Laura Fell revisits the independent eatery which brought a new casual dining experience to Manchester earlier this year…
This New York penthouse–inspired restaurant is situated inside a grade II listed converted shipping warehouse on Princess St. The clean cut decor evokes the glamour of a NY bistro and is tastefully decked out in violet and silver. It certainly is minimalist with the tables left deliberately uncluttered with only glassware and cutlery to welcome diners.
It now offers a radically reduced, but eclectic and refined menu which accommodates both the gourmet gobbler and the fun-loving foodie. Short and concise, the menu is a celebration of modern American dining with classics such as New York strip steak, beefburgers and chowder and a variety of snack-sized sides from corn on the cob to mac ‘n cheese. Placing my food order with their delightful staff on what was a dreary and drab November evening, I looked forward to getting stuck in.
Our appetiser, the Manhattan poutine, arrived quickly, an American twist on the Canadian classic. Seeing this on the menu had my Bolton born and bred brain twitching. Chips, cheese and gravy was my high school favourite, back when Turkey Twizzlers were a thing and before Jamie bloody Oliver came and ruined school dinners for us all.
The fries were soft and piping hot, the gravy was delicious and the cheese melted to make one big gooey mess. It was delightful.
Our starters quickly followed. The curried pork skewers in a ramen noodle soup (£6) jumped out at us (not literally, fortunately). Not the usual dish you would expect on an American menu, and as such sparked the intrigue to try it. This traditionally Japanese dish was a fragrant, flavoursome and salty broth. The pork skewers were well seasoned and tenderly cooked and arrived with what appeared to be an onion bhaji gently resting on top. A weird concoction but all the elements worked individually. Having said that, if the pork were in the ramen itself, it would have added a whole new world of flavours to the dish.
The spiced shrimp salad with jalapeno corn bread (£5.50) was a respectable salad dish. The shrimp were perhaps too heavily seasoned with an assorted mix of spices, but tasty overall.
Next up, the main course. The beef short rib (£16) was perfectly cooked and melt in your mouth, topped off with a flavour-packed, sticky glaze. The sweet potato stack proved to be an excellent accompaniment. The root beer cure, served separately in a tiny milk bottle to drink, was slightly confusing and not needed. The flawless cooking of this dish does the trick. No gimmicks required.
My companion opted for the Rhode Island chowder (£12). The creamy corn soup was particularly light and lacked the seafood flavour that you’d expect from this American classic. The chowder was served with clam cakes and bacon on the side, which seemed unnecessary. Instead, add the clams and bacon in with the chowder and you’d have a seafood taste explosion.
On the side, a plentiful portion of mac ‘n cheese which couldn’t be faulted. The house fries with a speciality paprika style seasoning were also great.
“Would you like a dessert?” we were asked. Whenever I am asked this question, I find that only one answer is possible. “Go on then” I replied, loosening my belt.
The Midnight Manhattan is a raspberry soufflé with dark chocolate fondant and was more than enough to eat between two. It was tall and wobbly, light and delicate. An absolute treat. The dark chocolate fondant was also amazing. The hot, flowing chocolate lava burst out when cut into. Truly fabulous, although it could have been a dessert on its own.
My experience at Urban Cookhouse was, overall, a good one. The place is unlike no other in the Manchester food and drink scene and definitely needs to be visited as there’s a good night to be had.
The cooking here shows sparks of brilliance and with a little refinement and less of the distractions I’m more than confident they’ll be a huge success come their first birthday.
54 Princess Street, Manchester M1 6HS