Restaurants Of Manchester
The French Restaurant Manchester
Mana Manchester
Address42 Blossom Street, Ancoats, Manchester, M4 6BF
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Mana Manchester Reviews

"All in all; the most complete, well-rounded and enjoyable visit"
Restaurants Of Manchester (Thursday 9th May 2024)

Key: 5 stars = WORLD CLASS!   4 stars = FANTASTIC   3 stars= Good   2 stars = OK   1 star = Poor

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Mana - Logo Mana - Michelin Plaque
Decor & Ambience World Class
Mana’s dining space and adjoined open kitchen have always been stunning spots.  Nothing has really changed over the years apart from a few tableside decorative tweaks.  Subtle music adds to the ambiance.  I can’t recall any of the music on the playlist, but then I guess that’s the whole schtick.  You’re there to eat and focus on the plate rather than peripheral sensory distractions.

The stunningly tall ceilings and those now-familiar pendant lights fill the space perfectly, with tall drapes gently masking the Ancoats hustle and bustle.  It’s just a lovely place to spend a few hours and has been kept looking pristine for years.
Let’s not nitpick for the sake of sounding clued up. Anything in this section would purely be subjective ego driven blurb, so I shall skip to the more interesting sections in this review.
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Mana - ‘Billy’ Sous Bois Mana - Chips & Dip
Value World Class
The bill for 2 tasting menus, 2 wine flights, 2 coffees, water and service, came to £635.  And since we are transparent with you guys, that included a £100 discount which the owner of Mana kindly gave us ahead of booking, under the complete understanding that it won’t sway what we type here.  So, the bill should have come to £735, not that you needed that level of maths to be done for you. I hope.

Now as with anywhere on this level; it’s an experience, not just popping out for some dinner on a random Thursday.  It’s never going to be cheap and nor should it be, quite simply because it’s far from cheap to put on your plate.  When a squad of hard working and talented people cook for such a small number every evening using top end produce, the cost is absolutely justified and it still represents good value because that’s just what it costs.  I often feel more ripped of paying £25 in Five Guys than I do at most starred eateries.

We’ve long been champions for eating out costing more, simply because customers have no appreciation for how much it costs to deliver, or how much grind goes into this type of stuff.  This view was documented in our post-pandemic review of Ramona back in in 2021, so read that for more context.
Just the inevitable price bumps on some wine markups etc, which again, you have to expect in such lofty places as costs need to be covered.  There was still some great value vino to be had though.
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Mana - Carlingford Oyster Mana - Langoustine with cucumber
Food & Drink World Class
The snacks which you receive in swankier establishments have become more than a simple taste bud wakener, as they were in the old ‘amuse bouche’ days.  They are now largely usually a barometer of what you’re about to undergo, rather than being a token nibble. 

Chips, cut into leaf shapes and accompanied with dip started us off along with our glass of ‘Billy’ Sous Bois.  And what better pairing for fizz than an oyster, in the case of snack #2; a Carlingford Oyster, topped with frozen buttermilk and tapioca.  And what collection of snacks would be complete in 2024 without a croustade of some guise? Langoustine with cucumber and blackcurrant wood completed the trio of lounge-area snacks with a pop.  We were ready for more.

A quick kitchen pass-by followed, which was accompanied with our final snack.  Fried Beer, sunchoke and cep mushroom.  To be honest, I remember it being tasty but was geekily distracted by the kitchen operations so the mental notes on this one are sparce.  I’m usually such a professional.
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Mana - Kitchen Bench Mana - Fried Beer, Sunchoke & Cep
Onto the proper courses.  First over the imaginary pass was Chawanmushi; an umami-rich Japanese set savoury custard which was billed as the headline component.  It was of course well executed and delicious, but the A-lister on this plate for us was the scallop.  Roasted perfectly, served as three slices, accented with ramson oil for a properly British seasonal nod.

Jersey ‘Royale’ was a humble plate on paper and the menu dumbed down its delivery, but in reality this was a star dish of the evening.   It’s coming off soon because it’s no longer seasonal what with JRs and wild garlic drying up, so you may not get chance to try it after reading this.  Life can be cruel at times.

