Grafene is a brand new, unique and modern British dining experience just off King Street. Inspired by graphene, the world’s first 2D material first isolated at Manchester University, Paul and Kathryn Roden’s restaurant is their food and drink interpretation of this exciting development in science and technology. They’ve spelt it with an ‘f’ for legal reasons and quite possibly to signify ‘food’. It’s not a spelling mistake.
Paul and Kathryn opened Losehill House, their four star hotel in The Peak District, nearly ten years ago. With their executive chef, Darren Goodwin, the couple hope to bring a little bit of the country to Manchester.
This is especially evident in the cocktails – visually stimulating interactive concoctions, with some interesting and exciting results in their flavour too.
The space seems bigger inside somehow. No expense has been spared. The interior is stylish and modern with charcoal washes and splashes of lemon. It’s evocative of industrial Manchester with bold lines and subtle nods towards the worker bee with honeycomb shapes. A central hexagon shaped bar is impressive and welcoming.
We tried three very different styles of drink. Grafene 55 is like a chemistry experiment involving Tanqueray gin, elderflower liqueur, and pear and white grape juice, not to mention customer participation, laboratory instruments, and dry ice! Lots of smoking, bubbling and colour changes later, the finished drink looks like a beautiful purple molten galaxy slowly moving around the martini glass. It tastes light, like pear drops, with a subtle taste of gin.
Fruit Tea may be served in a pot, but that’s where the tea ends and the alcohol begins. Chase rhubarb vodka mixed with raspberry liqueur and a secret fruit ‘brew’ result in a highly pleasing but toxic cuppa! There are also more classic cocktails with their own unique twist, try their ‘Old-Fashioned’ Negroni, with infused damson flavours in the form of a curious ground crystal compound to add and mix as required.
Executive chef Darren Goodwin’s menu is modern British, using seasonal produce to maximum effect. Each week a new starter, main and dessert are added to the menu to keep it fresh for repeat customers and to allow new customers to enjoy some of the most popular dishes.
All tastes are catered for. Whether it’s a meat, fish or vegetarian dish you fancy, there’s such a great selection of all three on the menu that you may be spoilt for choice.
All three starters we tried are superb. Squash bisque is a well spiced thick soup with earthy king oyster mushrooms, broad beans and basil. It tastes like autumn in a bowl. The crispy lamb breast looks like a pork belly but the overwhelming lamb flavour is unmistakable, with the right ratio of cooked meat to tasty fat and the pomegranate and saffron yoghurt adding balance and texture.
Our favourites are the Scottish seared scallops – big, plump specimens beautifully cooked and accompanied by a crunchy breaded black pudding bon bon, crisp prosciutto and chorizo puree.
When it comes to mains, the vegetarian option nearly steals the show. Double baked cheese soufflé gets everything right – light and fluffy and risen to perfection. What makes it even more special is the accompanying Winchester blue puree. With eye-watering pickled onions and some less pickly autumn vegetables, we highly recommend this dish.
Wild halibut with crisp skin firmly on is cooked and seasoned perfectly, with the pomme Anna making it like a very posh fish ‘n’ chips.
Meat lovers should try the signature ribeye. The Cumbrian salt aged beef is outstanding. It comes medium rare to make the most of that lovely fat, and carnivores will delight in the ox cheek and potato terrine also on the plate. With a very stocky jus and smoked Wensleydale custard, this is right up there with the best.
The pastry chef is a bit of a star. Cristina Molteni used to work at The Ritz in Paris and her desserts are really rather special. Kaffir lime posset with crunchy granola, mandarin gel, and mango lemongrass sorbet is light, elegant and divine. Chocolate lovers should go for the chocolate fondant with dark and bittersweet chocolate oozing out of the middle and a zingy mandarin sorbet on the side.
With fine dining not always the easiest to get right, we like the fact that Grafene actually delivers what many others promise – and it’s still early days. Between the bar and the restaurant it manages to produce equally exciting objects of desire, beautifully presented, innovative and fun. But most importantly, with substance to back up all that style.
55 King Street (kind of), Manchester M2 4LQ