SquareMeal Review of Mana
This new arrival on the burgeoning Ancoats scene is chef Simon Martin’s first venture since leaving the internationally renowned – and two-Michelin-starred – Noma in Copenhagen. It’s a cool, elegant space with a full view of the action in the bespoke open kitchen.
The hyper-seasonal menu sees 12 to 17 courses delivered in quick succession, all using ingredients from the land and waters of the British Isles. Highlights of our visit included ‘first apple of the autumn season’: a shiny red fruit filled with fermented apple, two different types of wild apple, the juice from another six types of apple, and fragrant rose oil – pretty, playful and delicious. Crisp fried reindeer moss from the Isle of Skye comes with cep powder and thyme salt on top, and smoked egg yolk emulsified with smoky garlic butter to dip.
Three snowy white slices of tender raw scallop are brushed with bronze ‘piso’ (like miso but using yellow split peas rather than soya beans). Smoked eel from Devon is marinated in blueberry vinegar then brushed with a yeast reduction and cooked over a yakitori barbecue for an intense smoky savouriness. Locally foraged hen of the woods mushroom is slow-cooked with sea kelp before being barbecued for an appealing char.
The kitchen team has been assembled from some of the best North West restaurants – Forest Side, Where the Light Gets In, Manchester House – and there is considerable skill on show here. It’s expensive, but this inventive, playful menu is worth the cost. A welcome addition to Manchester.
Mana is a Michelin-starred restaurant owned and run by Chef-Patron Simon Martin, who brings his considerable experience from working in Copenhagen’s two-Michelin-starred Noma. His outlook might seem a little pretentious – he talks at length on his website about how his restaurant or “canvas” allows him to breathe, energise and channel his personality into an evolving and immersive experience for others to share in – but when the result is an inventive tasting menu that has won numerous accolades, it’s easily forgiven.
Each day, in the state-of-the-art open kitchen, the very best produce from the British Isles is transformed into small dishes that make up the multi-course tasting menus available from Wednesday-Saturday. Each is thoughtfully designed and carefully constructed to ensure it is full of flavour and beautiful to behold.
As you’d expect, the menu changes daily depending on what produce is available, but examples of dishes you could encounter include barbecued duck broth with lavender, blue mussel with inoculated grains and pickled flowers, aged eel with roasted yeast and blueberry, and lovage and dark chocolate Æbleskiver (Danish pancake balls). Optional wine pairing is available for both the lunch tasting menu experience and the dinner tasting menu experience and promises an interesting and challenging selection.
Mana isn’t located in the centre of Manchester, but in Ancoats – a trendy neighbourhood known for its burgeoning food and drink scene. That said, its interiors wouldn’t look out of place in Mayfair thanks to widely spaced tables, gauzy white curtains at the windows, and pendant lights hanging at varying lengths throughout the dining room. Reservations are only taken via Mana’s own booking system online and pre-payment is required, so if you’re looking to book for a special occasion, it’s worth doing so well in advance. The kitchen is able to cater for all intolerances and allergies except vegan menus or menus free from milk protein.