Masons Restaurant is set inside the former Freemason Hall on Bridge Street which doubles as a stunning wedding and events venue called Manchester Hall.
Masons, named with respect to the rich history of the building in which it resides, is the independent in-house restaurant of Manchester Hall.
On entry you’re greeted by a receptionist straight ahead and a maître d’ to the left.
A warm and amenable setting welcomes you as they take your coat before walking you through to the restaurant with menus in hand.
The warmth of the lighting creates a beautiful ambience. Natural light permeates the restaurant, unlike some where you feel you are eating under a spotlight.
Music is low and chilled for a smart-casual lunch. It’s cosy and casual but you know you’re in a city centre restaurant.
The space is white washed and decked with wall plants.
Dare I say, it has a European feel to it.
A cosy art nouveau interior and undeniably comfy chairs are hard to get out of once you sink into them. It’s the perfect combination of glamour and comfort. A mix that’s hard to find anywhere outside of the city centre.
The menu is classic British with a subtle French accent.
Start with wild mushrooms on toast (£9.50) with a generous mix of cépes and girolle mushrooms that taste almost like apricot jam, crowned with a sunset orange quail’s egg; wild game terrine (£11.50) with a deep red port jelly sat tentatively on a crispy thin sourdough; or king prawns soaked in chilli and garlic (£11.50), dipped in a sea green chermoula marinade.
The chilli and garlic prawns are washed down perfectly with a glass of Chilean [Cloud Rock] Sauvignon Blanc which is fresh, fruity and balances the dish well.
Much like the arrival, the service is well staffed and just short of supreme.
The winter warming main menu features a hearty cheese and onion pie, slow-braised beef, pork belly and also a fish dish.
The stars of the show include aged cheddar, celeriac and shallot inside perfect melt-in-the-mouth pastry (£16.50) served with creamy mashed potato and shiny roasted carrots with a jug of thick rich gravy; and meltingly tender braised beef cheeks (£19) that have been marinated in a red wine broth overnight, served on a bed of mashed potato with mushrooms, silver skin onions and smoked pancetta gravy.
The beef pairs beautifully with a large glass of [Richland] Black Shiraz which is smooth, peppery and leaves a strong taste of winter berries and Christmas.
My companion and I tasted each other’s dish and agreed we would like to have both the cheese pie and beef cheeks in one giant pie.
Other mains include Cheshire pork belly (£19.50) with roasted squash, braised red cabbage and apple purée, caramelised shallots and pan jus; and plaice fillet (£22) with anchovy butter, capers, parsley and charred broccoli.
You can’t brave the elements of winter before indulging in a pudding.
Sticky toffee pudding (£7) gives you an extra layer with caramelised banana, date pure and creamy vanilla ice-cream; crème brülée (£7.50) with chocolatey black forest mousse, sweet dark cherry compote and cocoa dusted over the top – unbelievably vegan-friendly. Masons cheese board (£12) is a menagerie of a blue, manchego and a creamy English brie accompanied by celery, grapes, condensed fruit chutney and crispbread. If you went for a bottle of the Black Shiraz earlier or you’ve at least had a top up, you’ll find it also goes well with the cheese.
The new winter menu is undeniably city centre prices but you’re also getting an undeniably atmospheric city centre experience and it’s a special pre-Christmas treat.
It’s a winter restaurant – less set up for summer (days) months – and unlike summer when you feel pressured to get out for the sake of the sun and your standards are low enough to drink warm cider, Masons is worth leaving the house for during the chilly season for a top quality meal that leaves you swooning, feeling snug and well fed.
Masons Restaurant is probably the comfiest restaurant in the city and, with a wonderful new winter menu and cosy chairs, I can’t see why you would want to venture anywhere else.
Masons Restaurant Bar (Manchester Hall), 36 Bridge Street, Manchester, M3 3BT