Our Kelly tucks into a sumptuous tasting menu at Grafene…
In a word:
Tucked away on the pristine periphery of King Street, Grafene has all the gravitas you’d expect from a high-end restaurant in the heart of Manchester. As a city that has an uncomfortable relationship with fine dining, I was eager to see how the owners had settled into their surroundings.
Greeted by the lovely Kelly, our Glaswegian hostess who clearly shared a passion for her adopted home, we were seated in a booth and given a chance to browse the menu.
Admiring the décor, it was clear that no expense was spared in created a sophisticated feel. Cushioned leather, warm mustard tiling and natural stone surfaces all added to the elegance of the restaurant, which was reflected in the menu.
Eager to get a well-rounded view of the restaurant, we leapt at Kelly’s suggestion to try the best-selling tasting menu….
The Tasting Menu – £35 (£60 with wine flight)
Kicking off with an amuse bouche of chicken liver parfait and compote in hollowed-out egg shells, we clinked glasses with Pommery Champagne, ready to embark on a five-course tasting menu with accompanying wines…
Fine dining naysayers in the city, take note. The first course of the menu isn’t mushroom foam, but a rustic selection of delectable breads, including a cheese roll, rosemary focaccia and wholemeal loaf.
Served warm with two types of butter – creamy and burnt – this was a comforting start to an indulgent dinner… with just the right portion size to ensure you didn’t fill up on first course!
Tomato, consommé, black olive, mozzarella
Tomatoes never taste the same as they do on holiday, do they? That’s what I thought, until Grafene proved otherwise. Bursting with flavour, this medley of fresh and sundried tomatoes was a refreshing contrast to the previous course.
Tossed in olives and mozzarella, this summery dish was drizzled with a quenching essence of tomato juice that had us scooping every last drop. Washed down with a crisp, fruity glass of Sussex white, it left our taste buds tingling.
Stone bass, daikon, seaweed, ponzu
Next up, a fish dish with the delicacy and depth to make an impression. A tender sliver of stone bass topped with a crunchy layer of skin, it was accompanied by a mellow ginger compote, giving it an irresistible oriental spin.
To soften the flavours further, a creamy white sauce to mop up the flaky chunks of fish. This dish was served with a fragrant glass of rose, a tradition wine from the Provence region with just the right level of subtlety.
Lamb rump, kidney, spring vegetables
Bringing the flavour up yet another notch, this dish didn’t pull any punches. Pan-fried lamb rump took centre stage, coupled with pink-in-the-middle kidneys and a colourful green burst of asparagus, tenderstem broccoli and beans.
The soft, rare meat made a mighty companion to al dente spring vegetables, especially when drizzled with a thick, rich jus. To reinforce those earthy flavours, a mellow glass of Malbec was just what the doctor ordered.
White chocolate and raspberry delice, aero, mint
Far from an afterthought, the dessert was a perfect counterbalance to the previous dish, matching the richness of the lamb with the sweetness of the raspberry and pink moscato.
Carefully set and sliced, the delice was topped with bubbly homemade aero and a white chocolate shard. Scooped up with sharp blasts of frozen raspberry, it was a moreish end to a memorable tasting menu.
Fine dining without the pomp and ceremony that Manchester can’t stand, Grafene is a class addition to the city’s restaurant scene. Fitting in perfectly with its King Street compatriots, it’s somewhere a little different for the inquisitive diner who has done the rounds of Manchester’s dining establishments. And, at £60 all in, this certainly isn’t a budget-breaker – even for a midweek treat.
55 King Street
Manchester City Centre
0161 696 9700