Modern British food has never been more popular. Traditional fayre that has been contemporised and served with a twist is a trend I’m seeing in restaurants across the country. There has been a lot of noise about Grafene and its modern menu, with curious critics travelling the breadth of the UK to see what the fuss was about. This latest venture has been brought to the city by powerhouse couple Paul and Kathryn Roden, who are hoping to build on the success of their four-star Losehill House Hotel and Spa in the Peak District.
Walking up to the restaurant, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of anticipation. I hadn’t been this excited since I opened my Christmas present to discover my beloved KitchenAid. Could Grafene deliver that major endorphin hit I craved… and more importantly, was the restaurant any good?
Grafene is nestled on the quieter end of King Street. Décor is all cool grey and dark leather seating channelling understated chic. (If Victoria Beckham was a restaurant, this would be her.)
We were presented with a basket of oven-warm bread, which was a joy swiped through the piped herb butter. Warm bread and room temperature butter set the scene for what was to become a dining experience to remember. (You’d be surprised how many restaurants get this so wrong, by serving rock hard butter that leaves bread as damaged as a car in an M1 pile-up.)
I kicked off with the starter of seared scallop (black pudding bon bon, courgette, prosciutto, chorizo purée). Scallops were tender morsels just very slightly translucent in the centre and cooked to perfection. Salty shards of crisp prosciutto provided texture, whilst the courgette ribbon and chorizo purée was a match made in heaven. This is one of the best starters I have ever eaten.
My dining partner had the crispy lamb breast (saffron yoghurt, pomegranate, spinach, aubergine), which she was very impressed with. I snaffled a quick forkful and loved the dash of Middle Eastern flair of the delicate yogurt.
For main, I had the fillet of hake (cauliflower risotto, grapes, apple, samphire, crab bisque). Meaty hake atop creamy risotto was delicious and beautiful. The beautiful bisque was the perfect partner to the purple cauliflower. And surprise of the night (yes even bigger than the reveal in The Sixth Sense where Bruce Willis was ACTUALLY dead man walking)… grapes, bisque and samphire are heaven on a plate. This lush main topped the starter… the only way is up, right?
My dining partner had the pork tenderloin (celeriac, apple, smoked ham hashcake, white asparagus, trompettes). Presentation was visually stunning, and I fell a little bit in love with the slightly smoky ham hock croquettes. Sides of Tunworth mash potato (subtly nutty overtones of cheese came through well) and summer greens with smoked almonds (wonderfully al dente and well-seasoned) were very good.
We both had the same dessert of apple tart (vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce). I love dessert. The crowning glory had to be good. It was good; I especially liked the short pastry and apple filling which wasn’t cloying on the palate. I loved the butterscotch notes from the caramel sauce and would have liked to see a glaze on the apple tart, as it looked and tasted a teeny tiny bit dry. Flavours were great, presentation superb too.
Would I go here again? Yes, in a heartbeat. Manchester’s dining scene is one that continues to go from strength to strength, and Grafene brings panache, stunning food and sublime service which ensures a diner’s return.
With Executive Chef Darren Goodwin at the helm, creating impressive dishes that pushes boundaries and leaves you wanting more, I foresee Grafene to become one of Manchester’s must-dine hotspots.
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: 8.5
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Address: 55 King Street, Manchester City Centre, M2 4LQ
Tel: 0161 696 9700