Jonathan Schofield takes a long view over excellent food and drink
The entrance into Climat is sinister even with the doorman standing there. As you walk down the corridor from St Mary's Parsonage Gardens to the lift you expect a mad axeman to leap out, or maybe a berserk chef with a cleaver.
To reassure people I suggest Climat puts some calming audio in the lift. I’m imagining the patrician tones of Terry Thomas declaring, “I say, dear fellas, the restaurant is on the eighth floor. I think you’ll find it all rather different to the dark introduction, don’t you know?”
It’s a win-win situation and the addition of Climat to Manchester is definitely a win
Everything is totally different up on the eighth.
Bright light during the day and glittering city lights at night. The whole eastern wall is glass with delightful views across Manchester city centre. The large terrace at the northern end of the restaurant continues the theme with glorious views along the River Irwell past the Cathedral and Chetham’s and on to the Pennines. That terrace promises to be a special space in warmer seasons, it’s pretty special in colder ones.
Climat is all the better for being high but not too high. The views from Cloud 23 and 20 Stories are fine as well but suffer in comparison to Climat as they are almost too lofty. At Climat’s eighth floor level the taller buildings, which are some distance from the restaurant, give the city a stirring topography, you still feel in the action, not removed from it.
The interior of the restaurant is as sharp as a pin, clean surfaces and straight lines, with the tables on the window side parallel to the open kitchen. The service is knowledgeable, smooth and amiable led by the elegant Charlotte Wild.
The mood of the place is easy, restrained and comfortable although Climat needs to be careful with the volume of the music in the evening. You’ll also probably see the boss Chris Laidler bobbing around too, looking like an Australian surfer boy with his long locks and leisure clothes.
The menu makes for good reading and comes with a printed date to reflect its ever-changing nature. The chef is Simon Ulph, a Kentish man built like a cruiser-weight, who has cooked on both sides of the Atlantic at good restaurants. Ulph has a fine sense for flavour combinations and a good eye for presentation in most of his dishes.
Take the £13.50 cured gurnard, avocado, clementine, seaweed and sesame (main image above). This looks a picture with the colours but is fabulous on the tastebuds too. Those tangy clementines really set the scene but lift the gurnard and enliven the marinade; spooning up the latter was essential. Fish seems a speciality of Simon Ulph. A previous visit had provided a whole plaice with a clever beurre.
A bouillabaisse (£8.50) was rich with juicy mussels in a soup that seemed to owe too much to Heinz tomato soup. That didn’t work although things improved when I dunked the accompanying focaccia topped with saffron aioli into it.
The truffle tagliatelle (£20) was a winner through and through. Wow. Eating it was like walking through a winter woodland. The dish was alive with earth aromas from the truffle and mushroom. That grated Berkswell ewe cheese crowning the food was lovely, an enhanced and clever stand-in for pecorino.
Another total treat was the mutton (£28) even with the toad skin. Crapaudine apparently means ‘toad skin’ in French and this plate came with Crapaudine beetroot. These ‘heritage’ beets, parsnip in shape, deliver a proper punch that complemented the superb meat. They bossed the bulgar wheat and feta that came with the dish and added a deep rich red hue.
Brave flavour combinations didn’t come off as well with the veal loin (£30). The chicory was great but the addition of Gordal olives and, in particular, bagna cauda with its overpowering anchovy kick spoiled things.
The desserts were splendid. I am never happier than when I see a trifle on a menu. I will inevitably order one as they bring back Proustian memories of my gran and my mum’s trifles. Climat’s version (£7) was a star, cute as can be, all sweetness and light and hundreds and thousands. But it was overshadowed by the finest rum baba in the West (£9) with Armagnac prunes, Florentine and Chantilly cream. Jeez, this was good: potent and gentle the rum baba mix a dream preparation.
Shame I ruined a glass of Sauterne which was utterly destroyed by the brandy in the sauce. Speaking of booze the wine selection is spectacular, see below. There’s an elevated wine cellar of 300 wines at Climat which offers depth and range. Indeed the whole experience of dining at Climat is elevated in so many ways, with the food and the drink, the service and the views.
There’s something else going on here. Climat is the second restaurant from Chris Laidler after the much admired and similarly curiously monikered Covino in Chester.
Blackfriars House is a 1923 former HQ for the Bleacher’s Association by prolific Manchester architect Harry S Fairhurst (Confidentials’ staff get nervous when I don’t mention such details). Fairhurst stamped his mark across the city centre in the first half of the twentieth century. The building has been reinvented by Bruntwood, the Manchester-based property company, which stamped its mark across the city centre for the last forty years.
Bruntwood are a wholly admirable and philanthropic company that knows what it is doing. The company are clearly chasing top-quality food and drink operators from across the country. Climat is a result of that, Higher Ground on New York Street is another example.
I was in Bristol a few weeks ago. I was dining in Pasture, think Hawksmoor with frills. It is a fabulous restaurant.
The general manager asked where we were from. We told him. “We were up in Manchester recently looking at a site,” he said. He didn’t know I was a writer in the city so, of course, I sneakily pushed him for more info. Turns out he and other management were looking at a prominent Bruntwood site in the city. I won’t say where because I’d not like to jeopardise any deal but Pasture would be a real asset to the food and drink scene in Manchester. This policy of Bruntwood bringing excellence to Manchester benefits the city while also promoting their properties.
It’s a win-win situation and the addition of Climat to Manchester is definitely a win. Chris, Charlotte and Simon are creating something really good here.
Climat, 8th Floor, Blackfriars House St Marys Parsonage, Manchester M3 2JA
Follow Jonathan Schofield on Instagram and Twitter @JonathSchofield
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidentials and completely independent of any commercial relationship. They are a first-person account of one visit by one, knowledgeable restaurant reviewer and don't represent the company as a whole.
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.
Gurnard 8.5, bouillabaisse 6, tagliatelle 8.5, mutton 8, veal 7, trifle 7.5, rumbaba 8.5