Seasonality and locality are BIG THINGS right now; we’re encouraged from many sides to pop down to the local greengrocer and forego air-freighted beans wrapped in 72 layers of polythene and I think that’s all good (just don’t ask me about my tomatoes…).
Sensing a trend, many restaurants have jumped on the seasonal/local bandwagon and started touting how local and in season their veg is, despite whacking on a side of asparagus in December and counting local as sourcing their produce from Smithfields and not checking where the actual stuff itself is from (I’m not going to name you, you know who you are).
Ok I’m badmouthing, there are true stalwarts such as Gabriel’s Kitchen/Whitworth Gallery Cafe, et al getting it right, there’s just a lot of hot air and foreign raspberries on menus these days.
Another place getting it right is The Violet Hour; an opulent drinking den located on West Didsbury’s trendy Burton Road, who have just started serving food – to kick off all their food based offerings and going so far as to positively celebrate seasonality, they have started Ten, their pop-up menu.
Ten is the concept of owner Dan Pollard and chef Phil Cook (oh what a wonderfully apt name!); the menu takes inspiration from the ten best seasonal ingredients and from this they create an innovative exploration through the tastes of the season. Oh and for a twist, they pair the menu with cocktails – because that’s what they do so well at The Violet Hour.
After a quick relax in The Violet Hour’s comfortable and muted surroundings, we were ushered upstairs to an explanation of the menu and our first course – a native oyster with vodka granita and blood orange pebble; cue much discussion as to how that pebble was made – looked like the forgotten grey sponge in a student’s bathroom, but tasted divine – like a chewy, sweetly perfumed, citrus foam. The oyster was spanking fresh – I’m going to be picky and say why waste a native with a vodka granita (no matter how delish) and they could have got away with a plain old rock oyster – but that wasn’t the aim of the menu, which was an incredibly opulent celebration of the amazing produce we get in the UK at this time of the year (ok, blood oranges are from the Med, but they’re in season at the mo, so don’t go leaving me arsey comments).
Next a pretty, rustic tart topped with lashings of Burt’s Blue, cauliflower and edible flowers – pungent, salty and superb – but it was the accompanying cider broth that we rated most; deeply savoury with a hint of sharpness that matched brilliantly with the cheese. This course was paired with the Cuban Beekeeper (white rum, honey, lime, grape, apple, black pepper) – a honey based cocktail that softened out the sharpness in the cheese and the broth, but which was a little too sweet for me (please remember that I’m a booze and ice kind of girl, so many cocktails are super sweet in my opinion).
The fish course was the best of the evening – a sliver of salmon cooked sous vide to 40 degrees was firm yet wobbly and jelly-like, I loved the yielding texture. This was sat atop salsify and the most savoury chicken broth in the world; the rich, deep, satisfying flavours a true testament to the skill in the kitchen.
Closing the savoury courses was a just cooked dish of venison and celeriac – unfortunately ours had been left on the pass for slightly too long and was pretty cold by the time it reached it, however this didn’t take away from the obvious quality of both the cooking and meat. Could have done with a bigger portion and some carbs! To pair with the venison, we were served a Thyme is of the Essence (gin, peche liqueur, lemon, thyme) – a fluffy, perfumed thyme infused cloud of herby sweet sharpness accenting the wild nature of the meat, which was the best of all the drinks in my opinion.
Cue a long wait for pudding, a little too long, in which we were served the matching cocktail – a Deerstalker Old Fashioned (bourbon, chocolate, sage, blood orange). Now, here’s where I’m going to have a little moan…. I love an Old Fashioned, it’s one of my very favourite cocktails and one that I’ve actually learnt to make at home. I even make a cake in homage to this drink. As many of my friends will tell you, I’ll wax lyrical about it and bore the balls off you – so in my eyes no one should fuck with this cocktail. A Deerstalker contains chocolate and it was awful – that’s my opinion, everyone else in the room raved about this drink, but I found it a travesty of a mighty cocktail.
So after that rant, the pudding was a very rich chocolate ganache (beautiful) and a pineapple upside down cake with spiced rum – loved it, but again, needed it to be bigger as my tummy was still rumbling after five courses.
Ten is a wonderful concept, bringing together top quality ingredients with exceptional cooking skills and a good deal of creative flair. There’s the small issue of needing to work on their timings and maybe throwing in some carbs or sides of veg for gluttons like me, but they’re just little things and you know I like to be picky/have something to moan about.
Just a shame it’s only once every two months, the next one’s already in the diary!
Ps The Violet Hour are also rolling out a weekly food menu – it’s gourmet bar snacks and Pieminister pies in the week and then Sunday club – roasts and Bloody Mary’s on a Sunday. And of course, they’ll be serving their very well made cocktails as per usual. Get down there and get your belly filled!
Cost for five courses and three cocktails – £35pp
Food – 8/10 (one off for being a bit cold)
Service – 8/10
Atmosphere – 8/10
Value for money – 9/10 (really, five AMAZING courses AND booze for £35, it’s a steal!)
Total – 33/40
Please note, I was given my place at Ten for free as Dan knows how much I like to eat – as you know I don’t say nice things unless I actually want to and from my nit-picking above you know I’m telling the truth about EVERYTHING.