The Alan, 18 Princess St, Manchester, M1 4LG – Visit Now
Afternoon Tea at The Alan: Not content with delivering one of the city’s best restaurant experiences, raved about by both us (see below) and the national press, the team at The Alan have now set their sights on the most British of meals, afternoon tea.
A three-tiered modern take on the classic afternoon delight
This afternoon tea menu is available Friday to Sunday, from 1pm to 3.30pm at £28 per person. Is it worth it? Very much so. It’s a three-tiered modern take on the classic afternoon delight, starting with savoury snacks, then moving through to some exceptional dessert options. Oh, and an excellent pot of loose-leaf Bohea tea that can be refilled as often as you like. Or even upgrade to Telmont Champagne for just £10pp.
The most notable element is the atmosphere. The Alan is arguably the best of modern Manchester – the staff are calm and engaging, and everything is geared around relaxation and catching up over a hot cup of tea – albeit a very stylish one.
The sandwich selection is possibly the best in the city. Start with the blinis: two little circles of smoked ham and celeriac, before moving onto the four sandwiches (well, eight – one each). The spinach bread is an unusual-looking treat, all bright green and containing smoked salmon, lemon and cream cheese. There’s also chicken and tarragon mayo, Burford brown egg and mayonnaise, plus the classic cucumber and cream cheese on farmhouse bread. Each sandwich has a deft touch – fresh as can be, with an injection of smart new ideas without ever straying too far from tradition.
The desserts change according to the season and if you’re as lucky as we were, you’ll get some of the melt-in-the-mouth macarons, some moreish cake and a light crumbly pastry, laden with wobbly caramel-flavoured pannacotta.
The scones are just as good, served with a big dollop of clotted cream and a pot of top-quality strawberry jam. They slice in half smoothly, which isn’t surprising as they’re probably 90% butter – and all the better for it.
The afternoon tea experience at The Alan is just that. A truly memorable, wonderfully laid-back experience and whether you love tea and scones, or simply want to catch up with friends or family, you’ll definitely be wowed.
Restaurant Review (Jan 2023): Raved about by acclaimed food critics and city-dwellers alike, a trip to The Alan is always a treat. But the last few months have seen some major changes – can the new head chef and his (almost) all-new menu, live up to its reputation?
New Executive Head Chef, James Hulme’s priorities are taste, texture and taste again
First tip: get a seat at the chef’s table. Here, you can watch the expert craftmanship at work, under the watchful eye of the new executive head chef, James Hulme. Happily, his new dishes continue the sky-high quality, while adding fresh ideas that suit the beautiful restaurant space, hand in glove.
From the small plates, only the cauliflower tikka remains from the previous menu – and it’s a wise choice. The hearty vegetable is cooked beautifully, all crispy charred edges and soft, hot tumeric-yellow flesh, scattered with bright red pomegranate seeds. It’s an Alan classic, tweaked slightly by James.
But his new dishes are where things get interesting. The aged beef tartare is something special, and very unlike the traditional tartare you’ll be used to. The tiny cubes of beef are bright and fresh, elevated by the texturally-pleasing crunchy beef fat croutons.
Then there’s cured egg yolk shaved across the lot, finished off with little white blobs that turn out – surprisingly – to be whipped bone marrow. It’s an inventive dish that puts the onus on flavour, and a strong sign of Hulme’s priorities: taste, texture and taste again.
Arguably the prettiest dish on the menu is the cured chalk stream trout. It’s an artistic display, combining blood orange, wafer-thin slices of radish and dainty pebbles of trout steeped in Pomona Island stout. If you’re looking for Manchester’s definitive springtime dish, here it is.
Less pretty, more awe-inspiring, is the 800g retired dairy cow from the large cuts section. As the name suggests, this is meat sourced from dairy cows put out to pasture and given a few years of relaxed, happy living, away from the stress and trauma of being milked every day. The meat is more mature, meaning a richer, darker and more appealing flavour, plus, if we’re going to eat meat, let’s at least try to do it as ethically as possible.
The gravy that the cuts of meat rest on is astonishingly good, and the ultimate dipping sauce for the now-legendary confit potatoes (also made with beef fat). Everyone in Manchester should try these hefty cuboid wedges at least once – they’re a salty, golden, stackable delight.
Then there are the sweet-but-umami-heavy young carrots, cooked in their own juices with sunflower seeds and miso. This is the beauty of the menu at The Alan, it might sound deceptively simple, but each dish showcases decades of cooking know-how, teasing out new flavours from traditional ingredients.
Of course, the desserts are expertly put together too. The choux bun is an intricate creation, all lattice pastry layers, with cherry and pistachio flavours, and a surefire treat for the eye. The salted caramel tart is lighter and less flashy but possibly even more impressive, bolstered by a lighter-than-air blob of chantilly cream.
It’s impossible not to be impressed by The Alan. Much more than simply a restaurant attached to a hotel, this is a destination venue that does everything right. Hulme’s new menu delivers on every level, and it’s clear this confidence has spread throughout the team, with both his fellow kitchen workers and front-of-house staff (led by the irrepressible Jan) treating diners to a delightful and truly engaging experience.