Aumbry pops up in Northern Quarter – we speak to Mary-Ellen McTague about why

Kate Feld

It is arguably Manchester’s best restaurant, even if it is in Prestwich – so why is chef Mary-Ellen McTague moving Aumbry into town?

Aumbry… so brilliant, so acclaimed, so blinkin’ far away from the city. Personally, we’ve always loved the fact that one of the best restaurants in Greater Manchester stubbornly holds court in two knocked-together terraces in Prestwich. But committed urbanistas will finally get a chance to taste Mary-Ellen McTague’s bold, inventive cooking when the chef opens a pop-up restaurant in the Northern Quarter next month.

Opening on 23 September, 4424 Edge Street will serve a five-course tasting menu (dinner only) on Tuesdays to Saturdays, at a 50-cover venue put together in partnership with Sparklestreet (of Teacup, Bonbon and Proper Tea fame). Operating out of the back of the existing Teacup café, it’ll be serving up the likes of slow-cooked Cumbrian beef, sautéed mushrooms and snails and grapefruit posset – classic Aumbry fare – with bespoke wine and tea pairings. And the timing is cleverly planned to coincide with kitchen renovations at the Prestwich restaurant, which will re-open before Christmas.

“The dining scene in Manchester is unrecognisable from that of five years ago; we want to be part of it.”

Opening in the city centre “is an idea that’s been bandied about quite a lot. People always thought our location was a bit strange, but for us it was a decision that had to do with having small children and wanting to be close to home.” What’s changed now? Manchester restaurants have raised their game, according to McTague. “There’s been so much happening in Manchester in the last five years – the dining scene is completely unrecognisable, so many really innovative, high quality operators have come in and it’s now something we want to be a part of.”

McTague points to recent arrivals The French (“I love it – such a class act”) and Manchester House as bringing ballast to the city’s fine dining offer, and says she’s noticed more diners at Aumbry who say they’re visiting Manchester as culinary tourists. But it’s not just the fine dining restaurants that deserve the credit, she says. “You couldn’t get decent sushi in the city five years ago, it just did not exist. Now there are a couple of good places – the whole dining scene has become more vibrant, at every price point.”

McTague confirms there’s zero chance that this pop-up will turn into a permanent resident – it’s a temporary lease. But if it’s a success, it could herald a more lasting move into the city. “If the right thing came up in town, of course we’d be crazy not to consider it. But first we have to see if what we do works there.”

Based on our past experience of McTague’s cooking (goes off into dreamy fugue state), we’d be incredibly surprised if it didn’t work in Manchester. Or, for that matter, pretty much anywhere. 4244 will be the culinary one-upsmanship prize of the autumn, made more interesting by that tantaslisingly small window – just five weeks, kids. Foodie scenesters and cameraphone-wielding dinner photographers, bring your game faces. Your scramble for bookings starts September 1.

4244 has now CLOSED. Mary-Ellen McTague and her team will be coming to Manchester city centre – more news shortly.

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