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Review: The Alan is a place you can be yourself – with a menu to treat yourself

The new opening serves standout small plates and delicious desserts, prepared with love - and the chef's table is a perfect spot for lunch

New design-led hotel, bar and restaurant The Alan has recently opened on Princess Street. 

Many of the stunning Grade II listed building’s existing materials and features have been carefully refreshed to create new focal points – from the lobby floor made from a collage of fragmented and discarded marble pieces to the exposed brick walls and double height ceilings found throughout.

The six-storey hotel features 137 rooms and meetings and events space, as well as an open-plan kitchen, restaurant and bar offering an all-day seasonal menu of dishes and drinks designed to share, created using local suppliers.

And the chef’s table, offering a full view of the kitchen as well as the chance to chat with chef Iain Thomas, whose previous experience includes stints at Northern Quarter’s Edinburgh Castle, makes a perfect spot for lunch or dinner.

Iain has been working in kitchens since he was 16, and brings with him a love of seasonal cooking and a passion for locally grown produce.

The provenance of ingredients is hugely important to Iain and the menu at The Alan reflects this, using meat from city centre favourites The Butcher’s Quarter and microgreens from Aztec Farms, Manchester’s first vertical farming start-up based at Manchester Science Park.

Light bites on the menu, all priced between £3 – £5.50, include homemade dips – tomato and Feta salsa with cumin, mint and chilli, and smooth baba ganoush with aubergine, tahini and lemon – with freshly toasted flatbreads.

There’s also prosciutto ham with celeriac remoulade and anchovies fragrant with lemon, thyme and olive oil, as well as gloriously golden deep-fried truffled mac and cheese balls dusted with aged Parmesan.

Then there’s a selection of small plates, designed to share and priced around £5 – £6.50.

Halibut ceviche with burnt orange and chicory is beautifully light and fresh and zingy, the fish sourced from David Lowrie Fish Merchants Ltd on the East Coast of Scotland.

A potato and ox cheek terrine sees ten layers of finely sliced potato, a layer of ox cheek and another ten layers of potato sandwiched together, each layer of potato brushed with butter, served with French’s mustard and dill pickles.

“It’s basically butter, beef and potatoes, deep-fried,” says Iain. It’s delicious, that’s for sure.

Goosnargh chicken sees confit thighs glazed with sweet pomegranate molasses and salty soy sauce, dressed with mushroom ketchup and nasturtium, while cauliflower tikka with cumin, coriander and pomegranate is Iain’s vegan take on chicken tikka, and his homage to the Curry Mile nearby.

For meat eaters, the star of the small plates has to be the lamb fat cabbage with confit shoulder.

“We work with the Butcher’s Quarter, so for this dish lamb trimmings are rendered down, we sous vide the cabbage in lamb fat, then the cabbage is warmed up in a lamb fat cream emulsion,” explains Iain.

The result is exceptional, the hispi cabbage full of rich lamb flavour and the pieces of meat fall-apart tender.

It’s the kind of dish you immediately want to eat again. And, in fact, some diners have.

“We’ve had a couple of people order it twice,” laughs Iain.

“One man even ordered it again for his dessert, while his wife had a pudding.”

We wholeheartedly applaud that man.

Larger plates using meat from The Butcher’s Quarter include free range pork, Cheshire grass fed beef and a Barnsley chop, while a quick lunch menu offers sandwiches such as salt beef with celeriac and dill pickle or croque madam with Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese and fried egg.

Puddings, meanwhile, are playful and nostalgic, with names such as ‘Snickers’, ‘Arctic Roll’ and ‘Solero’ (all £7) as well as cheese from The Butcher’s Quarter.

The ‘Snickers’ is a sweet, chocolatey delight, with a parfait made from 60% macondo chocolate served with dulce de leche caramel ice cream, salted caramel and crunchy candied peanuts.

The ‘Solero’ is fresh and fruity, made with mango mousse, passionfruit jelly, passionfruit and mango compote, coriander, mango sorbet and passionfruit juice, with white chocolate.

It all adds up to a real treat of a menu, prepared with love and served in a beautiful space, but with no pretension.

A place you can be yourself – with a menu to treat yourself.

Who could ask for more than that?

The Alan is open now at 18 Princess Street, M1 4LG. Find out more and book here.

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