Housed in the grand domed room which was previously the trading floor of the Stock Exchange, The Bull & Bear was one of the most talked-about restaurant openings last year.
Based in the luxury Stock Exchange Hotel, it’s the first Manchester outpost for Michelin starred chef Tom Kerridge, whose The Hand & Flowers venue in Marlow won a Michelin star within the first 10 months of opening and became the first pub in the country to achieve two star status.
During lockdown, the hotel – which was recently named the best in the North by The Times – accommodated NHS healthcare workers and medical professionals free of charge from The Manchester Univeristy NHS Foundation Trust, providing them with a comfortable place to stay and remain safe while continuing their incredible work during the challenging time.
Now the hotel, which is co-owned by Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, is back open again, with a new Sunday offering that’s all about top quality roasts and feel-good live soul music.
The interior domed ceiling of the former trading floor is a grand space for a relaxing Sunday, with a rich gold and green palette, elegant green curved banquettes and comfortable leather armchairs.
The music, by soul singer Yemi Bolatiwa, pianist Oliver Lamb and Tommy Harris on the sax, is uplifting but not intrusive.
Several big TV screens, which initially divided opinion by showing live sports, are now more like paintings, showing static images of artwork.
And there’s no more elegant start to lunch than a chilled Mimosa (£10), made with Reims Brut Champagne (no cheap acidic fizz here) and fresh orange juice.
The Sunday set menu, accessible via a QR code, offers two courses for £34.50 or three for £39.
We start with a crisp filo tart of roast earthy beetroot with sweet pear, tangy goat’s curd and a sharp escabeche dressing, pretty, playful and perfectly balanced.
A crisp golden Scotch egg is made with salt cod rather than sausagemeat, sitting on a pool of sweet red pepper purée and topped with a smoky slice of chorizo.
They’re both excellent. But the mains really knock it out of the park.
The Bull & Bear has become known for its rotisserie dishes, and it’s great to see Sunday lunch is no exception.
Rotisserie top rump of Dovecote beef sees three proudly pink slices, juicy and packed with flavour, served a pot of punchy horseradish cream.
It comes with the crispest, fluffiest roast potatoes, clearly cooked by someone who gets that roasties are one of the most important parts of a Sunday lunch. They’re absolutely flawless.
A golden Yorkshire pudding is normal sized rather than the fashion for showy, oversized specimens that are now ubiquitous, and it’s all the better for it.
It comes with greens, carrot and swede mash and the glossiest of gravy, but you’ll want to add on a sides of tenderstem broccoli with hazelnut dressing and toasted hazelnuts, which is £5 of sheer joy. Everyone would happily eat their greens if they were done like this.
A side of cauliflower cheese (£7) is rich, creamy and comforting.
Braised lamb isn’t necessarily as traditional as a roast but it’s a cracker, juicy, fall-apart tender and served with pomme boulangere potatoes and a zingy salsa verde.
An excellent meat-free main is a creamy mushroom ‘risotto’, the recipe originally by Claude Bosi, which uses grains of oyster and button mushroom rather than rice. It’s lighter, but packed with intensely savoury flavour, dotted with melting mozzarella and topped with a glaze of aged Parmesan cheese and a crispy hen’s egg.
Puddings include Tom’s signature sticky toffee pudding enriched with beef suet served with sweet toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream, but we can’t resist a light buttermilk panna cotta, not too sweet, served with jammy blackcurrant compote, cassis sorbet and straws of crisp chewy meringue.
Sometimes we go for a Sunday roast just to have someone else deal with the timings, and the mess, and the washing up. You could maybe do it just as well or even better yourself at home with some effort. But not this one. This is all about paying the experts to do a standout job.
And for that reason, it doesn’t seem prohibitively expensive, even at the fairly steep price.
It’s well worth saving up for. A treat, in every sense.
We leave feeling like we’ve been thoroughly looked after. Feeling better about life in general. And right now, when we’re all feeling more fraught than usual, that’s priceless.
Sunday lunch is served from 12.30pm at The Bull & Bear, Stock Exchange Hotel, 4 Norfolk Street, and booking is recommended thebullandbearmcr.com.