IT's a perfect dining room.
The food is generally good and the scale of bar, restaurant and lounge, is comfort defined.
You enter through the handsome nineteenth century commercial facade of the King Street Townhouse Hotel and through double doors. A good-looking bar is on one side and the smart, bijou restaurant is right there in front of you. The tables all wear linen, the cutlery shines. Instead of a cram-'em-in soulless room (there are too many of those in Manchester) there's intimacy.
Behind the restaurant is a lounge, all vivid colours and soft seating with, glimpsing over the space, a mezzanine and shelves of books. It's a clever and happy design from Eamonn and Sally O'Loughlin, the owners of this and the other Eclectic Hotels in Manchester, four discreet spaces all animating each other.
The key to the menu is in the name of the restaurant, King Street Tavern. The menu is more gastro-pub than fine dining.
Because I like the space so much I've eaten most of the menu. The best starter for me is the mushrooms on toast at £5, thick toast with a thick layer of buttered up fungus so the one saturates the other and the result is a complete and satisfying success. I've also indulged in a handsome pair of Scotch eggs, though I couldn't see them on the menu on the most recent visit. Bring them back, I say. These homemade beauts always come with a soft centre and provide a classic drink bolsterer if you're occupying the bar area with friends. The beef carpaccio (£9) looks inviting, a red drama with swirls of garlic mayonnaise, though the latter flourish proves a distraction. The fierce garlic tarnishes the delicate flavours of the beef. Calamari at £6 are servicable.
My fish pie main was all about the band Meatloaf. As the group with the fatman sang several decades ago, Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad. But it can be disappointing. The £16 meal was a stunner the first two times I ate it; a perfectly moist fish pie with a rich mash topping and a generous dreamy creamy gathering of prawns and salmon. The little bowl of buttered garden peas on the side added to the whole, especially when chucked into the pie. It was all delightful if a couple of pounds too expensive. There aren't enough good fish pies about and this has been one of the best.
Sadly the last time I ate the fish pie the salmon had swam away and the kitchen had completely mistimed things producing a dry, scorched and empty bore. On the first two visits the fish pie would have scored eight, this one barely scraped a four. Consistency is everything in restaurants and even taverns. A coq au vin (£14) on that last visit worked much better, a winter warmer with all the requisite elements and flavours. The cheesecake (£5) came with cherries and nuts and was a happy combination of firm texture and sweetness. Nothing wrong with that one. Nor with the perky bottle of Picpoul (£37) and the tough double espresso (£4).
The kitchen needs to take a look at elements of the menu and take more care each time it sends food out, especially with these prices. Still, I'll be back. The food is generally good and the scale of bar, restaurant and lounge, is comfort defined. I like the place, I want it to turn into a Manchester Salon where arty folk or politicos can meet and discuss life and the world while cosseting a martini or two. This could be the sophisticated central cousin of the bar at arts centre, HOME, the utilitarian fabric of which seems to encourage debate, discussion and laughter. I can dream.
One last thing, the King Street Townhouse Hotel is on Booth Street not on King Street. Why the Booth Street Townhouse Hotel was not thought an appropriate name is a mystery of marketing that lies way beyond any logic I can muster. If you're arriving by taxi be warned.
But make the journey anyway, this is a lovely space and a fine addition to Manchester. After a meal ask if the high terrace is free on the other side of the building and if you can have a gander. The view of the Town Hall clock tower from there is excellent. From Thursday 3 March there'll be daily tours to the top of the tower at 2.15pm. I'll be guiding some of these. If you see me, wave. On the floor above the terrace an infinity pool will shortly open. Maybe bring swimwear for a post prandial splash.
King Street Tavern, 10 Booth Street, City Centre M2 4AW. 0161 667 0707
Food: 6.5 (mushrooms 7, carpaccio 5.5, scotch eggs 7, fish pie 6 (averaged out over three samplings), coq au vin 6.5, cheesecake 6.5)