Second Floor Bar and Brasserie turns over a new leaf with their latest seasonal menu
Harvey Nichols Second Floor Bar and Brasserie is sometimes overlooked amongst a continuous raft of shiny new Manchester openings. Yet it remains a popular dining destination for regulars who love their beautiful modern British dishes and of course, one of the best views of the city.
The core kitchen team, lead by head chef Matthew Horsfield, always manages to find new inspiration and, as you’d imagine, have access to the best suppliers and the highest quality ingredients. Their menu evolves according to the seasons and Autumn especially, brings with it an abundance of flavours and textures, managing to bridge the gap between comfort food and fine dining.
Confidential went over one lunchtime to try some of the new dishes on Harvey Nichols’ latest menu. The brasserie has undergone a few tweaks recently, to make it more open plan. The light streaming in through the huge windows and the view over Exchange Square make it a gorgeous and quite unique place to sit with a few nibbles and a cocktail, half a dozen of their famous fresh oysters and a glass of champagne, or treat yourself to a full lunch or dinner.
When we went, it was pouring down outside. We sat at the table by the window with a homemade ginger beer, watching bobbing umbrellas scuttling across the square below us. To get the taste-buds going, we shared a veggie platter; olives, cornichons, roasted peppers, garlic and sun-blushed tomatoes, along with slices of chargrilled and marinated aubergine, a smooth pumpkin hummus and fried cubes of gorgeously salty feta cheese.
Harvey Nichols always manages to maximise flavour whilst keeping their dishes clean and light with a touch of originality. This was particularly apparent in a starter of thinly sliced Arctic char with tuna mayonnaise, giant capers, fresh cucumber and luxurious touches of Keta caviar and a little orange zest dotted around the plate (£9). We also highly recommend ordering a plateful of air-dried Dorset beef (£7) – a perfect example of excellent British charcuterie, inspired by the Italian bresaola, but with subtle hints of herbs, juniper berries and a little of the port it had been washed in before drying.
The award for the most autumnally inspired starter we’ve ever seen has to go to the gorgeous wild venison carpaccio with pickled vegetables and gin-marinated brambles (£9). Each of the separate components having gone through a painstaking (and loving) process in the Harvey Nichols kitchens, before being assembled to create this seasonal wonderland of textures and flavours.
For a touch of luxury, comfort (and carbohydrates) you might prefer the homemade tagliatelle with creamy celeriac and black truffle shavings (£14.) This can sometimes be tricky to eat – especially when holding a glass of good wine in the other hand – but thanks to the clever way it was cut and served, we managed to do a pretty convincing Sophia Loren (we think).
For mains, if you’re a meat eater, it would be a mistake to overlook the smoked beef short rib with roasted garlic, parsnip puree and pickled mustard seeds (£18). What a dish! Not something easy to replicate at home, even for the most accomplished chef. Top quality beef, slow-cooked for 12 hours at a precise temperature before being finished off for three hours in the Josper smoker to produce a soft, delicious and full flavoured beef. The accompanying pickled mustard seeds are a revelation – not surprising considering they took over a dozen attempts to perfect apparently.
We’d also highly recommend Tandoori poussin(£15) – a perfectly balanced dish with homemade aubergine pickle, cooling mint raita and a subtly sweet mango infused rice. Fish eaters will love the crispy skinned Atlantic cod with puy lentils, wild girolle mushrooms, herb dressing and samphire (£18) – a triumph of autumnal tastes and textures, especially when paired with an indulgent side order of wild mushroom gratin with garlic and thyme (£5).
Always, always leave room for pudding at Harvey Nichols Manchester, as their hugely talented pastry chef Kerrie Hacquoil is a master of her trade. She always manages to infuse classic desserts with layers of more interesting flavours and cooking techniques; chocolate sachertorte with smoked chestnuts and poached pears (£8) or Port-roasted figs, with vanilla cream cheese and her take on traditional Hobnob biscuits. If you’re in a hurry and spoilt for choice, you can always ask her to prepare a selection of tasting portions in an assiette of miniature desserts.
So even though Manchester is a buzzing city with new restaurants opening all the time, keep in mind some of the wonderful restaurants, like Harvey Nichols Second Floor Bar and Brasserie that have been serving wonderful food and drink for a number of years. There’s a good reason they stay the distance.
Harvey Nichols, 21 New Cathedral Street, Manchester M1 1AD