“ Address: Malmaison / Piccadilly / Manchester M1 1LZ / Tel: 0161 278 1000 „
On a recent trip away Mr Lools and I decided to dine in at the hotel restaurant we were staying in. This is quite rare as we like to have a look around the city we are staying in but as had dined in another Malmaison restaurant and been impressed we decided to opt for a room rate which included dinner (or a value you could put towards your evening meal). So this is how we came about dining in the Smoak Bar and Grill.
***Smoak Bar and Grill***
The description of Smoak on the website is "It all starts with the incredible aroma of oak smoked chips from the Josper Grill, add to it the cutlery clatter and chef and diner chatter of counter top dining. Mix it with a quiet pop and exquisite fizzle of a chilled bottle of bubbly. That is Smoak."
Smoak Bar and Grill is located in the Malmaison Hotel Manchester, in Manchester City Centre. It was the former Malmaison Brassiere however was refurbished and re-opened in August 2011 as Smoak Bar and Grill. A grill type restaurant isn't my usual choice as I generally find the restaurant to be too casual and similar to pub style dining but the Smoak restaurant has the feel of a more upmarket brassiere with a more relaxed feel.
Smoak Bar and Grill is located on Manchester Piccadilly less than a 5 minute walk from Piccadilly train station. The hotel/ restaurant does not have its own car park. The nearest car park is the The Grand NCP which is less than a 2 minute walk away. There is some on street parking on adjacent streets.
Within Smoak Bar and Grill there is the Smoak Bar area, the Smoak Grill area where food is served and Ember Lounge. Ember Lounge is described as a "private cocktail lounge" where it serves cocktails and afternoon tea.
Smoak Grill is open Monday-Saturday between 12pm and 2.30pm for lunch, and on Sunday's between 11am and 3pm. Evening dining is between 6pm-11pm Monday to Saturday and 6pm-10.30pm on a Sunday.
Ember Lounge is open from 12pm-4pm daily for afternoon tea (currently September 2011) and on an evening Wednesday-Sunday from 7pm-late.
Smoak Bar & Grill at Malmaison
Telephone: 0161 278 1000
As we were guests at the hotel and had booked dining in the restaurant through our room rate when we arrived at reception we were able to book a table then We had booked the Eat, Sleep, Drink package which included an evening meal and a bottle of house wine. Unfortunately this had not been properly explained at the time of booking on the website but the receptionist did explain what the package included on check in. With this package you are offered a 3 course meal at Smoak from a set menu or have £40 to spend on food (between 2 people) from the a la carte menu and a bottle of house red or white wine is included. If you choose to eat from the a la carte menu and spend more than the £40 allocation the extra will be included in your final bill when checking out. With this package you are restricted on your dining times and can book a table between 6pm-7pm and from 9pm onwards.
Whilst checking into the hotel, I did overhear the receptionists asking guests if they were wanted to book a table in the restaurant even if they had not booked a dining package with their room rate. At 2pm when we were checking in guests were able to book tables at any time of the night and were not restricted on availability.
You can book a table at Smoak by telephoning the Grill directly on 0161 278 1000. You can also book online. You
Pictures of Smoak Bar and Grill, Manchester
Smoak Bar and Grill, Manchester have the choice (depending on availability) of booking at 15 minute intervals between 6pm and 9.30pm however for groups of over 5 you will need to ring up to book.
Whilst we were waiting in the bar area prior to our meal people were walking in on the night looking for a table who were not guests at the hotel. This was a Saturday night (at around 6.30pm) and the restaurant was reasonably busy. Larger groups (of 4 or more) were being told no tables were available until after 9.30pm However smaller groups of 4 or under were being offered tables from around 8.45pm. Therefore if you are wanting a table at the more popular dining times (between 7pm and 9pm) or visiting the restaurant as a larger group it would be advisable to book in advance.
The Ember Lounge is by bookings only and you are asked to call the booking line or as a hotel guest book at reception.
Smoak Bar and Grill has the feel of an upmarket modern restaurant combined with the feel of a relaxed grill type dining establishment. The restaurant and bar areas has a light airy feel with light walls and wooden floors and chunky wooden tables yet with comfortable seating a mixture of cream padded seats and shiny red type booths that you would find in a diner. The tables are set quite simply with plain (but smart and clean) white napkins and stainless steel cutlery without being overly fussy with lots of table decoration as there is a simply candle in the centre of the table.
