Chef Aiden Byrne is back at Tower 12 for his new venture, restaurant MCR. And though the restaurant isn’t called Manchester House anymore, the menu includes several of the dishes the chef is best known for.
Aiden has returned to the site after it was closed by Living Ventures in October, having recently left rival Spinningfields restaurant 20 Stories. He’s pleased to be back in the kitchen he knows so well.
“It means that we can bring back the tasting menu and get back to basics,” says Aiden about his return.
“Doing what I love, sending food and watching as our customers connect with the food. Personally I felt like I was coming home when I walked back in here.”
It’s been a quick turn-around for the chef and his team, who have been working day and night to get the restaurant up and running for service before the year is out.
“We are so happy to be be able to make this happen before Christmas, but we just had to make it work,” says Aiden. “It’s been a crazy week turning this around.”
The restaurant MCR menu offers two tasting menus – six or 12 courses – along with an express lunch option. We went to try it out to see what diners can expect.
The restaurant’s 12 course tasting menu is priced at £90, or six courses at £45. Aiden describes the menu as an evolution of his legacy at Manchester House, with some familiar dishes making an appearance.
Our six-course lunch begins with golden, shard-like crackers of intensely savoury crisp chicken skin stuffed with delicate white crabmeat and tangy sorrel, served with a glass of boozy ‘gold rush’ apple juice.
Then comes a mushroom and Jerusalem artichoke dish incorporating roasted artichoke puree with ceps, hen of the woods, and pickled enoki mushrooms. A hot, clear, earthy mushroom broth is poured over.
The mushroom dish is served with Sparkling John Japanese sake which brings a clean, dry flavour of mellow fruits and fresh citruses. We liberally spread chewy sourdough, baked in-house, with roasted chicken butter. So far so good.
Ribblesdale goats cheese and onion soup is one of Aiden’s signature dishes, one of my longstanding personal favourites of his, and it’s good to see it return to his menu at restaurant MCR.
The dish is served as a frozen globe of white onion soup with cubes of sweet sherry jelly, which melt away when the hot creamy, cheesy soup is poured over. It’s a refined, complex dish, full of huge flavours. Comforting yet luxurious, like an expensive cashmere blanket.
Next up is frogs leg wrapped in a vivid green parcel of butter head lettuce with a garlic and parsley foam, followed by a choice of mains: braised beef cheek with choucroute, secreto and txogitxu tartar – or salt aged duck breast with grilled blackberries and beetroot.
Alongside an optional extra of regional cheeses, priced at a £15 supplement, there are two sweet treats on the six-course menu.
The first is a chocolate brownie style dessert served with festive mince pie ice cream. Then comes another of Aiden’s signature dishes, served in miniature – little Manchester tarts to go with coffee.
If you’re going for the longer tasting menu, the extra dishes include mussels with peppered pork lardo and squid ink tapioca; snails with grilled lettuce, razor clam and Rioja; and chestnut with apple and calvados.
It’s a considered menu, taking diners on a journey through the dishes Aiden has made his own and featuring some classic cooking with a twist. But it’s also important to the chef that he puts the customer first.
“The key ingredient for the new restaurant is putting the guest at the heart of everything we’re doing,” says Aiden.
“If our guests want something other than what is on the menu, if we have the ingredients then we can make it work for them.”
This is accomplished cooking in a relaxed setting, with good service as part of the package. It feels like this chef has returned home.