By Jo Cooksey
So, Michelin have recently announced their stars for this year and once again Manchester has lost out. Frankly, I am at a loss as to what exactly the inspectors require of our restaurants. I have eaten in many Michelin starred establishments and there are definitely gastronomic equals in our fair city. Not least, Wood, Grafene and Adam Reid at The French.
One I have recently discovered is Albatross & Arnold in Spinningfields. Part of The Range, an indoor virtual reality, golf experience but don’t let that put you off. The restaurant is a separate, luxurious space with an Art Deco feel and to be honest the golf range is very high end and looks great fun.
We were invited to a sample a seven-course tasting menu from the magical hands of the Head Chef, Michelin trained, Jon Green. The sumptuous feast was to be accompanied by a gin flight from the Wirral’s boutique distillers, Tapper’s. Oh, we were in for a treat.
As a rule, I tend to swerve a tasting menu, as I often finish the meal as hungry as I when I sat down and I have been known to visit the golden arches or the chippy on the way home. No such need here. We left feeling replete and extremely well looked after. Speaking of which, I should mention the staff, who are lovely and in particular, Charlie, who is one of the most delightful front of house people I have ever come across.
The evening began with a word from the chef and from Dr Steve Tapril, the owner and head distiller at Tappers gin. The first course arrived, gin cured salmon with a Tonic Gel, sea purslane and blackened cucumber. The balls of juicy cucumber rolled in blackened cucumber skin powder were a revelation. They popped with flavour. The serve with this course was Tappers Wintergreen with bitter-sweet Pampelle and fruity Lillet. The combination of which cut through the oiliness of the salmon perfectly.
The next course comprised clams, brown crab and samphire mayonnaise with a sprinkling of caviar. British shellfish is among the best in the world and in my eyes sadly neglected by us Brits. These lovely, sweet clams fairly burst with notes of the sea. Alongside it was an Asian style mix of Tappers Darkside Gin with cardamom cordial, dashi, orange and a spherification of seaweed extract caviar. All the tastes of the sea captured.
Pidgeon with hazelnuts, horseradish, meringue and gherkins was the star of the next course accompanied by Tappers Falling Leaves gin, Crème de mure (blackberry) and a gherkin rinse. Pidgeon is not something I would normally order but this was delightful, especially with the tang of the gherkins and the texture of the meringue.
The fourth course was blackened cod with sea aster, samphire, lemon curd and dehydrated cod roe powder. The cod was cooked to perfection and the Tappers Three Fine Days with lemon thyme, was the perfect accompaniment.
Next up was a succulent duck dish, served with a zingy orange syrup, a rich jus, charred broccoli and new potatoes. This came with Tappers Spring Fever Perfect Serve that was spritzed with bergamot spray. Anice little touch of theatre.
By this point I was getting quite full but it was dessert time and I never knowingly say no to dessert. First up was my idea of heave. Macerated blackberries, fresh raspberries, shortbread, berry mousse, damson jam and a quenelle of clotted cream. The gin for this course was Tappers Hydropathic Pudding Fruit Cup. Originally a dessert, that was a fore-runner of Summer Pudding, Hydropathic was developed as a light, nutritious dessert to serve to people attending spas or those who were patients in sanatoriums. Tappers take redcurrants, blackcurrants, strawberries and raspberries and infused in to their gin to deliver a burst of juicy sweetness – ‘perfect for restoring a weary constitution’. Delicious.
The final course, also a dessert was a chocolate & espresso fondant with a condensed milk syrup and orange ice cream. My dinner companion absolutely loved it and the fondant certainly had a perfect ooze. I, however, don’t like chocolate. Weird I know. So, I managed to wangle another serving of the previous pud. Two tastes of heaven in one night. The fondant course was served with the Tappers answer to an Espresso Martini. A glass containing Tappers limited edition chocolate gin, Eggcentric, prepared with Star Anise, Kahlua and cherry liqueur. This was one type of chocolate that I did like. A lot.
The whole menu was intriguing, exciting and faultless. The service was top drawer and the gin was superb. Price wise, it was incredible value at £60 a head and that included all the gin. That’s seven courses and seven gin cocktails for £60.
Would we go back? Yes, we absolutely would. Both for the tasting menus and the normal menu. Albatross & Arnold is a little gem of a restaurant and Jon Green is definitely a chef to watch. The restaurant is among to do a different tasting menu evening every month, so keep an eye on their social media for details.
We were guests of Albatross & Arnold but as always, the review and opinions are our own and unbiased.