Restaurant review - Opus One Restaurant & Bar, Manchester and The Lobster Pot, Anglesey

Vimto, Eccles cake and Manchester tart on the menu? The setting of Opus One is super stylish but by 'eck, there's no doubt which city this restaurant is in REVIEW BY RAY KING Plus a mini-review of The Lobster Pot, Anglesey

The first time I walked into the Radisson Edwardian Hotel’s flagship Opus One Restaurant my jaw dropped. I don’t know what I was expecting – some musical theme perhaps, after all, the Free Trade Hall had been the home of the Hall� for a century – but not this. Not the red lights, the black lacquer furnishing and the oriental atmosphere, complete with statuary.

Was this really the heartbeat of Manchester, where much of the city’s history had been played out? On the site of Peterloo and in the halls where the radical Victorian anti-Corn Law Leaguers had challenged governments. Where Bob Dylan has been branded ‘traitor’ for strumming an electric guitar and where I’d been transfixed by Deborah Harry? Or had I been transmuted to Singapore, Bangkok or Hong Kong? Beam me up, Scotty!

I’d known the Free Trade Hall since my school speech days were staged there in the 1950s but when controversy raged over its future after the Hall� moved out I was broadly in favour of it becoming a hotel. What else could it be used for? And besides, Luftwaffe incendiaries had left only one and a half walls standing; the rest was pretty much an austerity rebuild whose sell-by date had come.

Over time I’ve grown used to Opus One and if that startling decor still seems out of place, the restaurant menu is now gratifyingly rooted in classic British food sourced from excellent local ingredients handled with aplomb and presented with panache.

Opus One is not the place for a quiet dinner. On a Tuesday night it was buzzing with animated conversation from the stylish bar at one end of the vast room echoing from all those lacquered surfaces and the music was just about on the right side of intrusive. Liveliness, however, is preferable to sepulchral silence and anyway, Manchester doesn’t really do silence.

We began with complimentary amuse bouches of dainty smoked salmon croquettes with dill butter cream before getting stuck into the starters proper. My hand dived scallops with fresh peas, lettuce and lobster dressing (�10.25), elegantly presented in rectangular glass platter, were just so; plump, fleshy and delicately flavoured.

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Mrs K chose tea smoked venison with carpaccio and cappuccino of increasingly fashionable beetroot – the new rhubarb? - foie gras rosti and pancetta crackling (�8.65). The dish looked stunning and the sweetness of the beet worked well with the gamey smokiness of the venison; the rosti was probably one component too many.

When a menu’s main courses feature promising fish dishes, we are invariably hooked and Opus One’s turbot and halibut provided tempting bait. I chose the former, a thick, sweet, perfectly cooked tranche of the king of flatfish served with salty lemon samphire and a delightful pot containing a layered “lasagne” of Cornish crab (�22.95). Delicious.

Mrs K’s generously proportioned fillet of succulent steamed halibut came with seared squid, squid ink dressing and a pressing of flavourful creamed brown shrimps and potatoes (�20.95). Our side orders of honey roasted root vegetables and silky red onion mashed potatoes, both very good, added �3 a pop.

We rounded off by sharing a cleverly conceived, witty ‘Taste of Manchester’ dessert comprising iced Vimto parfait, warm Eccles cake, mini Manchester tart, Vimto smoothie and clotted cream (�6.85). And you don’t get that in Singapore.

Opus One Restaurant & Bar, Radisson Edwardian Hotel, Free Trade Hall, Peter Street, Manchester M2 5GP.Tel: 0161 835 9929; www.radissonedwardian.com

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The Lobster Pot Church Bay, Isle of AngleseyTel 01407 730241/398www.lobster-pot.net

Style of venueA family-run fresh fish restaurant perched on a cliff overlooking the sea. This extended cottage has been in the family for generations. The great-grandfather of the present owners was a fisherman who lived here, went out in his boat daily and sold his catch from the door.

On the menuLobster, crab, lemon sole, scallops...it’s fish, fish and more fish, but obligingly, there are meat and vegetarian dishes too. My starter of crab mornay (�6.95) was packed with flavour and generously proportioned. Mr Taylor opted for half a fresh lobster with parmesan and garlic (�11.95 - yes, lobster is expensive) and was impressed. My mains of lemon sole in herb butter and home-made tartare sauce (�14.95) was terrific. Mr T’s Fisherman’s Pie (�13.95) was everything it should have been. Nice puds too. I managed a hearty caramel apple pie (�4.95). There’s a good wine list and a wide selection of liquers.

DecorIt’s a mix of traditional cottage style and modern furniture enhanced by genuine sea-faring artefacts. Quite quaint in a 1970s sort of way.

AmbienceRelaxed: the clientele are either holidaymakers or locals who know they’re in for a treat.

ServiceGood. It’s attentive yet there’s no rush to hurry. Staff are knowledgeable about the dishes and what wines would suit.

CostIf two of you choose lobster, have three courses, wine and coffee the bill would approach �100. But we dined very well for �69.

Louise Allen-Taylor

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