busy streets outside. The decor is very modern with metal chairs and stools and neutral tones throughout. Large hanging bulbs and slightly neon lights are dimmed later in the day to make way for candles to create a more chilled atmosphere in the evening.

Dance tunes were pumped in but not at ear blasting level which I meant you could still hold a conversation but gave an overall relaxed and casual feel. There is also a separate bar area around the other side of the dining area so even if you aren't hungry you can still come in and enjoy a cocktail or two before heading off to the nearby clubs.

Speaking of cocktails, whilst I stuck with my usual cider, Jon went fancy with a Bloody Mary. Points to the server for asking how spicy he would like it and extra points for the size of the cocktail placed in the table. No tiny fancy drinks going on here but a large tall glass with all the celery and fragrant rosemary trimmings to go with it. I'm not a fan of a Bloody Mary but Jon really enjoyed it especially after a few sips when the initial impact of the Tabasco had worn off and the flavors had really melded together. I'll be back to try some other cocktails as guys clearly know how to make a good tipple!

Onto the food and you would be mistaken given the nods to New York that you will be tucking into a totally stateside menu but Urban Cookhouse cherry picks a range of different cuisines from around the world to create a really exciting menu. We didn't go for starters this time round but plates such as crispy cod cheeks and a pesto halloumi stack will definitely be on my wish list next time.

That's not to say some stateside treats haven't snook their way in. For my main I went for the Whiskey
chicken. This ain't no KFC though. This beautifully plump and moist chicken breast was coated in a crisp batter and smothered in a sticky whisky glaze that was so incredibly moorish that I had to mop up every last drop. Whilst you can go with fries I highly recommend you choose the sweet potato scallops. Fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside I could of eaten around ten more of these golden medals of yumminess. Served with a creamy slaw which compliments the sticky whiskey sauce the whole meal was just the right size and a delight from first to last bite. A must have for poultry fans out there!

Jon, of course went vegetarian and for a restaurant that doesn't specialize in meat free food it was great to see such a unique option on the menu in the form of the tandoori paneer. Three triangles of tandoori spiced cheese held court in the centre of the plate surround by a saag aloo that Jon particularly liked as the potato was slightly mashed. He loves curry and he loves mash so it was two of his favorites in one go. It wasn't too spicy, we are spice freaks after all but there was just enough kick to get you going. Sat on top were two mini samosas which are tiny enough to pop whole into your mouth and let the filling burst into your mouth.

As a cooling palette cleanser, a mound of mango chutney adorned a large flat bread perfect for mopping up the flavor packed saag aloo sauce. The chutney though was the highlight in my eyes. It was sharp and sweet and really zinged on your taste buds. All components to this dish were spot on singularly as well as complimenting each other and Jon says he would quite happily come back and eat it all over again. 

There is some talent in the kitchen at urban cookhouse. To be able to pull off an American dish like mine and a cracking Indian dish like the paneer shows true versatility. I also spied what I believe was the coriander and lime chicken and new potato dish being enjoyed by two diners nearby that looked not only proper tasty but also absolutely massive. There is no scrimping on portions here and at the prices on the menu when we visited, superb values for money, in fact I'd pay a lot more for our meals and not quibble about it. 

At this point I would just like to mention that the staffs knowledge of the menu and the attentiveness to their customers was five star. A couple sat next to us were undecided about what to have for their meals and the server took her time to talk through what was on each of the meals and recommended sides based on their size. This may sound like it should be normal and it should however the depth that she went into was incredible so if you have any questions about the food or drinks then don't be shy to ask, the staff will be more than capable of helping you and it's often this service that will bring you back to a restaurant. I hope they can maintain this as it really will make them stand out from the crowd!  

We head into dessert. All the choices sounded delicious but what we were presented with was not what we were expecting. It was so much more!

First was my "Urban Smoothie". Not a smoothie in the beverage sense of the word, I would say it was more like a slice of frozen ice cream. Vimto flavored of course (it was created in Manchester!) it melted smoothly on your tongue releasing those berry and grape flavors into your mouth and taking you right back to your childhood. Little berry pastilles dotted around the plate were like little tiny works of art with their marbled appearance and again, exploded with flavor as you chewed into them.

In contrast to the soft pastille and smoothie textures, pieces of white chocolate gel added some crunch to the plate along with the unadvertised popping candy which literally made the dish pop and a final flourish of adding fresh blackberries and raspberries topped off a stunning dessert which was simply to die for. Whoever came up with the whole thing, especially the inspired idea of using Vimto, deserves a medal. 

A silver one mind, gold goes to whoever came up with "The Big Apple" (unless it's the same person, then they should be knighted). Quote Jon; "The best thing ever!". I don't normally go for these fancy "textures of/deconstructed" desserts however this was something else. What you get alongside slices of crisp apple slices was an apple sphere. Instructed by the once again knowledgeable server to pop it in his mouth in one go, Jon dutifully did and whilst he described it as slightly weird he said it was like experiencing the biggest burst of apple flavor ever. I wish I could of had one!

What I did manage to try was the apple sorbet which was sharp, zingy and totally refreshing. A fluffy cider doughnut oozed out a soft caramel sauce whilst blobs of sticky toffee sauce took you right back to  scoffing toffee apples at the funfair. Soft chewy dehydrated apple chunks are the jewel in the apple crown. This dessert is out of this world. In my eyes it's something that should belong in a Michelin star restaurant yet (at time of writing) is £5.45. That is insane value for money! Do yourself a favor if you visit and make sure you leave room for this what i consider, masterpiece. The dessert bar has now been set! 

On that high note it was unfortunately time to leave. To be honest, I really didn't have high expectations of the Urban Cookhouse but I was proven wrong. Everything from the decor, drink, service and the out of his world food was top notch! New ventures can often fail so easily but I pray that people will read this and go and support the Urban Cookhouse so that it becomes the the phenomenal success that it deserves. They say the menu is designed to never be forgotten and I for one surely won't be forgetting the meal for a long time to come!

Head to the website and book a table next time your in Manchester, it's your loss if you don't.

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