The tables are close enough together to give the restaurant a busy relaxed feel but without the restaurant feeling cramped or that you are sitting with people on the table next to you and can overhear their conversations.
The kitchen/ grill area is actually part of the restaurant so you can see your food being cooked by the chefs. There is a large counter which the grill is behind and to the side of this a butchery. This is a big clear glass chilled fridge where you can see all of the meat that is going to be cooked. I think this is more for effect to give the feeling of a rustic/ authentic grill but Mr Lools was very impressed that after ordering from the menu we were able to go up to this glass area and hand pick the steak that wanted. Personally I am quite squeamish and hate raw meat but the meat is not gory and in fact I didn't think it looked real (it was though! ). This butchery area is not too imposing and large and if you really had an issue with looking at raw meat there are plenty of tables in the restaurant you could sit at where you would not be able to see the raw meat storage area!
The bar area has a large stone bar with lots of spirits on display, like you would expect from a cocktail bar but without it looking too messy and cluttered. There are around 8 tables in the bar area which are lower level (very much like coffee tables) with a variety of padded comfy chairs, with brightly coloured cushions on them which gives this area a very informal look to it.
***Dining and Service***
We had booked a table to dine at 7pm however in my usual style I was running late and did not arrive in the restaurant until 7.10pm. This was not an issue and we were greeted in an extremely friendly manner by a member of staff and shown to our table. The member of staff who greeted us was extremely friendly yet extremely relaxed and chatted to us as we walked into the dining area. We were shown to a table for two in the middle of the restaurant quite close to the grill area and offered the choice of this table or asked if we would prefer to sit by the window. Mr Lools likes to watch food being cooked therefore we went for the table by the grill. We were then given the set three course menu for the Eat, Sleep and Drink package and also given the a la carte menu which we could also order off.
Both menus were very tempting however we decided to order from the a la carte menu as we felt there was more choice and also Mr Lools and I aren't really dessert people. On the Eat, Sleep and Drink menu the food is local in season food therefore the menu will change. At the time we visited in August 2011. The al la carte grill menu has a very wide variety of meals. To start there are 3 "raw and cured" options, 7 different starters which include 3 vegetarian options (soup, baked figs and goat cheese tart) and also dishes such as a shrimp cocktail and foie gras. You can also order the five salads from the main menu in smaller starter sized portions. The prices of starters vary from £4 for soup to £9.50 for a shrimp cocktail. The main menu has a wide variety of choice both for meat eaters and vegetarians. The menu is split up into main meals and salads and Grill. On the main menu and salad options there are around 14 different dishes which include veal parmiagana, fried buttermilk chicken, cod fishfingers and seared peppered tuna. On the grill menu there is a "Smoak" burger and 6 different type of beef steak options with a grilled fish option (which included lobster, scallops, clams and prawns). Prices on the main menu varied from £10 for a main salad or fishfinger option to up to £30 for the most expensive steak option. There are a number of side dishes which include skinny fries, mac and cheese, fennel gratin, carrots and peas, a red onion salad and a blue cheese and walnut salad all of which are £3 each.
I ordered a crispy duck salad to start (£7)with a 35 day aged 14oz steak (£28). Mr Lools also ordered the same steak as me and a smoked salmon platter to start (£8). We also ordered two portions of skinny fries as these do not come with the items on the grill menu. We decided against ordering a dessert although there were 8 nice options mainly as we knew we would be full up from the previous two courses.
Once we had ordered our starter came within about 15 minutes which I think is an acceptable time considering the restaurant was extremely busy. Once we had finished the starters and our plates taken away we waited another 15-20 minutes before our main meal arrived. This felt acceptable and because you could see a constant flow of food coming from the grill to the busy restaurant it did not feel like a long wait or that we were being rushed through our courses too quickly.
The quality of food was excellent. Mr Lools did initially think the smoked salmon platter looked small when it came as there were 3 pieces with the crème freche and herb dressing but felt because it was so rich it was the perfect amount and was very fresh. My crispy duck salad was also very tasty and there was a good mixture of duck (which was free from fatty pieces) with salad, onion and bean shoots. The chilli dressing was spicy but our waitress had already warned me the was the case when I ordered. The 35 day aged steak was definitely the highlight of the meal. After we ordered we hand selected these from the butchery. The chef who was in the fridge area when we went over to pick these out gave us advice onto which were the best steaks (from a choice of about 8 steaks) so we went with his advice. When the steak arrived being a 400g (14oz) piece of steak it was sizeable but was cooked to perfection. My steak was rare and still was pink inside but not dripping with blood and the medium rare steak Mr Lools went for was just to his taste. Although we ordered a side portion of fries each we probably could have opted for one between us as the portions were large, especially with a huge steak put in front of us. Accompanying the steak was a flat mushroom.
