The Bull & Bear, Manchester, Restaurant Review
PUBLISHED: 14:33 24 February 2020 | UPDATED: 14:33 24 February 2020
Copyright © Bevan Cockerill. All rights reserved.
The Bull & Bear opened last November, to the great excitement of the region’s foodies, but what’s it really like?
The Bull & Bear, at Manchester's Stock Exchange Hotel, is the first restaurant opened in the North by Tom Kerridge, who has modelled the concept on his Michelin-starred pub in Marlow, The Coach.
Moments after being seated, we are offered a glass of Champagne, the menus and a quick run-though of what we should expect. The restaurant offers 'small plate' dining, so we're recommended to order two to three plates each, to give ourselves a full opportunity to experience Kerridge's genius, I imagine. Just a note here: the plates aren't that small. My bottomless-bellied husband managed three, but for me, one plus a side-order would be plenty! Not necessarily because of their size, but because each dish is so full of flavour, with not an atom that doesn't belong and add to the overall experience, that it's rather easy to be overwhelmed. We ordered six: Mike started with the Mushroom Risotto, a mushroom lover's fantasy dish, with not a grain of rice in sight. He almost inhaled it. Chicken Kiev, a rectangular chicken parcel filled with garlic butter and served with maple-roasted butternut squash, was tasty but nothing extraordinary. Venison Chilli with Toasted Rice Cream, Red Wine and Chocolate, however - oh the bliss and the joy. What a revelation! I am not a fan of venison, but this was a whole new level of chilli delight - rich and delicious and if I could only choose one, this would be it. We also chose Steak and Blue Cheese 'Demi' Pie with Roasted Onion and Ale Gravy. I don't know what 'demi' means, but what we got was just fabulous. A globe of fine pastry filled with the most succulent, richly flavoured beef, with a centre of melty-awesome blue cheese. Deeply delicious, super-rich. A round of pork belly was meltingly sweet and light and the accompanying apple slice most welcome in a very meat-heavy selection, one entirely our own fault, but it has to be said, this is a menu really very light on the non-meat/fish options - apart from a Hispi cabbage side, everything else is pulses or carbs. Finally, we added a bowl of chips to the selection, with gherkin ketchup. The ketchup is rather wow, but in no way were we going to be able to manage the chips - there may have been only six, but they are the size of bricks.
We enjoyed a fabulous meal in a very relaxed experience - nothing like the swanky, don't-drip-gravy-on-the-tablecloth atmosphere of most fine dining venues. The team has done a thrilling job with the décor, keeping it all about that magnificent domed ceiling and filling the space with dark green curved seating, in a symmetrical mix of booths and tables. There are large screen TVs dotted around too, which on the night we went played the United v City game. This rather put a dampener on Mike's experience is has to be said, though I am grateful that it wasn't any other match, as he worked hard at ignoring this one and I managed to get some conversation out of him.
It's hard to know if this is a pub, or a restaurant. The food is superb, no question, and the small(ish) plates idea very pub-like. The surroundings are just beautiful - but... TVs? The ambience is relaxed and easy, however, and allied to the definitely-do-that-again food, it's most certainly somewhere we would eat again and again.
If you can - book yourself a room for the night. They are fabulously cool, and very luxe, with a bath in the bedroom, a vast TV that lifts from the foot of the bed, and décor of a standard you don't see every day. And the bed... its vast spread enhanced by a mattress topper spun from angels' wings, ready to lift you to a heavenly night's sleep...