Brown Crab Adobo added some Mexican to the cultural melting pot.  Brown crab meat, impressively prepped as a single chunk rather than being removed in pieces as is normally the case. It was a textural revelation.  Solid, meaty, sweet and earthy.  Eating it as a whole piece changed your brain’s interpretation of what’s in your mouth entirely.  The aerated and poly-layered Adobo sauce perfectly complemented the protein.
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Mana - Table Mana - Chawanmushi & Scallop
Sojae Cured Scottish Hogget was our main course for the evening; in this case left to gently heat through over beech.  It was barely cooked as you can see from the shot.  In this case, barely means idyllic.  Astounding quality beast with melting fat.  We need to see hogget more widely used in my opinion.  We also loved the use of Kintsugi to repair a chipped plate on this course.  It avoids crockery wastage, making the chip a feature as opposed to being an expensive mistake.   It’s sustainable, looks great and also tells a story.  Plus, I don’t know of any other local venue who does this.  The last time I saw it was at the fantastic Grind and Tamp coffee shop in Ramsbottom a couple of years ago.

Aspergillus Oryzae acted as transition course and was a profoundly interesting contrast of salty and sweet.  Shio Koji Amazake sorbet  crowned with a hearty dab of top-grade caviar, paired with a mug of Kabasecha on the side.  The dish was served by Chef Dave Patel who we know from his time elsewhere in the city.  Dave spoiled us with an XL serving of caviar and we inwardly confessed that our preference of not wanting to be treated any differently to other customers is at times as untrue as it is unavoidable.  Even though it won’t influence scoring, only our egos and waistlines.
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Mana - Jersey ‘Royale’ Mana - Brown Crab Adobo
St Ella goat’s cheese was the basis of the cheese course; a fun play on everyone’s favourite wax coated lunch box snack.  I’m assuming that it was intentional, presenting further evidence of a kitchen which is perhaps taking itself less seriously than it once did, whilst still delivering excellence.

Xoco Mole reminded me of a rabbit, visually at least.  An Aztec one to boot.  In fact the whole table said the exact same thing as plates were laid down.  Anyway, no more immature observations.  A rocher of silky ‘ice cream’ with two ear-like shards sat next to a chocolate mole sauce which delivered a massive cacao hit, with some nuts for the textural element.  This was stripped back yet confident pastry work.

Stirred Cream Doughnut acted as a mopping vessel for the above mole.  A substantial yet airy dough carrying brioche notes, ended the meal with more fun, raising a child-like smile as any good pastry should.  It’s the last thing that you eat, and hence you remember it well so it needs to be on point.  And it was.

We finished with some quality espressos, from Hawaii and Jamaica alongside some petit fours, which are in fact the reason why we order coffee in the first place at such establishments.
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Mana - Sojae Cured Scottish Hogget Mana - Bread & Butter
But; our Editor had a bit of shell in her crab dish.  It was easily fished out and it happens, but still.  And there was a clear fingerprint on one of our ‘Babybels’, which didn’t bother us hence we said nothing, but may upset some, not that most would notice.

And the Kabusecha mugs looked a bit plain, when not adorned with a  Kintsugi repair as much as I’m sure that they cost a fortune.
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Mana - Aspergillus Oryzae Mana - Kabasecha
Service World Class
Our evening started in the cozy lounge to take things in and become acclimatised amidst the energy of the evening’s service.  You’re then escorted to the open kitchen for the final snack; a touch which we loved.  Following that, you’re sat down to prepare for the experience which lies ahead.  The kitchen team were operating with a smile on their faces, carrying a relaxed yet super-focused feel throughout service.  I’ve long believed that people generally do their best work and feel the most fulfilled whilst under some pressure, yet are still enjoying themselves and feeling free to self-express.  In the background, a gentle kitchen buzz with an occasional and assertive ‘Yes’, rather than the usual ‘Oui’, added to the evening’s soundtrack.

The story on FoH was similarly sharp.  The wonderful Isobel took care of us throughout service with an infectious smile and laser-like detail.  Wine service, headed up by Nikolai, who we know well from various other dining rooms in the city, was completed with personality and great storytelling. That £140 wine flight won’t announce itself, and required expert wine knowledge to back up the expert wine making.   Every glass was served and then called as such to the kitchen, signalling that the food can follow within a suitable timeframe.

