Grafene, 55 King Street, Manchester, M2 4LQ – Visit Now
Grafene is one of the many highly-regarded restaurants on King Street and, by all accounts, has lofty ambitions. This is evidenced by the recent hiring of new head chef, 29 year old Ben Mounsey, who comes from a long line of Michelin starred and AA-rosetted restaurants in the North. But how does his new menu stand up?
We opt for the three courses, with bread and ‘surprises’, for a bargain £45.00. Our first surprise is an ink-black bagel, with a gentle hollandaise sauce, smoked salmon and a crisp green cracker. It’s delicious. As is the bread – two hot-from-the-oven miniature home-baked loafs, served with two unusual types of butter (corn butter and a tomato-salted butter).
As for starters, I opt for the pork cheek curry, which comes with soft mini carrots, golden raisins and a delicate wafer-style cracker. The dish is tart, sweet and completely original – and while it isn’t the best dish we’ll try this evening, it shows a heartening amount of skill and imagination.
The crab dish is arguably better, boasting flakes of fresh, subtle crabmeat, alongside a well-flavoured bisque, plus well-portioned amounts of barley and a few slivers of radish that add a touch of colour as well as flavour.
The torched monkfish main is firmly recommended by the waiter, and rightly so. Two thick wedges of meaty fish, lie in a bowl of warm umami broth, surrounded by mouthwatering baby turnips, kale and linseed crackers. It’s as satisfying as it is pretty – the best British seafood can be.
The stone bass dish is even better. A beautifully cooked fillet of wonderful white fish, with an expert crispy skin, next to a mound of mashed potato and a complex sauce consisting of smoked eel, onion and apple. If we’re being picky, the apple adds a touch of unwanted sweetness that isn’t all that necessary but the rest is perfection.
Chocolate-lovers should go straight for the mint chocolate brownie – an angular construction of rich smooth chocolate slices, mixed up with soft mousse and brownie. But the star of the show is the passion fruit ganache – another recommendation from our waiter. It’s a bold plate, full of strong flavours such as ginger, mixed with soft creamy textures and little hard nuggets of sweet frosting.
Grafene has gone from strength to strength in the couple of years since opening. The dishes are complex but delicious, never sacrificing flavour but always offering something interesting and exciting. New head chef Ben Mounsey might be young in years, but has a wealth of experience and ideas that ensure Grafene remains one of King Street’s best restaurants.