Jonathan Schofield finds, after a long while, both an MPW place and a Canal Street place he likes
THERE was a scene in the last Star Trek movie, Star Trek Beyond, when, with the aid of clever cloaking devices, Captain Kirk is copied a thousand times, so that when the baddies try to shoot him they never know which is the real skipper of the Enterprise.
Marco Pierre White (MPW) is as elusive as the heroic Kirk and, given his macho posturing on photos throughout the 75 zillion restaurants that bear his name, he’d probably approve of the analogy. The enfant terrible of British cooking has in 2018 become a brand that fits all kitchens. He’s a byword, like a hoover or a Dyson.
Problem is, his brand is spread as thin as starvation margarine. A couple of years ago I had an utterly terrible meal at a White branded restaurant at the Holiday Inn at The Quays.
The newest MPW place, Mr White’s English Chophouse, at the Velvet Hotel, is much better. It should be an asset for the host venue and it should be a boost for The Village. To put it kindly, The Village has had an uneven time as a restaurant destination. Several hundred years ago, in the 1990s, little Oliver Peyton established gargantuan restaurant and bar venture Mash & Air which exploded under the combustible weight of its own pomposity, bad boy clientele and sheer improbability. Olly very quickly ran squealing back to London.
There are too many photos of MPW as a young man with a large cleaver...
Meanwhile, I seem to recall there was a decent restaurant on the top of Manto bar for a few months, and over the road was long-gone Metz, which was jolly nosh-wise. Taurus started off really well and Velvet restaurant, which is now home to the Chophouse, was good too. Today the Molly House and near-neighbours Richmond Tea Rooms are perhaps the best of the bunch.
So the Chophouse is good news. It’s an attractive space as well, darkly smart, oddly restrained for The Village, not at all like G-A-Y bar down the road. The pictures of MPW are a distraction though. Ok, they are not up there with the cult of Gino D’Campo across town, but there are too many of them and they are peculiar because they depict MPW as a young man with a large cleaver. Maybe MPW’s agents are getting worried about our hero’s mortality, too many laughter lines and all that.
Starters were excellent. The fish soup (£7.95) smelled like a good fresh fish market and when combined with a hot rouille and gruyere cheese became utterly fabulous. A baked camembert (£9.95) was a charmer too; bold like the fish soup and a clear and defined dish. There were good tomatoes, balsamic and sourdough with this too.
The velvet artichoke (£15.95) was the Chophouse veggie main event and it was ok, rather than sparkling. There was a bit of a row going on with the artichokes and the other ingredients, and while the truffle oil worked, it tasted and looked like one of those veggie sackcloth and ashes dishes you get at Eighth Day on Oxford Road. A dish to eat in dungarees and sandals imagining yourself on a sixties protest march. It came with a salad that was very dry and needed more oil.
Will people pay £29.95 for a 33 day aged T-bone on Canal Street?
The roast rump of lamb (£23.95) was a very good dish damaged by a couple of discordant elements. The meat was perfectly cooked and beautifully tender and juicy but wore a Dijon mustard and herb cape on one side that was so fiercely mustardy I wondered, given the bright yellow of the colour, whether an English mustard had been used. I was assured it hadn’t, but I had to scrape the mustard off to enjoy the meat. Meanwhile the dauphinoise potatoes were too dry and needed more creaminess.
We were back with the quality of the starters with a wonderful mess (£6.50), which was a handsome mountain of sweetness and fruit.
Canal Street, for the first time in a long time, has a restaurant with some aspiration. If Mr White’s English Chophouse can tighten up the mains then it’s a winner. Next time I’ll maybe go for a steak as they seem to be majoring in these. The prices are slightly concerning though. Will people pay £29.95 for a 33 day aged T-bone on Canal Street? Time will tell.
Mr White’s English Chophouse, 2 Canal St, Manchester, M1 3HE. Tel: 0161 236 9003
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.
Fish soup 8, camembert 7.5, artichoke dish 6, lamb 6, mess 8
Enthusiastic but please don’t pour more than half the bottle of wine at one go into two glasses
Cool and sophisticated with too much young Mr MPW