MasterChef winner Simon Wood has recently launched a new dining concept for Manchester which will thrill fans of cheese and wine.
Homage can be found on the mezzanine floor of Wood Manchester, the chef’s acclaimed flagship restaurant on Jack Rosenthal Street, and the intimate lounge is dedicated to paired cheese, chutneys, wines and beers.
It’s a great spot to relax after dinner in the restaurant – but equally, it’s a desirable destination in its own right.
There’s an individual cheese menu, covering everything from soft cheeses and blue cheeses to sheep milk cheeses, each with expertly matched chutneys, accompaniments and suggested paired wines or other drinks.
All the cheeses have a handy short description giving an idea of the flavour profile, so you can pick something that appeals even if you’re unfamiliar with some options on the list, and staff are happy to offer a helping hand if you’re unsure.
And if you’re struggling to choose, there’s also a mini tasting menu currently available Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays called Taste of Homage, which matches five cheeses, accompaniments and crisp fennel seed crackers made in-house with paired glasses of wine.
Unable to resist a tasting menu solely dedicated to all things cheese, we went to try it out.
Settled into comfy lounge style seats overlooking the main restaurant below, our tasting menu starts with Vacherin Mont D’Or, a soft unpasteurised cow’s milk cheese from Jura in France, made in the winter time when the milk is at its fattiest.
The soft, oozing cheese comes with a side of BBQ sweetcorn in lacto-fermented blueberry, which brings out the flavour but also adds a slightly sour quality to complement the creamy cheese.
It’s heavenly, and works beautifully with the matched wine, a Domaine Vendage Jacquere from the Savoie region of France whose notes of citrus and stone fruit perfectly refresh the palate.
The next cheese is Alp Blossom from the Isny Dairy in Austria, an Emmental style of cheese which comes wrapped in the petals and herbs grazed on by the cows.
Rich and creamy with a sweet floral quality, it comes with a contrasting slice of L’Etivaz, an intensely flavoured, 14-month-old Alpine cow’s milk cheese with a nutty, salty quality.
The accompanying chutney made with green tomato and greengage has a sweet-savoury flavour, while the matched wine is a Rolly Gassman Sylvaner from Alsace, off-dry with notes of ripe tropical fruits and honey and a rich viscous texture similar to Gewurztraminer.
Next up is Cerney, an unpasteurised goat milk cheese from Gloucester hand dusted in sea salt and oak with a fresh, lemony tang.
Perhaps surprisingly, it goes especially well with chilli – and indeed, the accompanying roasted red pepper and chilli chutney is the perfect match, the chillies fermented to reduce the heat but really ramp up the flavour.
It’s paired with a glass of Domaine Sables-Verts Saumur Champigny from the Loire valley in France, ripe with red fruits but also a herbaceous and lightly floral quality.
Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese is one most cheese lovers will be familiar with, an award-winning cheese made by hand using only the milk from their own herd of Holstein Friesian cows on the outskirts of Goosnargh Village looking out over Beacon Fell.
It’s savoury, creamy and rich, and comes with an equally impressive accompaniment – tender red wine braised ox cheek.
The wine match is a Pulenta Estate Malbec from Uco Valley in Argentina, packed with the flavour of concentrated fruits and a hint of vanilla and baking spice, with silky smooth tannins.
At this point, we add an additional cheese to our tasting – because who can resist a glass of red Burgundy and some Brillat aux Truffe, a triple cream cheese with added truffles?
Deeply indulgent, the pale cheese resembles a mini Viennetta in appearance with its two layers of fresh Perigord summer truffles, with a texture reminiscent of clotted cream thanks to the double cream added to the whole milk before the cheesemaking process starts.
Finally, it’s time for a blue cheese – Stichelton from Nottinghamshire, toasty, nutty and sweet with a light creamy texture and an assiette of earthy beetroot on the side, matched with an aged tawny port with flavours of dried fruit.
The pairings on the cheese and wine journey are as creative and confident as you’d expect from Wood Manchester, served in a relaxed, convivial environment with friendly, knowledgeable service.
This is Simon Wood’s Homage to fromage – and we’re thrilled it’s in Manchester.
Homage is open now at Wood Manchester, Wednesday and Thursday 5pm – 8.30pm, and Friday and Saturday 12pm – 9pm. Find out more and book here.