It was love at first sight when we were honoured with a sneak preview last month of Artisan, the 12,000 sq foot, a mix of loft and industrial design with a 20 ft bar and a team of chefs working fires in front of you for flame-thrown fish and meat as well weird-sounding pizzas.
“…a gorgeous fusion of Oast House meets Australasia.”
And we cemented the relationship at the VIP launch where Emma from VIVA coined a new state, now known as ‘Polo Pissed’ – as in, “I got really drunk”, and your mate asks “O but were you Polo Pissed?”
So it was with a lot of excitement and anticipation that I went to review, well I was going to say Living Venture’s newest eatery, but Australasia gave birth to Grand Pacific (go, it’s beyond fab) while I was on holiday, so god knows how many other restaurants they’ll manage to pop out while I’m writing this review.
The first thing to say is that it is indeed a feast for the eyes with an interior designed by the lady behind Australasia – Michelle Derbyshire – and you can see her stamp throughout, with a gorgeous fusion of Oast House meets Australasia.
Artwork is dotted all around (some for sale) and it’s just the scale of the thing that’s so impressive, from its bar that’s basically old tables joined together, to herb gardens, exposed brick, sumptuous booths – a graphic designers dream.
Just stunning, with the piece de resistance being the women’s lounge or bit before the loos to you and me. Indeed Artisan has the all the hallmarks of imagination and creativity run riot, but in a good way.
Most things on the menu come from the fires that you can see in the open kitchen and you can go the trad route of starters, mains and puds or as we did, pick plates that sort of go together and means you can try out everything. These start from £2.95 for little ones and £10.50 upwards for the big daddy versions.
“…so much of the offerings here look like a piece of art…”
We kicked off with sticky pork rib in chilli and garlic which you kind of shred yourself for that pulled pork vibe and chillies (warm chillies not the S&M version you often find). I’m not a great lover of pork, but the morsels had me well and truly converted.
Baked camembert had that wonderful musky, ripe flavour and was so beautifully runny it was like chasing mouthfuls of heaven around the plate.
One gripe was that it’s served with thinly sliced baguette croutons, whereas call me greedy (not all at once), but I really wanted to have fresh bread I could tear hunks off to scoop this up with.
Our other ‘starter’ was the baked mussels in pizza pie, in a wonderfully light curry sauce. This looks like a piece of art (as does so much of the offerings here) and it reminded me of ‘four and 20 blackbirds baked in a pie’ as the glossy, black mussels nestled in a pale green curry soup.
The mussels were juicy and perfectly cooked, with the ‘pie’ crust ideal for dunking in the oozing sauce.
Onto mains and we had ordered roast chicken livers in an orange and sherry salad, this looked like road kill but in a good way. Pink chicken livers surely being the antithesis of what salad is normally about, but OMG this works, as the grainy texture of the liver melts into the squishy fruit.
Whole mackerel made doe eyes at us but we still managed to smash it, enjoying the smoky texture (it’s cooked on pine) and rustic ratatouille it came with.
Booze is also well priced, with cocktails from a bargain £5.95, bottles of house wine from £15.95 and of course our Prosecco from £26.95.
Sadly, by this stage we were both absolutely full, as it’s the kind of menu where you could just keep on ordering out of curiosity and on the back of everything tasting so good.
This is another winner from Living Ventures, and one that is so reasonably priced, given the standard of the food, the theatre of the venue and the excellent service.
On the I Love’o’meter
It must be love, definitely.
Artisan, First Floor, Avenue North, Spinningfields, Manchester M3 3BZ
0161 832 4181
Visit www.artisan.uk.com for opening times etc.