Simon Wood is the name over the door, and the one which undoubtedly brings customers in via that Masterchef/TV link, but Chef Mike Jennings has played a massive part in the Wood story. Mike was banging out quality food at the now closed-down Grenache Manchester long before Simon appeared on Masterchef. So, we are only too aware of what he’s capable of putting on the plate, and much of what is on the plate at Wood is his doing.
We went down the a la carte route on this visit. Pre-dinner snacks came in the guise of a cheese donut, so an Adam Handling/Frog feeling affair in terms of concept.
To start on the menu properly, it was the trademark mushroom raviolo (£9.50). A single, amply sized piece of plumply filled pasta, topped with a fried sage leaf, Italian breadcrumb and chestnut, in a mushroom sauce. The raviolo itself was spot on, with thin pasta carrying the rich mushroom filling like a dream, with a flavourful sauce and good texture from the accoutrements. Flavour wise though, it was a clear hit.
The Cheshire short rib (£11.50), stout, with truffle was an uber-simply presented plate. The beef was perfectly rendered, braised and shredded, next to some air-light potato espuma. The beef was sumptuous, rich and comforting.
Mains were quick to follow and whilst expensive at £32, the Venison with blackberry, parsnip, haggis, was another seasonally appropriate hit. Perfectly pink game meat, with piped mash, parsnip, and winter fruits, finished with some strong saucing and squeezy-bottled puree garnish. The haggis bonbon lacked the typically spicy punch, but as an all-round plate it was a winner.
Goosnargh duck, pak choi, plum, cashews (£26), was a similar story. Solid cooking and clear flavour distinctions, with cracking produce in play. The candied sesame cashews were superb and tied the plate together well.
Black cherry soufflé (£8) to end up came with some splendid tonka ice cream, which was the highlight element of both puddings.
Chocolate (£10), espresso ice cream, salted caramel was another way to end, and satisfied my preference to end a meal with some cocoa. A chocolate glazed dome was some nice pastry work, and Simon’s play on the classic Tiramisu.