James Martin Manchester was recently named one of the UK’s best restaurants in the Sunday Times top 100 restaurant list – one of only two restaurants in Manchester to make the list. We asked Jemima Forbes to investigate…

This fine dining restaurant in the former Great Northern headquarters serves up modern British cuisine and is the brainchild of celebrity television chef, James Martin.

“…the apple crumble
soufflé served with
bramble sorbet was a
lovely light blend of
autumnal flavours
and worth the 15
minute wait for it to
be cooked…”

Opening in 2013, it’s the second restaurant to be opened by Martin inside a casino, and serves up an array of classic dishes made from the finest UK produce. From The Meat Market with its multitude of different steaks to the fish, game, meat and vegetarian options of the a la carte menu, there is enough choice on the menu to tickle everybody’s taste buds.

The menu changes seasonally so it was no surprise that on my visit to James Martin Manchester that some dishes were inspired by the approaching holiday festivities as well as traditional winter favourites. Bursting with strong flavours, interesting pairings and attractive presentation skills, we began our culinary adventure by sampling three of the starters on the menu.

The Crabley goat’s cheese beignet was a delicious morsel of pastry and mild cheese served with a beetroot relish and a sesame cracker that added a touch of sweetness to the dish. The accompanying beetroot sorbet was vibrant but shockingly cold with the heat of the beignet, but they nevertheless combined well.

Next up was the hand dived scallop ceviche, an interesting and textural combination of smoked mussels, caviar, seaweed and scallop on a red pepper jelly with some pumpkin seeds to add some crunch.

REVIEW | James Martin Restaurant at Manchester235 Casino I Love Manchester

My favourite out of the starters was the Thai crab risotto; bursting with flavour that reminded me of past holidays and extra creamy from the mascarpone base, it was a thoroughly enjoyable dish that expertly merged East and West.

For the main course we opted for meat dishes, deciding after much deliberation on the salt-rubbed pork belly and the wagyu rib eye steak with fries and mashed root vegetables. The pork came with Iberico ham, roasted pineapple, enoki mushrooms and charred octopus. The combination of octopus and pork was a little unusual but the pork itself was perfectly tender and juicy.

REVIEW | James Martin Restaurant at Manchester235 Casino I Love Manchester

The wagyu steak, considered by many to be the best steak in the world, was the most expensive dish we sampled and didn’t disappoint in its rich flavour and juicy texture. It could be accompanied with an assortment of sauces but was delicious without them.

With the savoury courses out of the way, we next tried a selection of tempting desserts that were each perfect for a cold winter evening. First up was the pumpkin pie. Traditionally eaten at Thanksgiving, the James Martin version had a smooth filling bursting with pumpkin spice and came with a seasonal mix of chocolate mille-feuille, parkin, edible autumn leaves and a berry and thyme sorbet.

The herb fusion sorbet may not be to everyone’s taste as it has quite a strong flavour but it went surprisingly well with the rest of the dish. The hot sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel ice cream was definitely a pleaser and must be a contender for the best version of the dessert in Manchester. Rich and treacly, this is not for the faint hearted and I was unable to finish it!

REVIEW | James Martin Restaurant at Manchester235 Casino I Love Manchester

The final dessert was the apple crumble soufflé served with bramble sorbet, cubes of apple jelly and a sugar coated Chinese blossom apple. This dish was worth the 15 minute wait for it to be cooked and was a lovely light blend of autumnal flavours.

The final course of the evening was a selection of Christmas themed sweet treats that certainly managed to put me in a festive mood. Homemade mince pies fresh out of the oven and coated in a cloud of icing sugar, sweet macarons with a spiced filling and a dessert version of traditional mulled wine rounded off the meal perfectly.

REVIEW | James Martin Restaurant at Manchester235 Casino I Love Manchester

The only thing that let the restaurant down slightly for me was that walking through the casino to get to the restaurant can be a bit disconcerting if you’re not a casino guest and rules out bringing anyone under 18 to dine.

The spectacular view of Great Northern Square and the ice rink from the restaurant’s full length windows would have been impressive if it hadn’t been covered by curtains. Nevertheless, the exposed brick walls, comfortable vintage-style seating, original artwork and luxury fabrics gave the space an aura of understated glamour and it was undoubtedly an attractive setting to spend a few hours sampling some delicious dishes.

REVIEW | James Martin Restaurant at Manchester235 Casino I Love Manchester

This is a fine dining restaurant with prices to match but is definitely worth a visit to experience some tasty modern British classics made with quality produce. And don’t forget to check out the James Martin Manchester Christmas lunch menu available at a pleasantly affordable price of £30 for two courses or £35 for three. Alternatively, book your Christmas party there for a Friday or Saturday in December for £55 for a three course meal, live singer, a glass of bubbly and a free bet on blackjack or roulette.

2 Watson St, Manchester, UK M3 4LP

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