I think it’s fair to say that this weekend I dined like an absolute Queen. Not only did I indulge in the more affordable side of the eating experience in Manchester at Taco Bell in the Arndale Centre, but I was also invited by the Podium Restaurant in The Hilton at Deansgate to review their new menu from their award winning chef Stuart Duff. When I first walked in, I thought ‘eh up duck, it’s a bit fancy in here like’ and that I possibly could of dressed a bit more erm, posh. But once we were guided to our seats and welcomed by the absolutely amazing staff, I soon settled in. The waiting on staff really did make the experience exceptional (and no, they didn’t realise I was there for a review until the end!) and they were chatty, each with such a pleasant and warming personality that you really felt comfortable during the meal.
Whilst you choose from the menu, you’re offered fresh bread to get you going for the ‘main event’. A selection of rolls to choose from, including seeded, brown and white, all slightly warm and served with butter. Service was quick but not rushed and we soon chose our starters from the menu. For my starter I thought I’d go for something I definitely wouldn’t usually choose – Grilled Artichoke and blue cheese with Orange salad on rocket with a citrus dressing. The flavour from the blue cheese really complimented the artichoke, however the citrus and orange salad didn’t make too much of an appearance. This wasn’t an issue though, because the blue cheese provided such a rich creamy flavour which was quickly refreshed with the artichoke and rocket. My dining companion went for the Halloumi option which was served with potato salad alongside beetroot. It came as a surprise that the potato was served cold, but the grilled halloumi worked really well with the salad. Both portion sizes were perfect to start your meal, both full of flavour without being over powering or too filling. It’s great to see that the menu is based on quality over quantity, and unlike a lot of restaurants I’ve been too it’s not a selection of over powering dishes which stodge you up before the main course.
The main course were a whole new level of taste sensation and both we bursting with such intricate flavour combinations, some of which I’d never tried before! I opted for the Duo of Chicken, which was made up of delicious chicken breasts alongside a flakey terrine of flavourful chicken. Served with cabbage sautéed with pancetta and drizzled with a creamy white wine and tarragon sauce alongside a ‘little wall’ of potatoes (as the waiter put it, hehe). Sometimes chicken can be a bit of a non starter when you have it out, and restaurants tend to smother it in sauces and flavour hiding the actual flavour of the meat, but the Podium Chef kept the flavours of the chicken breast intact and it was amazing. Just the right level of crispness on the skin with a chunk of fresh, juicy meat inside. When the plate came out my initial thought was how small the portion size was, but when I actually ate the meal I couldn’t finish it and had to pass half the chicken breast across the table for someone else to finish! It was just so full of rich flavours and filled me up so quickly! I did get definite food envy when I looked at what my company had ordered – which was pistachio crusted lamb. The lamb is served very pink, which the waiter did warn about when ordering, but luckily that’s how we allllll like our lamb. One of the highlights of the plate was strangely enough the carrots?! They were ‘fennel scented’ which made them taste like they’d had some kind of power up from being regular carrots and the flavour was just amazing. It’s hard to explain! The lamb rump is served alongside cous cous, pomegranate jus and merguez sausage. I personally didn’t like the sausages, but luckily the person who ordered it did. They were just a bit too full of flavour for my tastes, but were soon wolfed down alongside the rest of the plate.
And finally, we have dessert. I am absolutely gutted I ordered the whoopie pie! Well, not really, but it was a toss up between the Chestnut Whoopie Pie, served with nutella ice cream and vanilla cream and the ‘Edible English Garden’. The Chestnut Whoopie Pie was absolutely delicious, don’t get me wrong. It was a nice slightly nutty yet sweet, cookie come cake concoction. It was very very nice. I didn’t choose the edible English garden because I assumed it would be a selection of English fruits or something? You know, gooseberries and the like. But what it actually was was something much more exciting. What came out was a slate which had on an ACTUAL EDIBLE ENGLISH GARDEN on it. It had ‘soil’ laid out, which had coffee and chocolate flavours in and everything on the slate you could eat – including the pot! It looked just like a ceramic ramekin, until you cut through it with your spoon. The flowers tasted, well, like flowers. Just how flowers smell, they tasted and there was a layer of white chocolate mousse at the bottom of the little pot. It was amazing.
For 3 courses at The Podium Restaurant at The Hilton it will cost you £27 per person.
Our over all bill was £64.50 including drinks.
Considering places such as Jamie’s Italian come to a price just shy of £50 (without any desserts!) I think the Podium out ranks that completely in terms of dining experience and uniqueness of the food served. The Podium is perfect for a special occasion and I will definitely be heading back for my birthday in November!