Black Leaf at Alvarium, 8 Dorsey Street, Manchester, M4 1LU – Visit Now
Vegans rejoice, Black Leaf is here! This basement dining experience in the heart of the Northern Quarter is an original concept coming straight from Adam Leavy, a Masterchef semi-finalist who has dishes that will make you double-take. Not only is every dish vegan but Black Leaf is as sustainable as possible, from the organic wine to getting the most out of the ingredients on the plate.
The transition from the upstairs bar Alvarium’s brightly lit and flower-adorned walls to the intimate space below is separated by a few short steps. Despite being in the same building, the experiences are far from being identical. Where the cocktail bar above is a picturesque spot for an after-work drink, Black Leaf’s secretive atmosphere gives a meal an air of mystery.
In terms of food, Adam and his co-chef, Quiff, have created a vegan menu with a selection of starters, mains, sides and desserts that are each as captivating as the other. Starters include a charred watermelon plate, a sweet potato salad and somehow the nation’s favourite of a Scotch egg as well. The charred watermelon is beautiful, plated with edible Lilia flowers and a trio of pistachio discs that are topped by pickled cucumbers coated in sesame seeds. Seared in a stock syrup for a gradient in texture, the watermelon retains its juiciness with every bite and bursts with a sweetness similar to a Lotus biscuit to start the meal. Contrasting with this, the pickled cucumber has a sharp saltiness. The pistachio ‘feta’ then provides a soft richness to tie together the entire plate.
The Black Leaf Scotch Egg, upon initial inspection, is indistinguishable from a standard scotch egg. This remains so even after slicing open to reveal its layers and it isn’t until tasting that you can be absolutely sure that some sausage and egg hasn’t managed to sneak its way onto the menu.
All four different main courses are equally stunning and are a feast for the eyes if nothing else, sporting vibrant colours which give the feeling of life in every dish. Not only this, but they all also have a recommended glass of wine to pair with it. In the case of the roasted banana blossom, a glass of Ponte Pinot Grigio is in order. Seeing banana blossom being used is a delight as it’s an underappreciated ingredient, despite having a consistency that can almost replicate fish if cooked properly. This would be one of the said cases in which it has been cooked properly, rolled in seaweed such that it is almost indistinguishable from other sushi rolls. On the side are the options of chunky chips, salt and pepper tofu or petit pois a la Francaise. Having tried the salt and pepper tofu and also eaten a lot of MSG-laden portions of the years, Black Leaf’s tofu is nothing like what you’ve found from your local Chinese. Not only is the standard saltiness there but also a subtle sweetness, all without dripping grease all over your plate.
To finish choose from a deconstructed Black Forest gateaux, pistachio crème brulee or pear and yuzu rice pudding. Although all are amazing choices, the gateaux is decadent beyond belief. The base component is made from silken tofu to get the right consistency rather than dairy which is then topped with truffles of peppermint chocolate and finally topped with a cherry compote. Definitely a sharer, or ideal for any vegan chocoholic.
Black Leaf is a welcome addition to the Northern Quarter’s vegan scene and makes for an impressive 2-in-1 of fine dining and vegan indulgence. Word on the street is that a vegan Sunday roast and even a Christmas menu are in the works. Keep your eyes peeled and fingers ready to book.