Interview

‘Bang on target’ – The River Restaurant at The Lowry Hotel, reviewed

Gordo checks into this five-star hotel after its recent multi-million pound revamp

THE Lowry is the only five-star hotel in Salford – the better side of the river and Gordo’s hometown. Which delights Gordo as he and his fellow Salfordians do consider themselves a touch above the rest of Mancunia.

It was opened some 20 years ago by Sir Rocco Forte, the five-foot-four Titan of the hotel world. Forte and his family sold the place about five years ago and the hotel started to wilt like a bunch of under-watered white roses.

A couple of years ago, a new owner arrived in the form of the well-heeled Millennium Hotel Group. They encouraged Adrian Ellis, the General Manager, to figure out how he could restore The River Restaurant to its former glory when the rather splendid young chef, chosen personally by Sir Rocco, Eyck Zimmer, was in residence.

A fresh fig, cut in half and draped with a caramel glaze which I have never seen before and was delightful

Adrian found chef Andrew Green and dragged him in to take on the project. Green left after a few years, seduced by a brand new hotel restaurant kitchen at Mamucium. He was replaced by chef Dave Ashton over a year ago, who worked during a makeover of the bar and restaurant running into the millions. The restaurant has recently reopened and chef Dave can finally focus on showing us what he can do.

Gordo needed to see the final results.

The menu is modern British, thankfully without that overworked ‘twist’. Gordo needs to come clean here; he has been shown a few dishes over the past three months or so in development. The kitchen team have been working on the new menu for some time.

Nowhere is this more evident than Dave’s Wellingtons. And I’m not talking boots. Over the past 12 months, it’s become a favourite on the menu, and the team have been trying out other variations. Venison, chicken and pork Wellingtons have been tried out and all are being featured on Wednesdays (Wellington Wednesdays, geddit?) The chicken one is absolutely bloody terrific.

Gordo arrived unannounced on a grim Monday evening for the test meal. The look and feel of the restaurant cheer you up. It’s comfortable, well-lit and burnt orange.

Let’s start with the bread and butter. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting irritated with chefs messing about with butter. A great butter is great. Good bread is good. And they go together well. Whipped flavoured butter? Not many get it right for sure.

Chef Ashton’s take is an unusual one. You get four try-outs. The basic butter pat is bloody good, whilst the bread is better than good. Then you look at two cherry tomatoes which turn out to be whipped tomato butter. Evil? No, as it happens it’s clever and works. Basic rapeseed oil is in a bowl, Manchester’s riposte to olive oil. I’m beginning to like that. Then, in another bowl, is a warm dollop of melted Lancashire cheese, that you spoon onto the bread. Dear Lord, this is genius. It’s genius because it tastes of Lancashire cheese. Warm, melty whipped up Lancy cheese. It’s a comforting thing on a shit damp and dark grey day in early November. That lot was £4.50 by the way…

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