Simon Wood launched a new menu this summer, offering for the first time a selection of small plates, showcasing his focus on flavour, presentation and northern no-fuss style.

Simon Wood, winner of Masterchef 2015, is a prime example of the power of the programme, lifting talented amateur chefs into the industry they love, if they so choose. After his win, Wood went on to become executive chef at Oldham Events Centre, before opening his Manchester restaurant, WOOD Manchester, in 2017, offering diners five, seven and even 10-course tasting menus and cementing his reputation for fine dining with richly balanced flavours, exquisite presentation and a no-nonsense attitude.

In Manchester’s First Street area, the restaurant is dark and welcoming, with the main kitchen hidden away and a smaller kitchen on show, where you can see the chef himself creating and finishing dishes while keeping a close eye on both staff and diners.

Great British Life: Simon Wood go big on both flavour and presentation. Photo: It's Me Louis PhotographySimon Wood go big on both flavour and presentation. Photo: It's Me Louis Photography

This summer, Wood moved away from the tasting menu format to one focused around small and big plates, retaining fine dining qualities and personality. The new menu is driven by Wood’s desire for a ‘more casual approach to dining’, offering a selection of small plate options alongside main course options, opening up the restaurant to diners who are seeking different, yet fine, dining experiences – from sharing a selection of small plates with friends to a more intimate meal for two. The small plate options also move the budget somewhat, with plates starting from £7, before heading into more familiar Manchester dining territory of £22 plus. For the heritage and quality and innovation of the food you will find here, this is rather good value all round.

We started our exploration of the new menu with two small, but flavour-packed, options from the Breads menu, Aged Comte Rarebit and Duck Pate. The Rarebit – a slice of butter-basted brioche with beer cheese rarebit, topped with aged Comte – was lusciously moreish, and Mike’s pate was no doubt pretty excellent too, as he wolfed it before I could try it. Words were had.

We both then chose a small plate option – for me the Bacon Cheek and Egg and for Mike the Pork Fat Parisienne Potatoes. The dish was indeed small, but absolutely delicious. Made by stuffing Castleshaw Estate guanciale (I looked it up - ‘an Italian cured meat product prepared from pork jowl or cheeks') into a bun, then frying it and serving with a hens’ egg emulsion and with cured yolk flakes on top, it was packed with flavour. I wasn’t so impressed with the potatoes, sadly. Described as “Triple cooked potato spheres with pork burnt ends, truffle, and apple cider vinegar” I had high hopes, but they were rather dry, the pork burnt ends were too burnt (and dry) and the whole dish just didn’t hit the spot.

Great British Life: Every detail is considered. Photo: It's Me Louis PhotographyEvery detail is considered. Photo: It's Me Louis Photography

However, oh my, the main courses definitely did. After a quick consultation with the chef himself, Mike opted for the BBQ Bone in Rib of Beef, a 40-day aged rib cooked on the Josper grill. When it arrived I pretty much expected Fred Flintstone to rock up behind the waiter and join in. A 900g bone-in rib of beef is HUGE. Mike set to with gusto, telling me, repeatedly, between mouthfuls how very, very incredible it was. He did well, but we did take some rather smashing rare beef home with us that night.

I chose the Whole Poussin, which had been separated to create ‘Sticky glazed legs, deep fried wings, a whole roast crown, and chicken fat brioche bread sauce.’ It was delightful. Each element brought its own texture and flavour, and each was perfectly cooked to be moist and flavoursome. We chose to share a side of deep-fried Pommes Anna and a fennel and fruit salad with our main courses, as recommended by our server, and they were the ideal pairing.

Great British Life: Perfect puddings finish the experience delightfully. Photo: It's Me Louis PhotographyPerfect puddings finish the experience delightfully. Photo: It's Me Louis Photography

To finish, on recommendation, I chose a scoop of soft serve ice with Woodies Goodies, a selection of hand-made sweet treats devised by Simon and served from a partitioned wooden box, with a little silver scoop. A fun and quirky finish to a fabulous meal.