This was the best service which we’ve ever received at Mana, quite simply because it was the most controlled, unforced and seemingly effortless that it’s ever been.  Clockwork operations.
Nothing really.  Some courses were served by the Chefs themselves, and surrounding tables didn’t receive the same level of conversation that we did, but then Chefs are Chefs, and we are pretty chatty/interested guests so perhaps you receive what you resonate?
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Mana - Plating Mana - St Ella Goat's Cheese
Overall World Class
All in all; the most complete, well-rounded and enjoyable visit to Mana that we’ve experienced to date.  Last time we bemoaned the lack of physical printed menus to both guide your evening and also provide a takeaway memory of your parted-with cash.  The menu also needed a couple more courses, notably requiring more than one sweet course to prevent things coming to an abrupt end.  All those points have now been put to rest and the whole experience just felt more comprehensive than on our last visit.

Also, a few courses contained preparations and ingredients which we’ve never seen first-hand.  It’s pretty rare that we say that due to the sheer volume of places which we get to across multiple countries every year, but still, it’s the kind of thing which you seek out as it’s challenging to be excited by the familiar.  And yes I’m well aware of how affected that makes me sound.  But bear with me a second.  At high end places you often leave having had a great meal, but it wasn’t necessarily impressive in the same breath.  On this occasion, for the first time at Mana we left feeling impressed.  The meal made an impression upon us, and parts of it will remain as mental benchmarks for future experiences.  The next time I see a whole piece of arduously prepped brown crab, I’ll think of this dish at Mana and compare the two.  That’s how you grow as a food explorer.  In truth, anyone even semi-literate can write about food and sound partially convincing, and to be fair, that happens too much.  But actual first-hand experiences are what really enrich and enlighten you, not just reading or writing about things that you’ve never actually tasted. So, get yourself booked in and see for yourself.

There’s been a 2-star buzz around Mana in the media/food circles for a couple of years now.  Is that justified?  Im not so sure to be honest, since it’s not just about whats on the plate.  I’ll let you into a little unofficial trade secret; one of the criteria for 2 stars is usually that your kitchen has produced Chefs who’ve gone on to open venues themselves, which then also pick up a star.  It’s the same with moving from 2 to 3 stars.  It's all about lineage and influence.

Let’s see what happens as Mana’s guys move on to forge their own paths, as intrinsically happens in the industry…  you just never know.
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Mana - Xoco Mole Mana - Stirred Cream Doughnut
More local produce would be great to see, as per in our last review.  I get that you use the best, not necessarily what’s local.  Having the best locally is the holy grail and not something which most places can capture.  I also get that it’s become a bit tedious for almost every higher-level Manchester dining room to sell meat from the same Stockport butcher, and veg from the same Nantwich producer, as great as they both are.  I had the same beef with Pollen sourdough a few years ago.  Everyone was using it, and I’m sorry, but doing the same thing as the next guy is plain boring.  

Dining on this level is about experiencing different things, not the already familiar.  But still, we have enough fantastic produce in our region/the surrounding ones to showcase at least some of it on the menu.  We are not Shoreditch; London’s fantastically food-led urban jungle where locality is a mere myth, and in an age driven by sustainability and greenness, there simply has to be a window for local showcasing.
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Mana - Coffee & Petit Fours Mana - Menu

"Every bite is seasoned with backnotes of excessive disposable income"
Restaurants Of Manchester (Thursday 21st October 2021)

Key: 5 stars = WORLD CLASS!   4 stars = FANTASTIC   3 stars = Good   2 stars = OK   1 star = Poor

Mana Manchester Review Mana Manchester Review
Mana - Michelin Plaque Mana - Lounge
Decor & Ambience World Class
High-end Scandi minimalism.  Everything screams of being well funded, and then designed and installed with an eye for sharp detail.  All the chairs and tables are high end, as is the crockery which adorns them. The tall ceilings are lavished with expensive pendulum light fittings, with the icing on the cake being delivered via that open kitchen sitting proudly at the back of the impressive space. Everything in the package fits and works together, just like a good dish.

Chef Simon Martin is a genius in many ways, brilliantly assembling and mentoring a talented team to keep improving on Mana's already technically impressive food levels, however, for the duration of our meal, he was openly berating staff for making errors, along with the use of various "F-word" expletives; loud enough for the whole dining room to hear from within that vast open kitchen.  It’s unsuitable in 2021 and also created an awkward atmosphere for the diners.

