Restaurant review: The Alan hotel, Manchester

Plates with Baba Ganoush, anchovies, prosciutto ham, truffled mac n cheese, tomato and feta salad

A delicious and tempting mix of starts at The Alan - Credit: Rikki Chan

Manchester’s newest hotel, The Alan, has a restaurant that should be a must-do for every visitor to the city 

City hotel restaurants can’t generally rely on a captive audience, there's something more interesting about heading out the door on a food discovery than simply heading downstairs and taking a seat, but The Alan is a little bit different. Open for less than two months, the restaurant in this achingly cool, uber-stylish hotel is set to be a destination in itself, with a short but excellent menu provided by head chef Iain Thomas, whose previous experience includes stints at Northern Quarter’s Edinburgh Castle and Establishment in Manchester, where he trained under renowned chef David Aspin. His dishes are detailed, extraordinarily well-considered, and utterly, wonderfully delicious. It’s a good thing there are rooms upstairs, as more than a waddle to the lift could be too much for some. 

Bed, shower in corner of room, seating.

A suite at The Alan - Credit: The Alan

The design-style at The Alan is ‘industrial-chic’ - a blend of polished plaster, open brickwork and beautiful, bespoke furnishings. It’s very Manchester. After a snooze and a shower (interestingly the shower in our room was in a corner of the bedroom, which some might baulk at, but when you have been married close on a quarter-century, well...) we made our way to the restaurant, and two seats at the chef’s table. 

Chef Iain is smashing. Modest, yet confident of his dishes, and very happy to explain his thinking behind each one, detailing where he sources his microherbs (Ancoats) and meat (Knutsford) and how his aim is to become ever-more connected with local suppliers and producers. 

A small plate with three croquettes, a heavy sprinkling of parmesan shavings and microherbs

Truffled mac n cheese - Credit: Rikki Chan

We started with Baba Ganoush (me) and Truffled Mac’n’Cheese (him). Mine was super-smooth and almost creamy in texture, fresh and with a tiny zing of lemon. Served with hot flatbreads, dressed with olive oil and a scattering of sea salt, it was summer nights in warmer climes on a plate. Mike’s mac’n’cheese came in the form of three hot and crispy croquettes, each a squish of soft pasta and cheese, with that unmistakeable base-note of truffle. Delicious.  

A bowl of smooth baba ganoush, topped with olive oil and microherbs

Baba ganoush - Credit: Rikki Chan

The menu next offers a selection of small plates, perfect for sharing, before a short offering from the grill – a steak, a pork chop and a Barnsley chop. We decided on a small plate each, plus the lamb for Mike and the pork for me. We added a Cauliflower Tikka and a Lamb Fat Cabbage from the small plates and, feeling slightly wicked, a bowl of chips to share. 

A bowl with cauliflower steak, puree and cauliflower rice, with pomegranate seeds and fresh microherb coriander

Cauliflower Tikka - Credit: Rikki Chan

Oh. My. Life. Who knew cauliflower could be quite so sensational? A roasted cauliflower steak, with cauliflower puree and cauliflower rice, gently imbued with tikka spices, wrapped through the puree and painted onto the steak, then scattered with pomegranate seeds and drizzled with pomegranate molasses. Incredible. 

A layering of hispi cabbage imbued with lamb fat and shre4dded lamb, in a creamy sauce with microherbs and nasturtium leaves

Lamb fat hispi cabbage - Credit: Rikki Chan

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Mike’s cabbage dish made him a little swoony. A little ‘lamby’ for me, he couldn’t inhale it fast enough, and his view was echoed by the waiting staff, who have all tried each dish and can happily discuss them all. They both made marvellous accompaniments to our chosen meats from the grill, but would be quite enough without any extras. Except the chips. The chips are awesome. 

A chocolate-dusted plate with the dessert, topped with ice-cream and more chocolate and candied peanuts

Snickers, Chef Iain-style - Credit: Rikki Chan

We finished with a Snickers – Iain's version of the well-known chocolate bar. Creamy, smooth chocolate delice wrapped around a dollop of dulce de leche, topped with ice-cream, scattered with candied peanuts and more chocolate. Mouth-wateringly good, totally worth every calorie.