Sunday, 26 November 2017

Moonstruck

It's difficult to miss the Urbis Building, the space-age monolith a stone's throw from the Arndale Centre and home to the National Football Museum. But blink and you'd miss the entrance to The Rabbit in the Moon, chef Michael O'Hare's Manchester venture with Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs. If you did miss it you'd be missing something weird and wonderful, slick and surprising, challenging and, er, chewy? Actually, come to think of it, none of the dishes was that chewy. Some of them were challenging though, but it was a challenge worth accepting.

Through the door and up in the lift and into the bar we went, being invited to order a cocktail before our meal began. It was here we faced our first challenge - eating the first course of oyster topped with a ginger 'pearl' whilst reclining on one of the unfeasibly squishy chairs. I'm inept at eating oysters at the best of times but managed to slurp down the appetiser without wearing it. Job done, we were invited to follow our waiter downstairs to the actual dining floor of the restaurant.

Oyster and ginger 'pearl'

Anyone who's visited O'Hare's Leeds restaurant The Man Behind The Curtain will instantly note the similarities: the large, open-plan eating space, the 'graffiti'-covered pillars and the exact-same design of chair. The menu choice, or rather lack of, is also the same - which is to say you get what you're given. Luckily, what you're given is very, very good.

The menu at TRITM is a play on the British love of Oriental cuisine and takeaways. Only, to my knowledge, none of my local takeaways serve octopus, or calf brain, or rabbits' ears. OK, so the 'ears' were actually pointy-shaped prawn crackers which you used to scoop up a delicious dashi crumb at the start of the meal proper. I had to ask the question though, and if they had been ears it wouldn't have surprised me one bit.

All of the courses were smallish, ranging from a tuna melt that you devoured in one go to a more substantial sweetbread slider which needed a few bites and some deft handling to avoid covering yourself in it. It was excellent by the way, lightly crisp on the outside, rich and buttery in the middle. There was no one 'starter' or 'main,' rather a series of courses often served in groups of two or three together.

Sweetbread slider

The last of the savoury servings was probably the most diverse: the aforementioned calves brains delivered up with a nigiri of Wagyu beef tartare and caviar and a number of foie gras foam-covered nuggets of duck breast, to be eaten in that order. These helpings were accompanied with both a red and white wine from the matching wine flight, and our excellent waitress suggested we drink each wine with each of the dishes to taste the difference they made to each of the mouthfuls. She was right too, with the white seeming to mellow out the rich flavours while the red made them more intense.

From top to bottom: brains, beef and duck

Highlights of the rest of the meal included a pleasingly-rich beef and onion 'bird's nest soup' and a fantastically-spicy 'Thai green curry' which was poured onto some shoelace-thin crispy noodles and cooked them as you ate. The pick of the desserts was the passionfruit gyoza, with its crunchy but light pastry giving way to a burst of tropical goodness.

Service was prompt, friendly and knowledgeable throughout, in particular with regards to the wine. The decor was perhaps a little more formal than The Man Behind The Curtain but still quirky and interesting. I can understand that the background music might not be to everyone's taste - ranging as it did from Portishead to Eric B and Rakim - but we thought it was great.

We had only two minor gripes: a Cappuccino we ordered was served up as an Americano but was replaced without fuss when we pointed out the error. The other blip concerned the bill. Upon booking we had to pay a £30 per-head deposit, which the website informed us would be removed from the final bill. When we received the bill however it still included the £60, which isn't a small amount. As with the coffee this was resolved as soon as we mentioned it. In a busy service these things happen, and this certainly wasn't the worst bill-related mishap I've ever encountered...

All paid up, our trip to the moon was over. There was no dark side to this moon, just a tasty, interesting and thoroughly enjoyable experience. Fly me to the moon? You betcha. I'd board a rocket back again right now.


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