We ordered house white wine because this is what was included with our meal. House wine was about £13 per bottle , with a selection of 10 red, 10 white and 3 rose wines. There is also a champagne menu which ranges from cheaper champagnes for Mercier for £50 a bottle up to Cristal and £320 a bottle! Our "cheap" house wine was infact very nice tasting and very light fresh and fruity tasting which is surprising as you often find house white wines can have a very cheap acidic taste.
Our food and drink total when dining came to £90. This was for two starters, two main courses of steak, two side orders of fries and a bottle of house wine. Although this is bordering on expensive for a meal for two the quality of the food served, the service and the atmosphere in the restaurant made this extremely worthwhile and I would definitely return again. Because of our hotel package removing the bottle of wine (£13) and £40 food allocation we only had to pay £37 extra when we came to check which made this even better value.
The level of service was excellent although I do feel there is quite a staged "casual relaxed" manner taken by staff when actually they are extremely efficient in the running of the restaurant but do not want to come across too formal and stuffy. For example the staff were extremely attentive when we had put down the menus to finish ordering (despite the restaurant being very busy), and when we finished drinks but were not overbearing and feeling like they were standing over you watching you or forcing you to order something from the menu or from the bar, instead they were there when needed and made knowledgeable comments about the food yet were very relaxed in the way they spoke to you as a customer. Even down to uniform was very relaxed as all of the waiting staff were wearing jeans, with a white shirt, with the restaurant manager being dressed the same only wearing a casual black blazer over his shirt.
In terms of family dining, on the Saturday night when we dined I did not see any tables with children in their party. I do not feel that the restaurant discourages children however there is no childrens menu therefore this is probably somewhere I would recommend for families with older children and teenagers rather than toddlers.
The Smoak Bar and Grill has a bar area where you do not have to book however there is also the option of drinking in the "private" Ember Lounge. This is given a very exclusive feel and you are requested to "book" to drink in this area. We "booked" a table via reception and had a drink in this bar area following our meal in the Smoak Grill. We were shown through to the lounge which is at the back of the Smoak restaurant by a host and were shown to table. The Ember Lounge has a more exclusive, luxurious and formal feel to it than the Smoak bar area. The area is a medium size with a variety of sized tables which are not too close together. This area has table service so once we were shown our table we were told someone would come over to take our order. This seemed to take quite a while despite the lounge not being too busy and we waited 5 minutes for our order to be taken and a further 5 minutes to actually get our drinks. A glass of house white wine was around £6 and a pint of lager £4 which was more than in the Smoak bar area. Cocktails also appeared to be more expensive with some champagne cocktails being priced at £20 a glass!
Personally I did not feel too comfortable in the Ember Lounge I felt it was too quiet and the atmosphere was too formal for a Saturday night. Music was playing but I just felt the lack of conversation and laughter made this area feel too exclusive and pretentious and I noticed a lot of couples actually walking in and walking back out and choosing to drink in the Smoak bar area instead. We only spend 30 minutes in this area before leaving to drink in the Smoak bar area.
I was extremely impressed with the menu and restaurant experience in general and would definitely recommend Smoak Bar and Grill to others. The restaurant is a more upmarket modern grill restaurant without being pretentious or exclusive and the atmosphere is that of a high quality restaurant but still relaxed and enjoyable. The menu offers locally sourced food with a range of steaks and dishes where there is something for everyone even vegetarians!
Smoak Bar and Grill is not a cheap dining and drinking experience (but not too expensive) however the quality of the food is excellent and definitely worth paying a little extra for.
Service can't be faulted and even though the restaurant was reasonably busy staff were attentive, friendly and extremely helpful without being overbearing and interrupting you whilst you are eating or giving you the feeling you are being rushed.
We will definitely be revisiting as I would say the steak I ordered was the best I have eaten. A five star eating experience at 4 star prices.