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Second Floor Brasserie Manchester
Second Floor Brasserie Manchester Reviews
AddressHarvey Nichols, 21 New Cathedral Street, Manchester, M1 1AD
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Second Floor Brasserie Manchester Second Floor Brasserie Manchester
Second Floor Brasserie Reviews

It's been a long while since I last ate in Harvey Nichols; when one section of the dining area was a Brasserie, with the other being a Restaurant.  I still don’t know the difference these days to be honest, in the age of blurred borders between fine dining and street food stalls.  You sit down, order from a menu at your table, the food arrives via a server, you eat, you pay, and then you leave.  It's a Restaurant, regardless of how you slice it really, and the historic definitions are long defunct. 

But basically, one section was a bit smaller and posher than the other, plus I recall the wine list in the Brasserie being a bit basic, whereas the Restaurant contained one of the best anthologies in the city centre, fed by the excellent Harvey Nichols Wine Shop which is still one of my go to places city centre for at home tipples.  Whenever we ate in the Brasserie, we'd always ask for the wine list from the Restaurant. 

The views from the window seats in the Restaurant area were also stunning. Perhaps the best in the city.  That’s one thing which hasn't changed, and the views across Exchange Square over towards the Arndale are sublime of an evening.  The T on Next's signage was out, which nagged on my OCD during this particular visit. I just kept telling myself, 'At least it's not FCUK'.

Anyway, these days there is no separation between the Brasserie and Restaurant areas, and the whole shebang is now a branded as the Brasserie, presented as one space.  The menu pitches itself somewhere between the former dual offering, being a bit more cheffy than the old Brasserie, but scaled down and streamlined a tad from the posher cousin, offering half a dozen options for each course.  There must be 150 covers in total now, so I guess it's necessary.

Second Floor Brasserie Manchester

We sat and gazed over the square with a quality charcuterie board and a couple of well-balanced cocktails, which were surprisingly good.  That was mainly because just before HN's, we'd had a quick couple in a well-regarded King St cocktail bar, which fell short of what we drank whilst overlooking Exchange Square.  The quality of the Charcuterie board however was no surprise at all, as the HN deli is fantastic, stocking without question the best quality meats and cheeses that you'll find anywhere in the city.  Not an unripe cheese or under-matured salami anywhere in sight here.

We looked over the main wine list, and as per in the previous 'Brasserie', it still felt overly scaled back sadly.  No vineyards named anywhere, just the grape and a few more bits of info, so you never really knew what you'd be getting in advance, as much as it would no doubt be quality.  However, we visited on a Wednesday so the 'Wine at Wineshop Prices' promo was on.  Here you have a selection of bottles, all available for what you'd pay in the Wineshop, dodging those 2.5x or 3+ markups which are the accepted norm across decent dining room wine lists.  In short, theres some outragous value to be had here on a Weds, including every wine fanatic's one-time favourite; Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, for just £26.50.  Our less well known bottle of Mitolo GAM Shiraz from McLaren Vale, was a stunning textbook Aussie Shiraz.

Second Floor Brasserie Manchester

Starters landed and the Duck Pastilla (£6) were a winner.  Two well filled envelopes of Barbary duck, fried to a light crunch with lovely eastern flavours, garnished with fiery harissa, yoghurt, with a dusting of za'atar.  A simple dish, but a nice start to ease you in. 

Second Floor Brasserie Manchester

The other starter was Tagliatelle with celeriac and black truffle (£14), which is hefty in price, but then black truffle isn’t cheap.  The smell is always worth it though, and the celeriac carried it well, along with some perfectly cooked fresh pasta ribbons.  The leafy garnish needed to go though.  It just didn’t have any point at all, and covered half of the dish.  Still, the truffle was king on this dish, which is what I'd hoped for.

Second Floor Brasserie Manchester

For mains we went with the smoked Beef Short Rib (£18) with roasted garlic and pickled mustard seeds, which was sublime, and one of the best 5 main courses we've had in the city all year.  Moist, rich, juicy, slow cooked beef rib, finished in the Bradley smoker, then cut into cubes and re-plated onto a cleaned rib bone.  Upscale BBQ you might say?  The pickled mustard seeds were also a revelation, giving excellent acidity to balance all that rich beefiness.  The roasted garlic was also stunning looking, yet simple, delivering a big punch of garlic puree when scooped out and spread onto the beef.  I actually ripped it off and put some on last Sunday's lunch at home.  It wasn’t quite as good as this though.

Second Floor Brasserie Manchester

Butternut Squash Risotto (£13) with Chaource cheese croquettes was another lovely plate.  The cheese was perfectly ripe, crumbed and fried, giving the plate a massive flavour hit along with texture and bags of creaminess to the already silky rice, lifting it way beyond what a risotto all too often is.  Two solid mains, with little to complain about at all.

Second Floor Brasserie Manchester Second Floor Brasserie Manchester

We hit the indecision wall at pudding time, so went for the Miniature Dessert Trio (£10); a mini Cambridge Burnt Cream, Sachertorte, and Apple Breton.  It was a bit up and down really, even if it was a great way to be greedy and sample a few things when you can't make a decision.  The caramel sauce on the burnt cream dish was grainy with crystallised sugar, and the cake element of the Sachertorte was quite heavy and a bit dry, but was adorned with some tasty chocolate work.  Still, it was a pretty platter all in all, with something to suit all tastes.  Next time though, Ill pick one and not be so indecisive. 

The other pud which we dived into was the Roasted Figs with 'Hob Nob' base, topped with vanilla cream cheese (£8), which was superb.  Pretty as a picture on its lovely blue plate, with bags of flavour, lots of different textures, and was a great way to round off the dinner with.  We quickly ordered a couple of espressos and ran for a taxi via the back door exit.  The department store area was closed, so we had no option to go any other way, but it still felt suitably rock and roll.

Second Floor Brasserie Manchester

Now, we ate at the 2 Rosette Brasserie/Bar, run by one of our favourite British Chefs of all time only a couple of days before this meal.  Without saying his name, just in case he grills us when we are next down in The Smoke; Harvey Nichs did a way better job, it has to be said.

It's only natural to cross examine comparable dines/brands/pitched markets, when the experiences were so close together time wise.  And it's also impossible not to expect a particular standard and level when certain names are associated with a dining experience, which perhaps isn’t fair on our London subject.  2 Rosettes isn’t 2 Stars, nowhere near, and a 'brasserie' is usually just a way of a restaurant telling people that it's a little bit more downmarket and informal, than, well, a restaurant. 

So calling Harvey Nichols a Brasserie, perhaps implies that it's in some way below what you'd expect of a quality Harvey Nichols dining experience?  That's just isn’t the case though really.  With some solid cooking, strong service, and one of the best dining spaces in town, added to that amazing value on the Wednesday wine list, the Harvey Nichols' Brasserie reclaims its place in our top 10 best places to eat in Manchester after a long absence. The Beef Rib alone, warrants a visit.

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4.5 stars72%

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