Review: Living Ventures’ Landmark Artisan Restaurant Keeps it Simple
Living Ventures is one of Manchester's gastro big boys and Artisan is among its newest - and largest - ventures. And from the off, you got the impression that this is one of the site's closest to MD Tim Bacon's heart.
For those who don't know it already, it's a more individual dining room than some of the Living Ventures operations. There's ‘proper art' on the walls, cool fittings and features (the waist level bar really works), herbs grown on site, ambitious lighting, projections, an open kitchen, amazing private dining area and a toilet/dressing room that is quite unique. You'd be forgiven for thinking that it all sounds a bit much, but in my opinion, it works.
I'd not actually visited before in the evening which I realised this as I was shown to my seat, swishing past the good looking diners and enjoying the flattering lighting. The ambience is very distinct from the casual lunchy feel of the day time. Its not a flashy feel at all, just very chill.
The menu has been paired down a bit since my last visit, and this felt like a wise move. Other reviews have suggested that it was struggling to cover too much ground, but the options seem calmly considered now.
My dining buddy was 50 minutes late (she had the best excuse I've ever heard but that's another story) so I kicked stuff off with olives, which were as lovely as they should be.
When things finally got underway we went for a feast of starters that included crisp flatbread with garlic and virgin rosemary oil, houmous with sugar spiced nuts and baked Camembert, sugar-spiced nuts with beetroot and red onion chutney.
It was a medley of solid, winning dishes for sharing. We fought over the creamy, dreamy baked Camembert the most so that was probably the stand out.
The website describes the menu as rustic and ‘straight from the flames' so I thought the best way to test that slogan was by ordering a steak. I went for the fillet, which was lovely. It was ordered and served as medium, and flavoursome enough to not massively need the pepper sauce I ordered on the side.
This isn't a steak house, so there's only three steaks on the menu, and I reckon the fillet is where it's at (although at £19.50 for 9oz it's the most expensive and doesn't come with sides - it is a fillet afterall).
My tardy friend had the chicken breast with parsley butter, lemon and rosemary, which all disappeared quickly and with positive reaction. She said it was good, but having tried a bite, it was the understudy to my show-stealing fillet.
We both agreed we nailed it with sides of carrot with black onion seeds, broccoli Hollandaise and crinkle cut chips (all £3.50). I would call that the ‘golden triangle' of side orders and would return simply to try them again. We went for a very unusual dessert. Despite neither of us being massive banana lovers, we opted for salted caramel banana with gingerbread ice-cream, which offered a summery twist on the salted caramel theme.
I love Artisan, its smart, interesting with excellent service and good food. Crucially, I think it manages to stand up to the authentic connotations of its name without a huge amount of pretension. Afterall, there's a time and place for fancy toilets, antique-y rugs and cool lighting - and this is it.
22-28 Bridge Street, Manchester M3 3AB. Tel: 0161 832 4181, www.artisan.uk.com
Set in a vast 12, 000 square foot, semi-industrial space on the first floor of The Avenue North in Spinningfields. Cooking goes back to basics in the fire, this is casual dining at its best. Think artist's loft studio meets concrete warehouse: stripped back and raw. Showcasing sculptures, murals, art installations.
Open all day, everyday, serving brunch on weekends as well as lacing the city with music and drink into the night.