Restaurant review - The Rabbit in the Moon, Manchester Fine Dining
PUBLISHED: 00:00 04 July 2018
Kate Houghton reviews the latest restaurant to bring creative fine dining to Manchester, The Rabbit in the Moon.
Changes changes…The Rabbit in the Moon is entering the second phase of its launch in Manchester and, I have to say, phase two is a corker. When the fine dining restaurant, in the Urbis Building on Cathedral Gardens, first opened it took rather a bold approach – a fixed menu, created by Michelin star chef Michael O’Hare, of The Man Behind the Curtain Fame, with no options to flex for any reason whatsoever. I’m not sure that Mancunians do so well with that attitude, but thankfully it’s all changed, with a young and talented head chef and team flexing their creative muscles and relishing demand for versatility – including my own ‘no seafood’ request.
We headed there on a bright summer’s evening, scoring us dramatic views across Manchester’s skyline from the wall of glass on the two top floors of the building the restaurant occupies – although sadly a lot of it is frosted, for which dippy decision some architect deserves a good telling off. Décor is quirky and contemporary and the tables are set comfortably far apart to ensure you can’t overhear conversation, but not so distant you feel like you need to whisper.
Despite glowingly white cloths and drop dead gorgeous crockery, there’s none of that froideur you can find in more traditional fine dining venues. Service is undertaken by the kitchen team as well as three front of house staff, meaning that when a young man sets down a plate of deliciousness in front of you he is quite likely to have prepped and cooked it himself – and that really adds something rather special to the occasion, as you can thank your culinary genius in person.
Our menu for the night was a dream, from start to finish. Opening with a quartet of tiny dishes – Salt & Pepper Crisp with Wakame Emulsion; Temura Salty Finger with Lemon & Yuzu Gel; Tempura Avocado in Bao Bun and Red Thai Curry Lamb Breast, we were given a taste of things to come. Each of the four dishes was uniquely flavoured, yet tied to the next in a mystical way that defies explanation. Culinary genius.
We next moved on to a Hot & Sour Beef Consommé with a Miso Onion & Sesame Brioche; how those flavours work quite so astonishingly well is another mystery to me, but I was learning to love the surprises and keen for my next one. And yes, I confess, being offered a plate of Crispy Duck Tongues, with Mushroom & XO Sauce was a surprise – but a good one, a very good one!
Now – my personal favourite: Soy & Ginger Glazed Pork Cheek with Choi and Cinders. Incredible: soft melting meet with a delicate essence of salt and heat, crispy cinder flakes to add an indefinable smokiness and a hint of the sea from a pinch of wakamame. Soft and scrumptious heaven on a plate.
Mike’s favourite came next: Fillet of Beef with Black Bean Sauce and Fried Rice – but not as you could possibly imagine it. Stikcy twists of fried beef wrapped in a simply delicious deeply dark sauce scattered a plate topped with a perfect piece of rare beef fillet, cooked in a rub of the chef’s own making, using nothing more, apparently, than charred ‘vegetable matter.’ Oh, if only the creation of such amazing textures and flavours were that straightforward…
Finally, we moved into the closing dishes, all prepared by the lovely Lily, who brought them to our table and was happy to chat us through each element. An Aloe Vera, Lime & Lychee palate cleanser was simply awesome (we were hard pressed not to lick the bowls) but the White Chocolate, Mango & Passionfruit tower that came next was extraordinary; not overly sweet, the Thai infused mango pieces cut through the soft chocolate mouse with elegant precision.
Jess, the maitre d’ (if such a word can describe this busy, happy, knowledgable young woman so passionately invested in her work) offered to wine match by the glass for us, and selected perfect wines, from the English sparking rosé with which we started to the Spanish Garnacha that accompanied the main dishes, but the pièce de résistance has to be the beautiful Kishinamien Umeshu sake she brought us rather than a dessert wine. Top notes of almond are swept up by a sweet-sharp hit of plum, leaving a fruity finish that’s not overwhelmingly sweet, as many traditional dessert wines are – think Bakewell Tart, the adult version. It’s simply fabulous.
At £70 per person, plus wines, it’s not a cheeky night out, but I can’t imagine better and more imaginative special occasion dining can be found anywhere else in the city right now