When I’m out reviewing restaurants, I like to be professional and look decent. On the day of the Artisan restaurant review, the Mancunian anthracite skies heavy with pregnant rain clouds were threatening to burst. And burst they did in all their torrential, positively apocalyptic glory, leaving us dripping wet from an impromptu drenching.
I suppose I was cocky in thinking I could get away travelling sans umbrella (it’s the north for god’s sake, what was I thinking?).
And so it was, that we rocked up at Artisan Kitchen and Bar, as limp and bedraggled as that sorry kitchen towel in Juan Sheet’s Plenty advert. We stole a few glances at the toilets before we stuck our heads under the welcoming hand dryers (we were there for around 20 minutes drying our barnets, dresses and shoes). It’s a lovely space and one of the prettiest powder rooms you’ll see.
Feeling more human and less Noah’s Ark, we filed in two by two into the dining area. It’s a sprawling space, low lighting emanating chilled out vibes with a dash of hipster cool. There are a number of menus to choose from, including newly launched set and lunch menus, starting at £25 and £11.95 respectively.
We kicked off with nibbles to share. Olives (fat, salty and delicious) and crispy kale (light and well-seasoned in what tasted of Bouillon) were the perfect palate teaser. The new menu is very gym-bunny / health-conscious bod friendly and these nibbles epitomise this (you can’t get healthier than oven baked kale).
I wasn’t really in a healthy mood. That rain had dampened my spirits and awoken my inner glutton, leaving me craving hearty wholesome fayre. Artisan’s new menu is great, in that it appeals to palates seeking comfort and healthy food alike. (Their salad selection is very good, one for next time I imagine.) I had the baked camembert (bacon crumb, rustic potato chips) which was beautiful, unctuous and gloriously gloopy. The bacon crumb provided that nice salty hit, whilst the potato chips were crunchy scoops perfect for shovelling into my mouth.
My dining partner had the braised chorizo (cippolini onions, cherry tomatoes, garlic cloves, super seeded toast). The meaty morsels went well with the smushy garlic cloves, although the toast (which I only had a corner of to soak up the chorizos’ juices) seemed to be a clunky addition to an otherwise refined dish. I loved the addition of cippolini (pronounced “chip-oh-lee-nee”) onions which are sweeter than your usual Spanish white onions. This means when baked, they have an intense caramelised flavour, an ideal partner to the salty chorizo.
For main, I had the salmon en papillote (Thai green curry, summer greens). The tender fish flaked away to be one of the best salmon dishes I have had in a long time. The sauce was the right side of spicy, the pak choi and spring onions provided texture, and tearing apart the papillote package felt special (as if I was opening up a present on Christmas Day).
My dining partner had baked mussels (white wine, coriander, fregula, tomato), which she loved. We had dined here a few years ago and loved the baked mussels which previously sported a baked bread roof. This mussel dish sans bread was still very tasty, the white wine providing that slightly dry hit, whilst the fregula balls were lovely suspended in the tomatoey bisque.
We also had a few sides. Flatbread (hummus, smoked aubergine purée, spring greens and crème fraiche) was a generous portion and massively filling. My favourite dip was the smoked aubergine, which was earthy and silky smooth.
The other side of raw chopped salad (cabbage, pepper, peanut dressing) was unassuming and stunning on the palate. I loved the pungent spiciness of the dressing, making it one of my favourite dishes on the night.
Sticky toffee pudding (vanilla ice-cream) rounded off the meal. Hearty and a hug in a bowl is the best way to describe this dish. Rivers of ice-cream ran over the wonderfully light, moist sponge, melting into magical puddles on the luxuriously gooey toffee sauce. I could have happily eaten this all evening and forgotten to go home, it was that distracting.
My dining partner loved her pistachio meringue (rhubarb, lemon Chantilly cream, strawberries, raspberries, pomegranate). She loved this flavoursome dessert because it was stunning to look at, and was a light end to the meal. I stole a forkful and loved the light as air meringue, flavoured with creamy pistachios.
Artisan is marketed as a kitchen and bar. They also do a very good wine and cocktail list, which is why I couldn’t resist their pornstar martini. It was very good and the right ratio of passionfruit and vanilla, to vodka, with just a spritz of lemon juice.
I like it at Artisan; it’s an easy place to be and just hang out. I love the stripped back warehouse vibe and creative artwork adorning the walls, I just wish the lighting would be a tad brighter (although that’s a personal thing.)
Part of the Living Ventures portfolio, Artisan Kitchen and Bar is one stylish, cool place to be. Artisan are also launching their first ever Market Fest – click here for more information.
For good times, good food and excellent cocktails, head on over to Artisan. I guarantee you’ll spend longer than you intended in there, and that’s fine. A special shout out to manager Kaylum Sharp for providing sublime service and overseeing the super smooth running of the restaurant. If he’s there on the night, then you’re in for a treat.
Star Rating 1-10 (1: “I’d rather eat my own shoe, I hated it that much” – 10: “I’d pillage for a meal here”.)
Value for money: 9
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Address: Artisan, Avenue North, 18-22 Bridge Street, Manchester M3 3BZ
Tel: 0161 832 4181