The infamous Tetris block that defines the Deansgate skyline has never struggled to attract crowds. Whether it’s afternoon tea at Cloud 23 or dinner at The Podium, the Hilton Manchester has become a go-to spot for those looking to mark special occasions.
But there’s more to this place than surface level glitz because in the Podium’s kitchens they’re training the next generation of standout chefs under the watchful eye of head chef Stuart Duff.
They have the opportunity to go on masterclass field trips to local suppliers where they learn about the origins and preparation of particular foods and how to transfer these skills back to the kitchen.
The dishes are then showcased on the hotel’s impressive new tasting menu, The Deansgate Experience, pioneered by rising star and former Hilton chef Natalie Dawson.
“We created this programme to help young chefs to understand where the produce comes from and to give them invaluable experience working under Stuart, who is very hands on” says Natalie. “I was going to be an accountant but thankfully I followed my passion and now I get to see chefs like me create these wonderful dishes every month”.
The Deansgate Experience isn’t for those looking to grab a burger before a night out or a show. My Deansgate Experience lasted roughly three hours. You’re greeted by your own waiter, who will be with you throughout the night, explaining the dishes and the accompanying wine choices. This accomplished tasting menu costs £45 or can be enjoyed with specially paired wines for just £70 – a great way to unwind and enjoy some seriously special dining.
I tried the tasting menu for August. If you like the look of it, it needs to be booked 24 hours in advance.
Artisan Bread, local butter, sea salt and a glass of prosecco
Nothing overly fancy here but an essential part of any tasting menu. Baked In-house and served with olive oil/balsamic vinegar, locally produced butter and sea salt. Right on the money.
Amuse Bouche by Natalie Dawson
Asparagus mousse, white asparagus, almonds
Something that’s going to become apparent during this review is the striking colours in this menu. Natalie’s asparagus dish was light and fluffy, with the almonds giving the amuse-bouche some crunch.
Wood Pigeon by Erin Hunt
Wood pigeon, kohlrabi, beetroot primavera luz. Wine: Merlot.
Served on a freezing cold plate, the pigeon is tender and soft and altogether pleasant on its own – but the dish is transformed by the beetroot sorbet which flashes a short, sharp shot of beetroot across your palate, bringing the pigeon to life.
Sea Trout by Esther Darko
Sea trout, Shetland black potatoes, samphire, radishes, scallop le vigne. Wine: Pinot Grigio.
The beauty of a tasting menu is that you can try things you wouldn’t normally order. Being a lover of all red meats, fish isn’t usually high on my list of preferences but this trout was sublime; crispy skin, delicate scallop sauce, samphire and black potatoes, adding to the brilliant aesthetic of the plate. Washed down by a beautiful Italian Pinot Grigio.
British Beef and Onions by Matthew Hall
Beef, honeycomb, pink Emilie potatoes. Wine: Pinot Noir.
Unsurprisingly, I loved it. The beef was melt in the mouth tender and the only partner for the awesome onion gravy.
Palate cleanser by George Warwick
Apple sorbet, lime.
Effective and elegant. A lovely burst of citrus to prepare me for dessert.
Dessert by Alice Parkes
Yorkshire strawberries, elderflower. Wine: La Lande Cinsault rose.
The star of the show here is elderflower, neutralising the sharpness of the strawberries and creating a well-rounded desert to match the rose. Amazingly this combination isn’t in the least bit tart or overly sweet.
Slate of local cheese and accompaniments (Additional £10)
A monster cheese board with port. No words needed here. Just look at it.
This is all part of an ongoing programme to educate and train young, talented chefs. It’s definitely working if my first Deansgate Experience is anything to go by. The next menu should be another seasonal masterpiece.