What puts a spring in your step? You know, something that makes you feel on top of the world? It could be your partner getting you the latest Call of Duty. Or it could be seeing the Prime Minister take a colossal battering at his weekly Prime Minister’s Questions (come on Ed, give ‘em what for). For me, it’s sipping steaming coffee, indulging in delicious food and receiving awesome customer service – all of which can be found in copious amounts at Artisan (we dined courtesy of the fabulous Manchester Confidential).
Artisan is the brainchild of Living Ventures, the genius crack team behind Australasia and Alchemist. Team LV are major players in the food industry and ones to watch out for, if their latest offering is anything to go by. Its intriguing exterior has that artsy, snappy look, whilst the inside is beautiful industrial chic. The kind of place where it’s OK to dress up or down, making it my go-to place in Manchester for delicious food served quick in oh so pretty surroundings.
The menu is as varied as a pick and mix counter, there’s something for everyone. Various menu categories consisted of (takes a deep breath) Nibbles, Deli Counter, Small Plates, Salad, Wood-Fired Pizza, Grill, Wood Oven. And if that wasn’t enough, other menus were available (Lunch, Set and Children’s). This is a great place to go with a bunch of friends who all have eclectic tastes. I went with Gal Pal S and we kicked off the meal with a few Small Plates and Nibbles. What arrived on our table was a mini banquet – and we hadn’t even got a whiff of the mains yet.
Artichoke Petals with garlic and herb vinaigrette were nice (I like tasty, dippy, perfectly seasoned morsels), whilst Baby Scallops with curry butter and cauliflower purée were inspired. What really made me think I had died and gone to heaven was the Mussels Marinière baked in bread. The mussels were baked to perfection in a silky sauce with a hint of garlic (I love my garlic I do, I’d be a vampire’s worst nightmare) and the novel baked bread topping was cutting edge avant garde. I recently saw Paul Hollywood make a “Biryani Pie” on his ‘Pies and Puds’ and the baked bread topping is definitely a trend that will pop up over the next few years.
Other starters ordered were marinated mixed olives and hummus with sugar spiced nuts and crisp flatbread. The olives were deliciously plump, herby and above all – there was an even ratio of black to green. It’s something I’m oddly pernickety about; I love black olives, but the more popular choice whomever I dine with seems to be green. So I’m always secretly pleased whenever there’s an even mix (oh come on, everyone has their idiosyncrasies). The hummus too was creamy and zingy and oh so moreish. (Tip, try if you can, to keep a little bit back and have with the pizza, trust me, it goes exceedingly well with their wood-fired offerings.) Next time I’ll try the Paprika Baked Potato Wedges, because they sound neat (the perfect antidote being the accompanying sour cream).
Moving onto the mains, Gal Pal S had the Warm Roasted Chicken Salad with bacon, torn baby gem and caesar dressing, whilst I plumped for the Pulled Pork and roasted apple wood-fired pizza. The salad was fresh and tartly dressed, with tender, melt-in-the-mouth strips of meat that I just had to steal from Gal Pal’s plate (sorry chick). My pizza was mouth-watering; the base was crisp and had that stunning chargrilled taste (friends will attest to my love for wood-fired / chargrilled stuff), topped with the innovative pairing of roast apple and Grana Padano. The crisp sage was a nice touch too, which added depth of flavour to an already charming dish.
Stuffed to the rafters and thoroughly entranced by the food thus far, we couldn’t wait for dessert. Now, the first thing I look at when checking out a restaurant, is the dessert menu. I have been known to dismiss a Michelin starred restaurant in the past, just because of its meagre dessert offering (you know who you are). Artisan delivered again on the dessert menu front. I couldn’t resist the fantastically retro Arctic Roll with raspberry sauce and berries, which whooshed me back to those halcyon childhood days. Gal Pal S couldn’t resist the Ice-cream, which was served as a minimum of two scoops (Salted Caramel was creamy heaven and Pistachio, which had a delicately fragrant after-taste). The food is moreish and there’s a very good chance you’ll want seconds, so I’d suggest going on an empty stomach. Seriously.
The manager on the night was a wonderfully convivial Matthew Lewty, whom I understand has since moved onto pastures new. Matthew, you made our night; the food, service and witty banter was brilliant. Team LV certainly know what they’re doing, with their staff and growing portfolio of high end restaurants. By sticking to a tried and tested business model of producing gastro-pub food in delicately refined surroundings, they guarantee a full-house and bums on seats. I love Artisan and if it’s good enough for David Beckham (he has previously patronised this hot joint), then it totally works for me. Artisan, continue being cool and delivering delicious fare. See you soon.
PS profuse apologies for the lack of food pictures. I usually take a tonne of photos whilst critiquing a meal, but at the time of publishing, was unable to access them due to an unwell phone (I don’t think it took too kindly to the impromptu shower when I was out and about). I hope the photos supplied provide sufficient pictorial satisfaction.