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Mana - Tea of Turnip & Lemon Thyme Mana - 'Autumn'
Value World Class
I shall get straight to it: The bill was £155* per person for the food alone, whether you go for lunch or dinner, plus whatever you choose to drink on top of that. The total bill on this visit was £660 for two people.

This kind of evening will never be cheap or even accessible.  It’s not supposed to be though and, in fairness, when a place is fully booked for months in advance, why would anybody with even a jot of business sense charge any less?

It’s an experience, not just a case of popping into town for some food.  And, as we know, people will pay to eat somewhere which has that desirable red plaque over the door for various reasons, not least the kudos it brings to their social media.

Back in August, we pre-paid for our dinner via the Tock booking system, which is pretty much the only thing that Grant Achatz has ever done which I dislike.  I see why venues use it, as too many customers are selfish morons with their "no-shows". But, as an honest customer, I’m not keen on fully paying for my dinner months in advance.

* At the time of writing, the food bill has increased from what we pre-paid to £185 per person (but now includes the service charge).  These are 2 Star prices for sure at it makes Mana the most expensive 1 Star in the country, with the exception of the mighty and 2 Star-worthy Ynyshir in the Welsh outback.  Ambitious pricing.

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Mana - Beef Heart & Sweetcorn Mana - White Truffle
Food & Drink World Class
At the prices mentioned above, every bite is seasoned with backnotes of excessive disposable income. You expect great things at such lofty prices, especially in the north of England.  And the standards of gastronomy don’t disappoint either.

Four snack courses were served in the waiting area with our excellent Kentish aperitif.  All snacks came sat on expensive props and set the tone well as a venue’s snacks are usually a great barometer of what’s to come.

We started off with a single Irish oyster, dressed with scents of dill, some punchy English wasabi and super floral Mertensia.  Fresh, sweet, and brought the taste buds online with a bang.

The Scottish langoustine course from Mana’s launch is still on the menu, and why not when it’s this good?  Barely cooked crustacean, served with cured yolk on a charred spruce branch, went down in a single bite.  Immense.

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Mana - Trimmed Irish Oyster Mana - Scottish Langoustine Tail
A single Devonshire mussel with garlic cooked for 2 months was next up, and was another delicious offering.  You couldn’t question the flavour one bit, and that’s a lot of effort/time to prep a single bite which is gone in 6 seconds.

And not wanting anything to go to waste, the next course was a delicate potato string cone, filled with the rest of the langoustine, seasoned with preserved elderflower.  The most flavoursome part of a prawn or langoustine is their head juice.  Ask any Spaniard, and give it a go yourself!

A taste bud reset was then put in front front of us.  Banks’ Tomato and unripe Habanero was served cold, in what reminded me of a mini Mexican Molcajete.  Bags of balanced acidity, accurate seasoning, subtle spice and huge flavour.  A well placed course for what lay ahead.

The bread course was a Pollen collab, served with superb cultured butter.

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Mana - Devonshire Blue Mussel Mana - The Rest Of The Langoustine
Raw Beef and Caviar v7.0 Celeriac skin and smoked Eel was next.  Rich, unctuous Spanish retired cow tartare with smoked eel was a huge explosion of flavour, topped with celeriac crisp, and a pretty rocher of caviar.  A triumph of taste, texture and contrasts; this ramped things up to the next gear and really got the palate feeling keen for more.

The fish course was Smoked Sea Trout with grain sauce, leek, and compressed cucumber with lavender.  Perfectly textured fish, the smoking was on point, and the greenery brought well needed freshness too.

The Fallow Deer main course was stellar, and by far the plate of the night.  Gamey protein with massive flavour, cooked over the Robata grill to give a savoury hit of smoke.  Saucing was precise and well balanced, with a tiny rocher of pumpkin mash and crispy nettle leaf to finish the outstanding plate.

Dessert was a well salted Butter Ice Cream; freshly made in the KitchenAid with dry ice, balanced out with fermented honey and some colour and perfume from the woodruff.  Simple, clean and fresh.

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Mana - Preparations from Summer Mana - Sourdough
But; the potato cone was a little soft and had lost its bite due to the filling.  The trout was hugely over sauced and lacked texture on the wider plate.  And the mussels also needed a pop of texture somewhere too.  You simply can’t question the flavours or standards of prep though.

