English restaurant in City Centre
City Inn Manchester, One Piccadilly Place, , 1 Auburn Street, Manchester, M1 3DG
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When we heard that new hotel City Inn had poached head chef David Gale from Selfridges to run their restaurant, we couldn’t wait to review City Café.
City Café is a classy restaurant sat in the back corner of a hotel lobby. It certainly looks attractive; cream floor-to-ceiling curtains break up a room full of pastel green armchairs and tables covered in white linen. The overall effect is sophisticated, but there isn’t enough separation between lobby and restaurant, leaving you feeling a little exposed. This makes for a slightly uncomfortable atmosphere, and we noticed many of our fellow diners eating in silence or speaking in hushed tones.
David Gale has obviously taken care over the menu. There are, in fact, three menus – the A La Carte, the Garden Menu (for vegetarians) and the Kitchen Menu (which offers a set menu at a more reasonable price). The emphasis is on English and European cuisine, with locally sourced ingredients taking pride of place and the odd twist to keep things interesting.
Despite how promising the dishes sounded, the execution was not always spot on. The Cumbrian ham and celeriac starter was good, with the delicate slices of ham proving a salty and intense contrast to the crunchy, creamy vegetable. However, the accompanying watermelon and lemongrass shooter was bland and brought nothing to the dish. Worse still was the veal starter, which tasted of nothing at all.
The mains were better as a whole. The panfried tuna was cooked perfectly, and the accompanying garden salad featured some of the most intensely flavoured cherry tomatoes we have come across. The chicken breast and asparagus linguine was fine – not interesting, not exciting, but fine nonetheless.
For dessert, we’d highly recommend the chocolate fondant. The merest tap of a fork and the cake split apart, letting a thick, dark chocolate sauce ooze across the plate. The summer berry soufflé isn’t as good a choice; if you want something tart, you would be better with the clean, sharp trio of sorbets.
Overall, City Café is a good restaurant. The service is excellent and when a dish is successful, it is very good indeed. However, the inconsistent quality of the dishes means that at present the River Room and the French needn’t worry- until Gale and his team consistently deliver on the promises of the menu, City Café is no competition.
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