THE likes of 63 Degrees, Aumbry and Rose Garden are among the few upmarket, independent restaurants that have made Manchester their home.

More of a column than a breast, it looks nothing like chicken and I can’t stop thinking about it – or the puff potato for that matter. Superb. 

Of course they aren't cheap but they deliver the goods and the food sticks in the mind. I’ve spent the last week thinking about the meal at 63 Degrees.

The low-level lighting is marvellous with lampshades blossoming like bouganvilla over the restaurant walls and swinging low over tables. There are 70 covers, or thereabouts, and the space forms the base of the Light ApartHotel, where it’s rumoured that Simon Cowell insists on staying when he’s in town.

Chocolate walls shimmer, MOR music plays and there’s no stress emanating from the open kitchen. All is well at 63 Degrees.

63 Degrees63 Degrees

This is family run concern. The family in question is French, called Moreau and dad Eric is often in the kitchen while his son and restaurant founder, Alexandre Moreau, is busy setting up the family’s new patisserie, soon to open in Didsbury.

The front of house was a slightly over-friendly guy I recognised from 1847, the vegetarian restaurant down by Manchester Art Gallery. Nevertheless, 63 Degrees has a slick team serving fine dining classics, which have developed and matured since the restaurant opened in 2011.

The Guardian Weekend magazine’s food pages editor, Bob Granleese, gave it a scathing review back then, to much criticism from the Confidential editor, Jonathan Schofield. My meal this time suggested they’ve hit a comfortable plateau of excellence.

63 Degrees63 Degrees

As with the winelist of Picpoul (a summery bargain at £25), Pomerol (£46) and a pretty, Provencal rose (£28), the menu is elegantly moreish.

There’s a tomato gazpacho with goat’s cheese ice cream or basil sorbet (£8.50) to start, plus standards like foie gras terrine (£14.50) or minted pea cream with giant prawn and saffron (£9). Just when you think it’s too expensive, the plush ingredients seem to somehow justify the cost. 

Unfortunately, my gazpacho toppings (I try both) came in just the wrong side of sweet, although meaty hunks of cucumber contrast well with the sleek soup. Another starter, a line-caught sea bass tartare with Japanese yuzu fruit (£12) came up short on the flavour side of things, but there was no doubting its freshness.

Sea bass tartareSea bass tartare

Mains allowed Moreau to really got into his stride. House special is stuffed chicken cylinder and potato in puff pastry with truffle and cheese (£16.80). Like other French takes on potato (Dauphinoise, gratin, pomme frites etc), this bears zero resemblance to its vegetal origins.

The chicken is perfectionThe chicken is perfection

Nevertheless, a truffly memory is etched into my palate - and it was a match for the chicken too. Chef Moreau maintains that chicken poached at 63 degrees centigrade (hence the restaurant name) retains optimal taste and texture, and I can’t say he’s wrong. More of a column than a breast, mine looked nothing like chicken but I can’t stop thinking about it – or the puff potato for that matter. Superb. 

Rack of lamb, (a generous four ribs) with vegetable bayaldi and rosemary (£26) was well executed, not quite as striking as the chicken but very very good once more. Moreau knows how to control flavour and balance it with presentation to satisfy both the stomach and the eyes.

Rack of lambRack of lamb

Next time I might take a punt on the unusual duckling fillet, sauce vierge and pomegranate seeds (£18), or the shallot tatin with smoked tofu (£14.80), to see if the Asian influence comes up trumps this time. 

There are not a huge number desserts to choose from. Five, plus cheese at last count.

But the chocolate orb with red fruits (£7.50), which our waiter introduced as “a giant Malteaser” was easy on the eye and better in the eating.

The pink praline tart and macaroons sounded good too. Warm berry sauce melted the chocolate into a cartoon splat.

The whole thing reminded me of Aiden Byrne’s crazy prawn cocktail with it’s passion fruit sorbet dome at Manchester House, but everything worked, with flavours set off by a glass of berry-licious Mas Amiel grenache noir dessert wine. It was the only pairing recommendation we followed on the menu, but it was so well pitched I wish we’d tried them all.

Dessert at 63 DegreesDessert at 63 Degrees

This meal was my second visit in three years.

Back in 2012, I left the restaurant underwhelmed. But on this occasion the setting, cooking and wine melded joyfully with a clientele of smiling couples and graduates out with mum and dad.

There’s been a lack of French sugar in Manchester’s bloodstream since Aubaine closed, so it was great to see 63 Degrees getting things right. 

Follow Ruth on Twitter @RuthAllan


63 Degrees, 20 Church Street, Northern Quarter, M4 1PN. 0161 832 5438

Rating: 16/20

Food: 8/10 (Gazpacho 6.5, tartare 6.5, chicken 9, lamb 8.5, chocolate orb 8)
Service: 3.5/5 
Ambience: 4.5/5

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: we've got carried away