Alston Bar & Beef, Cathedral Street, Manchester, M4 3TR – Visit Now
The name Alston Bar & Beef implies a whole host of different sorts of places – anything from a boozy high street steakhouse, quickly forgotten, to the other end of the quality spectrum.
Alston places itself carefully towards the top end – making the bold assertion it’s bringing the best steak to Manchester. Originally set up in Glasgow, they use only the finest Scottish beef, each animal and cut chosen specifically for its quality and flavour by their expert butcher.
With characteristic Scottish assuredness, it’s positioning itself in direct competition with names like Hawksmoor, one of the city’s most renowned restaurants, as well as the Blackhouse Grills and more. How well does it match up?
Roasted scallops alongside flaky shards of prosciutto, a black pudding crumb, and garden peas
It’s a welcoming subterranean space below the Corn Exchange. Entering from Cathedral Gardens, you descend into a well-lit dining room. It never felt empty even when half-full – maintaining atmosphere through layout and lighting, not to mention excellent service.
Alston boasts a top selection of gins, and pride themselves on their gin serves. The gin and tonics we chose between us made a great match for our choices of starter.
Fillet steak carpaccio was an exciting dish of wafer-thin raw beef slices, pungent chimichurri, crunchy shallot rings, pickled radish and artichoke heart. That last ingredient was somewhat superfluous, but overall it was delicious. Roasted scallops alongside flaky shards of prosciutto, a black pudding crumb, and garden peas, were light and tasty – a good way to preface the rich courses to come.
Steak is such a difficult dish to pass judgement on – so simple that the smallest mistake can condemn it, and going from good to unforgettable is a true test. Either way, they were the main event.
Both had clearly been prepared and, most importantly, rested well – no pools of juice or damp meat upon presentation. The 300g ribeye, cooked rare, was soft and yielding, and with a lovely pink interior. It lacked a little colour on top – more aggressive browning would have done it justice – but it was still lovely.
The fillet steak, at 230g and medium-rare, had it all. Good things come in small packages, and this was full of flavour, despite fillet’s reputation, with a perfect crust. It was tender upon cutting into it, but had just enough resistance to the bite.
Both steaks had been rested well – no pools of juice or damp meat
Their crunchy chips are a memorable accompaniment, and each steak comes with a choice of butter or sauce. I prefer to eat steak as it comes, but a little pan of butter at the side of the plate – spiced and fragrant bone marrow butter for me, and savoury, punchy garlic and herb butter for my partner – was spot-on as an option.
Surprisingly, they’re accomplished patissiers at Alston too. Dark chocolate and orange mousse was cut through with chilli, topped with crunchy crumbled biscuit. It wasn’t the lightest mousse, but at a small size was just the right level of intensity and richness.
Peach and pistachio was presented gorgeously – a dome of blush mousse, studded with pieces of the unmistakable green nut. The textures played off each other wonderfully, as soft and dainty peach met boisterous and earthy pistachio, ending the meal exceptionally.
There’s a way to go before Alston can call itself Manchester’s best steak restaurant. However, it’s doing a lot of things very well and has bags of potential. After only about a year in its spot, I hope to see it make its name known locally, keep improving and make its mark. Where others might rest on their laurels, Alston ought to keep pushing the boundaries.