“ Address: Castle Quay / Castlefield / Manchester / M15 4NT / „
I went to this restaurant with my girlfriend, mainly because it was conveniently close to us, but i can see why people would go out of their way to visit.
It's location, while not in Manchester's town centre, more on the perimeter, is a really gorgeous area of Castlefield, sat right on the riverbank of the Castelfield Basin area. In the summer months you can sit outside and watch the barges roll along the water, and the Canadian geese bully ducks for bread.
Aside from its location, the food is pretty damn good as well. The menu is quite restricted in its choice, but that's probably because each dish is intricately perfected, rather than serving a barrage of rushed out generic cuisine.
You can regularly fine good deals on too. If you have a Citycard (Manchester) you'll enjoy 2 for 1, but even without this they regularly knock large sums off the actual price.
The service is quality, with the restaurant obviously aiming itself toward a classier breed of diner (which we certainly weren't) but the waiters are polite, professional and knowledgeable as well.
The dining area is quite small, quaint you might say, supplementing a more intimate environment.
If you're looking for a fine meal out, at good prices, then it is definitely high on the list in Manchester.
Choice Bar and Restaurant, Castle Quay, Manchester, M15 4NT
Where is it:
Choice Bar and restaurant is on Castle Quay in the Castlefield area of Manchester. When you approach it from the road it does not look like a restaurant at all, there is a small free car park as you turn left off the road. Once you have parked your car you then walk down towards the canal and the restaurant is on your right. It looks onto the Castle Quay and has a large area in front of it where you can eat outside in nice weather. In the winter the tables and chairs are piled up and the area is just empty. The view looking out from the restaurant down the quay and canal is very pleasant and relaxing and you could imagine that you were not in the middle of one of Britain's largest cities. There are a few canal boats and on the day we went most recently (Jan 2009) the sun was shining and it looked most charming. To get a better idea have a look at their website: www.choicebarandrestaurant.co.uk
As you enter the restaurant you walk into the bar area where there are a few tables and seats, a large grand piano, a long bar and at the back is a display cabinet full of wines and champagnes. To the right at the back of the bar as you walk in are the toilets - through a corridor. We sat at a table nearest the piano and within a few minutes someone had come over to take our orders for drinks which we had chosen from the drinks menu on the table.
The menu was small in size and white with a picture of a tall glass filled with ice cubes and mint leaves, then the name of the restaurant was under this - simple and elegant. There was a good selection of ten cocktails, five draught beers, twelve bottled beers, hot beverages then wines on the back. Later when we had the main menu we were also brought a larger wine list to select from.
We sat and enjoyed our drinks while trying to choose our food from the extensive menu. We were there on Sunday at lunch time so we could chose from the Sunday menu or the a la carte menu.
A Smart Choice menu is available all day and all night Monday to Thursday and from 12PM to 6 PM Friday to Sunday. This menu offers 2 courses for £13.95 or 3 courses for £16.95 with a choice of 3 or 4 dishes for each course. An example of this menu can be seen here: http://www.choicebarandrestaurant.co.uk/menu/choice_menu_smart.pdf
The a la carte menu has a bigger choice, eight dishes as starters, ten main course choices and seven dessert choices including cheese and biscuits. You can have a look at the present menu at: http://www.choicebarandrestaurant.co.uk/menu/choice_menu_a_la_carte.pdf
At the time of writing January 2009 'Choice' have a sale with a number of dishes reduced. This will probably not be on much longer as it is only the post Christmas lack of customers that has prompted this.
The restaurant and bar have a collection of awards to their name:
AA Rosette Award Winner
Manchester Restaurant of the Year 2003 - 2004
Manchester Food and Drink Best wine list 2002
Hi-Life Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year 2005
Manchester Tourism Awards Taste of Manchester 2007
On the menu they state: We use the finest quality local ingredients from our regional suppliers. All our produce is freshly prepared on the premises and some items may occasionally become unavailable. Please allow time for the preparation of our dishes and ask for recommendations if your party has limited time to dine or if you have any dietary requirements. Some dishes may contain nuts or nut derivatives, please ask for assistance.
This statement and the menu show that the restaurant use locally produced ingredients and the fact that you can see the kitchen from the restaurant means that you know your meal is prepared freshly for you.
After we had chosen our starters and main courses we continued to sit in the bar and enjoy our drinks until our starters were ready when we were invited to come and sit at our table. We had chosen a wine while sitting at the bar, this was brought to our table to be Okayed, tasted and then poured for those of us enjoying the wine (non-drivers only). We had a large round table for six of us, there were about five other tables with customers and a number of empty tables. It was not packed but busy enough to add a little atmosphere. As I said before the kitchen is on view to the diners in the restaurant so no ' Gordan Ramsey' behaviour as it would be seen and heard in the restaurant by the diners.
My choice of starter was; Pan fried King scallops on a bed of crushed white bean, tomato and basil salad. It was absolutely delicious, a balance of fresh with the sweet juicy scallops.
Others in our party chose;
Crab cakes with sweet corn puree, little gem lettuce and smoked paprika oil.
Cream of cauliflower soup with curried cauliflower timbale.
Pork belly with soy and sesame dressing and pickled carrot and cucumber salad.
There was nothing left on any of our plates and every one said how much they had enjoyed their starter.
On to the next course and I decided to try something I had never had, pan fried wood pigeon with lentil and bacon stew and crushed new potatoes. We have a number of huge wood pigeons that come to share the snacks that I put in our garden for the birds. They are huge and look very plump but I had never tried to eat pigeon so I thought I would give it a try. It was just a few slices of breast on the lentil and bacon stew, quite small slices of darkish meat. It was quite gamey in flavour and I'm not sure I would go for it again but it was interesting to try (I'm sure the wood pigeons in our garden would be pleased to hear that!)
Others in our party tried a Hake on sautéed sweet potatoes with green olive puree with a herb and spice cafe de Paris butter; Venison haunch with butternut squash puree, red onion marmalade and spiced walnuts. Once again our plates were clean we are a greedy lot but we do like good food and we enjoyed this very much.
A few minutes were spent letting this all settle before we were tempted into dessert. I love crème brulee and so I chose the raspberry brulee with homemade shortbread and I wasn't disappointed. It was creamy with a sharp contrast of raspberry at the bottom; the shortbread was buttery and very fresh. There was a choice of Coconut Pannacotta which my husband chose, spiced parkin with warm apple and vanilla sauce chosen by my daughter; dark chocolate truffle and vanilla cheesecake with fruit and nut brittle chosen by two others and my son-in-law had the cheese and biscuits. I don't know how we fitted it all in but we did and it was all very well prepared, beautifully presented and brought to our table with just enough time for us to savour each course.
The staff waiting at the tables were attentive and knowledgeable about the menus, both the food and the drinks menu. They were helpful and polite, there when they were needed but not fussing over us needlessly. There is a service charge included in the bill so there is no need to tip, you can choose to not pay the service charge but we had no need to remove it as the service was excellent. The service charge is divided between the kitchen, bar and waiting staff at the end of each week which seems a very fair way to do things.
This is a restaurant that takes a pride in the way it prepares and presents its food. We have been there on a few occasions and have had great food and service each time. I know that some of Manchester's rich and famous have eaten at the restaurant but unfortunately not while we have been there. It is not a cheap restaurant but the prices are fair for the standard of food offered. Thank you for reading my review and I hope you find time to visit the website which gives a lot more information about the restaurant and also plays piano music as you click onto the site. If you ever go to Manchester then make some time to go there too I recommend it.
Also on Ciao under my name
Modern fine dining British restaurant.