James Martin Manchester

Ian Jones, Food and Drink Editor
Ian Jones

James Martin is frustratingly hard to find. Not the Yorkshire chef, he’s everywhere – if he’s not all over terrestrial TV, he’s in his car frightening cyclists. No, we’re wandering around the cavernous Great Northern Warehouse trying in vain to find his Manchester restaurant, led astray by a lack of signage – and in one case, one arrow pointing us in the entirely wrong direction. Exasperated, we ask the staff at the nearby casino where it is, only to discover it’s actually in the casino itself.

Meat proves to be the element James Martin excels at

But the fun doesn’t stop there. Not quite grasping the concept of food photography, the doorman refuses to allow us in with a camera. After explaining that we were here to take images of the food – not depressed dads putting the mortgage repayments on red – he silently, and reluctantly, deigned to let us in.

Guinea Fowl

Thankfully, the restaurant itself couldn’t be more different from this unedifying start. The staff are delightful and eager to help and suggest dishes, all while waxing lyrical about their personal favourites.

Heavy on flavours of the British countryside

The meat starters are fantastic, with a slow-cooked ox cheek – darkly-sticky and tender as they come – competing with the guinea fowl dish for attention. The latter is particularly delicious, all rich autumn flavours, wonderfully-cooked with soft breast meat and a grandly crispy skin. The Thai crab risotto rather pales in comparison, being slightly over-salted, and less easy on the eye. It’s not a disaster by any means – it’s a perfectly fine bowl of soft rice with subtle Thai flavours – but can’t live up to the standards set by its carnivore-friendly sibling.

Ox Cheek

Indeed, meat proves to be the element James Martin excels at, with the crown roasted baby chicken making for a stellar main course. It’s heavy on flavours of the British countryside, employing an array of cooked-down vegetable aromas for the jus, and the unusual but impressive addition of dill to the accompanying pearl barley.

Thai Crab Risotto

But the real show-stopper is the Cumbrian beef, made to share between two people. It’s brought over on a huge wooden platter to gasps of admiration, boasting no less than eight thick slices of beautifully-cooked steak, a pot of decadent bone marrow topped with crunchy crumb, and a mighty T-bone jutting out of the whole thing. It’s a Desperate Dan wet dream come true.

While the other dishes are all excellent, this is truly great and if you’re a Manchester-based meat-lover, a must-try. It comes with hemispheres of softened onion, cupping a gloriously rich truffle-infused red wine gravy, plus a bowl of crispy hispi cabbage that’s coated with a not-strictly-necessary creamy sauce, and some perfectly fine potatoes.

Cumbrian Beef

It’s a meal made for red wine, and James Martin has a better wine list than most, with a decent range of prices that neither intimidate or patronise.

Crown Roasted Baby Chicken

Desserts don’t disappoint. The classic sticky toffee pudding is one of the best in the city, in no small part thanks to the excellent salted caramel ice cream. It might be a calorific nightmare but ice cream is a vital component of the sticky toffee pudding, a fact which all too many nearby restaurants fail to grasp.

Hot Sticky Toffee Pudding

The elderflower brulee is a more delicate dish, all thin shards of sugar glass and lurid green ice cream. After the heaviness of the meat, this proves the most suitable finale.

Elderflower Brulee

After an inauspicious start, it’s a relief that James Martin’s Manchester restaurant delivers a solid top-quality experience. It hovers around that hinterland between high-end cuisine and casual dining, serving up impressively detailed dishes, while never being overly fusty or wallet-drainingly expensive. It’s certainly not one for vegetarians, as the most visually impressive and tastiest dishes are all geared around hefty chunks of meat, but a top-drawer option for those of the carnivorous persuasion.

2 Watson StManchesterM3 4LP View map
Telephone: 01618280345 Visit Now

Opening Hours

  • Monday5:00pm - 10:00pm
  • Tuesday5:00pm - 10:00pm
  • Wednesday5:00pm - 10:00pm
  • Thursday5:00pm - 10:00pm
  • Friday5:00pm - 11:00pm
  • Saturday5:00pm - 11:00pm
  • Sunday12:00pm - 5:00pm

Always double check opening hours with the venue before making a special visit.

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