“Manchester, despite being one of my favourite stop-off points for dining, does not have any Michelin stars,” writes acclaimed food critic Grace Dent in her latest restaurant review for The Guardian.
“This is ludicrous.”
Manchester, for Grace, feels like “a city where so many restaurants are reaching for greatness.”
But the restaurant she’s up north to review this time is Mana, which is headed up by ex-Noma chef Simon Martin.
It’s been quite the few weeks for the Ancoats restaurant. It was the only Manchester operation to be included in The Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards list of the top 100 restaurants in the UK, which praised the “high-end experience minus the starchy pomp.”
That was swiftly followed by praise from a revered national food critic just last month, who described the Mana experience as “sheer seductive hedonism”.
“From the moment the first food arrives at our table in this lofty, airy and modishly austere Ancoats room, I’m blown away,” wrote Marina O’Loughlin in The Sunday Times.
“This isn’t a good restaurant by Manchester standards; this is a good restaurant by world standards.”
Grace Dent also seems impressed by Simon’s cooking, immediately picking up on his influences from his training at Copenhagen’s famous Noma.
“Mana loves Noma like Oasis loved The Beatles,” she writes. “Positively, jubilantly, and creating their own buzz in the process.”
Each dish at Mana “is a small, fancifully presented art project,” says Grace.
“Oysters are served dramatically, cooked in chicken fat, wrapped in cabbage, shoved back in their shells and served on dry ice, which appealed to the goth in me.
“Yakitori eel glazed with yeast and deep, red blackcurrant vinegar is a certain star of the show: it is so incredibly funky. Not in an Earth, Wind & Fire way, but more in a Vincent Price on Jacko’s Thriller ‘The Funk of 40,000 years’ way. A funk that curls your toes with its all-powerful, umami thrust.”
The critic is equally impressed by “two wondrous dishes of gaspingly fresh English peas with caviar and plum and, my very favourite, a bowl of sweet, velvety charred onion petals with fermented barley and kelp.”
She awards Mana an impressive 9/10 for both food and service.
With a culinary experience this impressive and the accolades coming thick and fast, it’s hard not to mention the possibility of this being the Manchester restaurant to finally bag a Michelin star this year.
In her Sunday Times review, Marina eloquently addressed the dreaded M word.
“I’ve tried to avoid mentioning Manchester’s what-us-bovvered? huff over being ignored, year after year, by Michelin,” she wrote.
“Here, I am failing at the final hurdle. If Mana doesn’t get a star, it’ll be pretty much proof of what I’ve long suspected: the tyre floggers are having a sniggery time trolling the city.”
Does Grace agree over at The Guardian?
“Mana is the sound of Manchester turning a corner,” she says. “I hope the men with the stars agree.”
We believe Mana is a gastronomic game changer, too. We’ll just have to wait until October to see what Michelin think.