As with previous visits (see our reviews below), broadly, the menu also felt oddly incomplete to us.  The first eight servings comprised of a broth then three snack bites, followed by four actual courses, which also felt quite snacky and required no cutlery to consume.  The bread and four "proper feeling" courses, which lifted the tempo massively, were then handed off to finish with just a single dessert course.  The experience hence felt like it came to an abrupt end with no prior warning that the superb venison was your lot for the night, in terms of savouries.  After the ice cream course, we sat around wondering if there was more to come, as no printed menu was put on the table. But there wasn’t any more to follow, so we ordered some expensive-beaned espressos in the hope of some petit fours to end.  Sadly that also wasn’t to be, so we headed into the night craving something indulgent.

And lastly; where’s the obvious local produce on the menu?  Considering the enormous influence from Rene Redzepi - a man who’s obsessed with locality and making the most of what’s on the doorstep, no matter where you are - the fact that there’s nothing deeply Mancunian or even northern English about the menu/produce used at Mana truly astounds me.

Mana Manchester Review Mana Manchester Review
Mana - Raw Beef & Caviar Mana - Gently Smoked Tea Trout
Service World Class
Calm, precise, measured.  Every drink was served ahead of the corresponding course arriving, and everything was announced with professionalism. Clear downs were prompt and discreet with everything totally under control.  It was spotless in terms of running order, charm and interaction levels.

Again, there was nothing really to criticise on this front, unless you’re doing £660 worth of nit-picking.  But generally, it was as top end as you’d expect, if perhaps a tad clinical in places.

Mana Manchester Review Mana Manchester Review
Mana - Fallow Deer Mana - Salted Butter Ice Cream
Overall World Class
After a few years of operation, Mana has evolved from what was largely a Noma v1 nephew into forming its own personality.  Back in the day, our local food ad/media outlets gushed about the endless originality on display.  We however recognised dishes that we’d eaten months earlier in Copenhagen (whilst reviewing for Even the restaurant name was akin.  The similarities have been reeled in a bit since then, but it’s fair to say that there’s still more than a few Noma influences knocking about.  But when you consider that Noma is widely regarded as the ‘best’ restaurant on the planet (whatever that means), there’s no real shame in that influence, as such restaurants shape the global culinary landscape for everybody and, besides, presumably not many diners in Manchester are lucky enough to have visited Christianshavn.  Still, I don’t see duck brains or reindeer penis being on the menu in Ancoats for some time yet.

Bringing the city its first Michelin star in four decades is a huge thing. It will now continue to drive the transfer of skills into our city from other similarly recognised venues across the country and well beyond.  Many chefs, as well as punters, seek out starred venues to work at and learn from.  So as chefs move to Mana to grow, others will intrinsically leave and either open their own venues or move to other local kitchens, taking that growth with them.  And that’s exactly what raises a city’s culinary game in a huge snowball effect.  The same has been seen countless times in every major city which Michelin cover and award in.  I expect that we will be no different here.

Having exacting standards is one thing, and that’s clearly the case here via the technically brilliant prep and sharp service.  But enforcing that via a public tirade of effing and blinding isn’t at all 2021.  Some diners may think that it’s good entertainment, but Ramsay’s infamous Boiling Point was filmed in 1999 and shot mainly "back of house".  That’s exactly where such ‘upskilling’ still belongs.  Michelin are also currently performing a drive on encouraging positive staffing treatment too, although that’s possibly just self-PR.  But leadership styles, as well as food styles, have to move with the times.

And I’m far from being one of the ‘you needed a kebab on the way home’ brigade, but when you’re serving in the Omakase or modern Scandi bite-sized style, nine courses plus snacks and bread just falls short by a course or two.  Generally, the few places who do this - Noma themselves included - give you twentyish ‘courses’ for good reason.

Finally; for us at least, more local produce is needed too; as much as the best course’s garnish had a Nantwich nod.  We are not in Belgravia so don’t need to use too much produce from 150+ miles away.  Mana needs to be a tad more "Manchesta", in my opinion.  Admittedly, I’m not asking for an Eccles Cake made with house fermented currants and dressed with citrus ants, as much as I’d have bitten your arm off for one at the end of the night.

Mana Manchester Review Mana Manchester Review
Mana - Wild Kopi Luwak Mana - Kitchen / Pass

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