The Alan, 18 Princess St, Manchester, M1 4LG – Visit Now
First impressions matter and The Alan does them very well indeed. More than a hotel, the space hosts a high-end restaurant and a bright, spacious co-working space during the day, but whatever you’re there for, it’s hard not to be wowed by the interior. It’s everything good about modern Manchester: stylish, welcoming and charmingly laid-back.
The Alan is one of the more exciting additions to Manchester’s hospitality in recent months
Tonight we’re here to dine chez Alan, and – spoiler alert – the food is just as good as the venue, not only in looks but in ideas and execution. The staff are a new restaurant’s dream, well-informed, chatty when required and never intrusive. The menu is based largely around small plates, though there are a few main meals to choose from, for all you traditionalists out there.
We begin with anchovies from the light bites section. It’s an artfully-posed selection of delicate little silver slivers, coated in a zingy olive oil, infused with Amalfi lemon and thyme. Equally delicious is the baba ganoush, a substantial bowl of mushed-up aubergine, nicely set off with some earthy tahini and a dash of lemon. Scoop it up with some freshly toasted flatbread and slump into your seat as the flavours wash over you.
The halibut, from the small plates section, is where we really see the skill of the kitchen. It’s a beautifully prepared ceviche, with soft cubes of high-quality fish intermingled with chunks of burnt orange and chickory. The flavours ping pong across the palate with every element balanced perfectly.
After fierce debate with my dining partner, we agreed the lamb fat cabbage was the standout dish. Reasonably priced and surprisingly large, it’s a bowl of hispi cabbage, piled up with long strips of braised shoulder of lamb, infused with rosemary and coated with a glorious creamy sauce. The cabbage and lamb would be a delight alone, but this sauce lifts it to all-new heights – it’s a must-try dish.
But the Goosnargh chicken is another great option for meat-eaters. Three thick little wedges of chicken, jam-packed with flavour and coated with a dark, caramelly glaze and some dollops of moreiesh mushroom ketchup, plus some edible flowers for good measure.
And if you do fancy a larger, main-style course, look no further than the pork chop, direct from The Butcher’s Quarter – who are rapidly, and rightfully, becoming the go-to supplier for every top restaurant in the city. Expect 280g of high-end Packington free-range pork, chopped into eight thick slices, each with a mouthwatering slab of charred fat at the end, keeping the meat tender and rich with flavour.
As a cheeky bonus, the bone is in there too, towering over the meat and if you’re shameless, as I am, you can nibble off some extra morsels of meat from that too. It’s a pretty huge plate so prepare to share. It would have been nice to have a little pot or drizzle of honey and mustard to go alongside it, but the no doubt soon-to-be-award-winning chips make up for that.
For dessert, the intriguingly-titled Snickers is the obvious choice. A glorious concoction of 60% Macondo chocolate, candied peanuts and rich, smooth, delicious dulce de leche, it’s a showstopping end to a wonderful meal. And although I tried not to finish the lot, it proved impossible.
The Alan is one of the more exciting additions to Manchester in recent months. The restaurant is a superb space and well worth a visit, but the highly-rated hotel rooms, great selection of drinks and perfectly laid-out co-working space are yet more reasons to make a trip round Alan’s.