Quill Manchester, 10/22 King Street, Manchester, M2 6AG
A reported £1m build, concept driven, close to Deansgate… Sound familiar? Here’s why Quill took us completely by surprise.
What to make of King St, Manchester’s up-market shopping street, which is notably lacking in shops? It’s a question that has recently become more important to the people that ask those sorts of questions. As one designer store after another closes down, Glorious Leader Karney (Pat Karney, Manchester’s city centre chief) has begun speaking about creating a café culture on a street that seems to be flagging behind the new wave of regeneration.
It remains to be seen whether King Street takes the throne of northern fine dining, but hoping to write itself into the guidebooks is newcomer Quill, all moody corners, unique cocktails and a lot of references to its concept (think taxidermy ravens, feathers in drinks and lots of references to ink). So far, so Deansgate. It’s an expensively assembled kit-out (the restaurant apparently cost around £1m), of course, but with a surprisingly tasteful design from agency Adtrak; on the menu is a raven taking flight, its wings liquidating opulently into black ink.
Where Quill excels itself, however, in in its food and service – things seemingly down on the list of priorities in certain other new restaurants in the city. With at least one member of staff being poached from The French (voluntarily, he assured us), Quill is aiming for high standards, whilst advocating a causal experience. For my vegetarian companion (a.k.a. The Boss), it was hard to dislike a place that brought a replacement trio of meat-free amuse-bouche without a word when the wait staff realised that two of the original offering – including a pigeon pastrami (a glorious, delicately rich thing) – were only going to get as far as her eyes.
Our new top restaurant in Manchester – with perhaps our favourite mistake ever
Quill has a quiet assuredness about keeping its guests happy – but that doesn’t mean they don’t put on a good show, too. Dry ice is nothing new (and often cause for alarm), but here it’s appropriately atmospheric, pouring out from a dish filled with black pebbles, shells and seaweed to accompany the starter of scallops, bitter chocolate, salt cod and mooli. We liked the fact that a chef appears to serve one of the courses – they cooked it, so you can see why they’d want to see the reaction as the smoke drifts across the table.
There’s a definite artistry to the menu here, with the beetroot, sheep’s milk, lovage and yogurt starter looking rather like a sculpture garden, but never to the detriment of flavour. The meal was filled with a decadence that never felt overly indulgent – too many times decadence translates to lots of cream and butter rather than something more accomplished in its extravagance. This was highlighted most in the most heartily warming of vegetarian mains, too often the limp cousin of the meaty counterpart; The Boss went for the pumpkin terrine, given a lovely crunch with al dente haricot beans and made luxurious with chestnuts.
The desserts deserve a mention, for a treacle tart that managed not to feel diminished by the lack of pastry (there was honeycomb for texture, and an ingenious zing from orange segments) and for the only fault in the cooking, which happened to be the outsized disk of chocolate acting as the base for a deliriously rich chocolate and salted caramel concoction. It was so thick we weren’t sure we were supposed to eat it, but was delicious when we did (because of course we did). It’s a pretty happy quibble to have with one of the best meals we’ve had in Manchester, don’t you think?
QUILL HAS NOW CLOSED. This is an independent review, but our writer didn’t pay for his meal. For more info on our editorial policy, read our About page.