MFDF: Aumbry

4 Oct

Having been brought up on a solid 80’s diet, with a few northern classics thrown in for good measure, I oft lament the fact that my poor palate is not as experienced or educated as it should be, given its enthusiasm and my endless greed. Since the day of my enlightenment, involving The Bridge, Robert Owen Brown and a dish of rabbit and wild mushroom pie, (a story for another time), I have been on a pilgrimage for a more comprehensive understanding of flavours, skills and cuisines, but have always stopped short at fine dining for fear of being out of my depth.

A girl of simple pleasures, I much prefer a restaurant with a homelier feel. Something a little rough around the edges with a gamey, modern British twist, offering an experience you can sink right into and cosily lose yourself in; your table an island, as it were, that only you and your fellow diner(s) exist on. Luckily for me, in Manchester such gaffes are ten a penny, with The Mark Addy, Sam’s Chop House and of late, The Blue Pig all welcoming the hungry masses into comfortable surroundings and hours later sending them sated and carb saturated on their merry way. The joy!

Whilst the city’s fine dining scene is no less prevalent, few of its restaurants make noise enough to ensure people return on a regular basis in the face of bold chefs, elaborate menus and pricey bills, which sadly make this kind of craft less accessible and keeps girls with a preference for pie and chips (albeit of the venison and thrice cooked variety) away. Gladly something Aumbry doesn’t suffer, despite its unassuming nature and out of the way Prestwich location.

Much mentioned amongst Manchester food types, on account of its delicate, imaginative cooking style, fondness for local produce and clever plays on traditional dishes, this Michelin-listed establishment only ever gets good lip service and a steady stream of customers to the converted cottage in which it is housed. Traditionally offering up 6 and 9 course tasting menus and a compact al a carte offering, my Dad and I lucked out on the very reasonable Manchester Food and Drink Festival (MFDF) 5 course tasting menu at just £25.*

An amuse bouche of salt beef stovie, luxuriously reminiscent of northern favourite corned beef hash, got things off to a very agreeable start, followed by a heavenly, lightly smoked fillet of mackerel on zingy strips of poached rhubarb and a gentle mustard sauce. As one of the few fresh ingredients of my childhood, despite the dish’s excessive plate to food ratio, it felt like coming home, though to a slightly more refined, less freezer dependent version, proving itself a decadent trip down memory lane.

Salt Beef Stovie

Home Smoked Mackerel, Poached Rhubarb and Mustard Cream

The field mushroom soup topped with truffle oil gave way to a little mouth orgasm, or as my Dad more lyrically put it, mouth scenes reminiscent of a forest fuck. You can take the boy out of Rochdale… Simple ingredients, powerful flavours, it’s a dish you never want to end, though excitingly gave way to the main event of hare loin. Being a game bird, I fully expected to be blown away, and though the dish was beautifully cooked, had strong liver undertones that I couldn’t quite get past. Personal preference is all.

Field Mushroom Soup with English Truffle Oil

Loin of Wild Hare, Swede Puree, Cavolo Nero and Barley Grass

A pre-dessert of grapefruit posset topped with celery granita and a spoon of sherbert gave way to a little mouth party, surprising given I usually avoid such tastes like the plague, but the real delight was the dessert of macerated Yorkshire strawberries with black pepper meringue, balsamic mousse and creamy rosewater pannacotta. A dainty dish of delicious and well-delivered ideas, this trait carried through the whole evening, seen over in the beef dripping to accompany our bread and white chocolate and burnt butter petit fours of popping candy centre excitement, all playful touches which more than made the meal.

Grapefruit Posset with Celery Granita and Grapefruit Sherbet

Yorkshire Strawberries, Rosewater Cream, Black Pepper and Violet

For my money, (or my Dad’s in this case), Aumbry is fine dining at its best. Expertly executed, classic combinations are stretched and re-imagined without ever taking you outside your comfort zone; the food felt familiar but exquisitely so, with a warmth and elegance that extended beyond the kitchen. Professional staff and graceful décor, the chintzy plates and burnished cutlery took me back to my Nana’s dining room, a homecoming of sorts for my Dad too, all in all resulting in the most relaxed of evenings, completely engrossed in one another’s company and forgetting where we were. A bigger compliment I could not give.

* Tasting menus range from £51 to £66, not including wine, with the a la carte offering starters from around the £10 region up to £26 for the mains.

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