Jonathan Schofield visits the biggest fish tank in Manchester and reminisces about treacle mines
The Wigan treacle mines are, of course, well known. Treacle occupies a seam in the earth between fire-clay and coal and after filtration can be used almost immediately on such items as sticky toffee pudding. Some miners eat it straight from the ground, swearing its better in its completely natural state.
I think it was my grandad who told me about the treacle mines of Wigan and I believed it for a long time. It’s a beguiling fib and I still want to believe him. There is something elemental about treacle, and there’s also a sort of affinity with the restaurant name 1761.
The aquarium almost makes 1761 a tourist attraction. Apparently the thing cost a fortune...
This refers to the year in which the Duke of Bridgewater opened his canal, the first truly artificial waterway of its type in the country. He did this to bring coal from his mines at Worsley seven miles into Manchester by narrowboat. The 1761 opening was an epic event in global industrialisation and while it doesn’t immediately summon up culinary visions, the moniker is a pleasant example of local pride.
1761 restaurant sits in a traumatised site, once home to Lime and then the hapless Avalanche. It’s a location that’s not had the best of luck. Let’s hope it’s all different this time, because I like the place.
The food is straightforward and doesn’t try too hard but satisfies with its robust honesty and its occasional flair. The roast pumpkin and roast carrot soup (£5.50) with toasted bread was sturdy but given a clever edge by adding just enough chilli to add interest without tearing out your throat. The salt cod Scotch egg with samphire and aioli (£7.50) was a curious concoction but worked very well. The fish/egg/samphire combo all bunched up together was particularly enjoyable.
The corn beef hash main (£13.50) is one of the best hashes around with a duck egg breaking beautifully into the meat and spuds. The corn beef is slow cooked for 24 hours – or at least I think that’s what the waiter said. I might be wrong, but it’s cooked for a long time, although probably for less than a decade.
A grilled chicken breast at £14.50 with a side and sauce was simplicity itself. It was from the grill, after all, but at least the flesh of the bird was moist and succulent. The only bum note were the beef dripping chips (£4.50) which were soggy.
The conclusion to the meal came with the treacle toffee pudding (£6). It was damn fine, sweet, heavy, rich and all the better for the addition of dates and, of course, the treacle, including treacle ice cream.
Philip Healey, the man behind the restaurant, is a proud Manc and there are numerous references to his passion for the city and the region across the menu and the decor. That means bees of course, the main door handle is a bee, but also menu items such as Mini Manc Balls ‘burger bites’. Greater Manchester’s lack of airs and graces is celebrated with other choices such as fish finger butties, salt beef baps and steak and onions.
Aside from the restaurant there is a very large bar in the basement called Lily’s which specialises in Bollinger champagne but also cocktails with names such as ‘The Pankhurst’ and ‘The Hacienda’ – more examples of the rise of Manchesteritus in this city. Apparently the first of these cocktails makes you want to protest in purple and green, while the second makes you want to dance delusionally as if your bloodstream is flooded with ecstasy.
The best part of the basement is the absolutely ginormous aquarium with a mesmerising mix of tropical fish whirling around. The aquarium almost makes 1761 a tourist attraction. Apparently the thing cost a fortune. It looks fabulous but does indicate that Philip Healey is more than a little eccentric.
The service is excellent and comes with smiles and wit when required. Overall 1761 is a comfortable place with good food and great views into the surrounding streets. Let’s hope, unlike Avalanche, it lasts the course, because it is a good addition to the city.
Right then, I’m arranging a charabanc to visit the treacle mines of Wigan, anybody up for it? I recommend waders. Things might get sticky.
1761 Manchester, 2 Booth St, Manchester, M2 4AT. Tel: 0161 714 0414
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Soup 7, Scotch egg 7, hash 7, chicken 6.5, sticky toffee pudd 7
Charming and witty
Pleasant space upstairs, crazy fish downstairs