Manchester Art Gallery recently made international headlines when it removed Waterhouse’s masterpiece Hylas and the Nymphs.
According to the gallery, the painting – part of a highly prized collection of Pre-Raphaelite works – was temporarily removed from display as part of a project it is working on with the artist Sonia Boyce, in the build-up to a solo exhibition of her work at the gallery next month.
The painting and its temporary absence from the gallery captured the attention of thousands of people not just in Manchester but across the world, and in so doing has opened up a wider global debate about representation in art, and how works of art are interpreted and displayed.
Whether viewed as a clumsy publicity stunt, an act of censorship, or an earnest attempt to engage with how art is curated and viewed, it certainly got everyone talking.
The gallery’s approach to dining has also arguably undergone a female-led revolution over recent months, albeit with somewhat less fanfare.
The Gallery Cafe at Manchester Art Gallery re-opened last June with Mary-Ellen McTague – best known for her award-winning restaurant Aumbry – as executive chef. The kitchen is led by Isobel Jenkins, founder of Manchester’s acclaimed Seasons Eatings supper club.
Sourcing from local producers, with a kitchen garden out front and everything made from scratch every day, it’s a fresh approach from the gallery, which also aims to run an ethical operation.
The cafe is conscious that families often struggle with the cost of eating out, so they’ve been working with Real Junk Food Manchester to offer a pay-as-you-feel menu for children, offering delicious, healthy, affordable meals.
The homemade, local and seasonal approach extends to dishes across the menu, from sourdough bread from local bakery Pollen with freshly churned butter and homemade jam to meats cured in-house and homemade sauces.
The Gallery Cafe also hosts one-off events, and a post-Valentine’s supper on 15th February which will showcase a fresh, seasonal and exclusive menu using local suppliers such as Settle’s Courtyard Dairy and Pollen Bakery.
The indulgent menu, which includes game pie and truffle mash, has been prepared with romance in mind, with matched wines available, and is part of the Gallery’s Thursday Lates series which see the venue open after hours.
The special one-off meal will start with a prosecco cocktail on arrival, followed by cured mackerel with celeriac, apple and lovage and rye bread – or beetroot carpaccio with pickled mushrooms, pine oil and toasted walnuts as a vegetarian option.
The main course sees game pie paired with smoked chestnuts, rich truffle mash and kale, or a butternut squash tart with the same accompaniments for vegetarians. Dessert will be forced rhubarb with honey, blood orange and hazelnut brittle. The organisers can cater for dietary requirements with advance notice.
Served amid works of art and iconic architecture in the heart of Manchester Art Gallery, it looks to be a romantic supper where style meets sustenance.