Gordo visits AO Arena’s new and exclusive members-only restaurant and bar

It’s called The Mezz.

It’s the super-prestige restaurant in the AO Arena where you can go and have your dinner before the performance, relax and avoid the queues before your favourite band comes on. 

If you’ve been to these types of affairs before in arenas from Wembley to Old Trafford, you’ll know they’re often disappointing food-wise - apart from The Royal Enclosure at Ascot, and the terrace of the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo on Grand Prix weekend, of course. 

2024 03 06 The Mezz Bar
The bar area Image: Confidentials
2024 03 06 The Mezz Inside
Inside The Mezz Image: Confidentials
2024 03 06 Inside The Mezz 1
Inside The Mezz Image: Confidentials
2024 03 06 The Mezz Inside 3
Inside The Mezz Image: Confidentials

So, what chance have us northerners got of really great food up here? ‘Not a lot’ I hear you say. Well, you’re dead wrong. Because as I sat down in the rather fabulous The Mezz restaurant, the jewel in the crown of the £50 million refurb, I spotted chef Simon Rogan of the fabulous 3 Michelin Star L’Enclume, arguably the best restaurant in the North, working the pass. 

Simon, along with Tom Barnes, his protégé who helped him score his third star at L’Enclume (soon to be opening his own restaurant, Skof, in Manchester), has taken on the job of overseeing the food at The Mezz. 

2024 03 06 The Mezz Thumbnail
Native scallop with coral mayonnaise and heritage tomato Image: Confidentials
2024 03 06 The Mezz Lamb
Roast rump of Herdwick lamb with roscoff whey onions, split pea and fennel vinegar Image: Confidentials
2024 03 06 The Mezz Steak
32oz Dukesmoor bone-in ribeye with slow-cooked cheek, dripping potatoes and beef-bone bearnaise Image: Confidentials
2024 03 06 The Mezz Bee Dessert
The ManchesterBee; 64% Manjari chocolate mousse, buzzin' honey pears, honey tuile and comb honey Image: Confidentials

A stellar move for management at AO, because the dinner I had was as good as the lunch served to me the day I was sitting on the terrace at the Hotel de Paris. I think Nikki Lauder won it, we were rooting for James Hunt who, true to form, crashed out.

Simon told me that he was passionate about this partnership. In my mind the best trainer of chefs outside London, he’s keen to keep stretching himself and his people. I’m sure this will be a big ticket for the North-West’s big hitters. 

Tom will be keeping an eye on things as well. It’s the dream team, and on this night they delivered. 

2024 03 06 The Mezz Mark Simon And Tom
Simon, Gordo and Tom Image: Confidentials

On my way out, I was asked several times by stewarding staff if I knew where I was going and if they could be of any help. A stewardship on par with that of the Monte Carlo Grand Prix. Hats off to the whole AO team; you’re delivering for Manchester in every regard.

Watch our video from the launch night below.

Follow Gordo on X @GordoManchester

Read next: Coco Loco: Union Co-Living launch

Read again: The Hot 50: the most popular restaurants in Manchester

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