January is a good month for dining deals. Some offer better value than others, of course. But one in particular is simply jaw-dropping.
Over at James Martin Manchester in the Great Northern, you can treat yourself to a special tasting menu offering five courses for £30. Which would be a bargain in itself. But visit from Monday to Friday until the end of February and they’ll throw in a flight of five matched wines for free, too.
It’s a saving of £17.50 per person on the usual menu price, and offers extraordinarily good value for money. We couldn’t wait to try it out.
The seasonally changing menus at James Martin Manchester give top billing to ingredients from renowned UK butchers, fishmongers, game dealers, farmers and cheese makers. The new tasting menu is no exception.
First, though, there’s homemade sourdough served with a bowl of full-flavoured beef dripping as well as extra butter and salt. The January diet will just have to start tomorrow, we decide, as we happily rip and dip the warm bread.
The first of the wine matches, a sparkling glass of prosecco, is full of zesty fruit flavours.
Our first dish on the tasting menu sounds simple: cheese and onion. It’s not simple. The onion has been baked in salt dough bread for an hour, which draws all the salt into the onion.
Then they’ve scooped the onion out and filled it with a warm, fluffy filling of Westcombe cheddar curd, homemade pickle, caramelised onions and onion mousse. It’s topped with crispy shallots for added crunch, with cute little cheese and onion palmiers on the side.
Meaty braised pork and apple faggot is next. It’s made with pork belly, loin and shoulder and a touch of spice, with a glaze on the outside made from Welsh Mountain cider.
James discovered the cider on his travels, says our server, and fell in love with it. We can see why. There’s a potato puree underneath, cooked with fresh sage and topped with crispy potatoes.
The wine match is a Brampton unoaked chardonnay from South Africa, fresh and fruity with hints of peach, pear and melon.
BBQ miso glazed cod is elegant and delicious, the intensely savoury glaze on the flaky white fillet made with miso, soy and Japanese rice wine vinegar with Thai basil.
There’s fermented kohlrabi alongside, plus rhubarb puree and a sharp rhubarb verjus split with fragrant Thai basil oil.
A Sauvignon de Touraine white wine from famille Bougrier offers aromas of ripe passionfruit and stone fruit and finishes clean and smooth on the palate.
Then it’s onto seasonal game. Rich breast of pheasant has been poached in pheasant stock and roasted on the crown. On the side is a ragout made from the confit pheasant leg cooked with red wine and tomato and wrapped in hispi cabbage.
On top of the hispi lies some cured fatty lardo, creme fraiche and crispy hispi cabbage. On the side is a parsley root puree, with more pheasant stock in a jug to pour over as desired. It’s warming and wintry and perfectly executed.
A Mezzacorona Merlot from northern Italy is an ideal wine match, medium bodied with hints of vanilla, clove and nutmeg.
At this stage in the meal, a plate of British cheeses with sourdough, parkin and digestive crackers to share is an optional add-on for £9 extra. Or if you want to go straight to pudding, it’s a caramelised white chocolate marquise.
The white chocolate has been caramelised in a water bath overnight, then placed on a pistachio sponge and topped with a blood orange marmalade and candied pistachios with apple marigold cress.
On the side is a blood orange and champagne sorbet. It’s superb.
The dessert wine is a Sauternes La Fleur from Bordeaux, deliciously sweet with flavours of apricot and peach at first and a touch of honey to follow.
Vegetarians aren’t left out, either, and can opt for a bespoke menu with options such as smoked heritage carrot with burrata, tarragon emulsion and black truffle, or cep pappardelle with artichoke and sage. And they’ll also offer vegan options if requested.
It’s a confident, creative menu – and frankly an outrageous bargain for the price. Don’t miss out.
The free wine offer is available Monday to Friday in January and February when ordering the five course taster menu at James Martin Manchester, priced at £30 per person.