Manor House isn’t shy about its quality – and delivers the goods, writes Amanda Wragg.
y hype threshold is low. It’s almost a physical reaction; sweaty palms, shallow breathing and the desire to run fast in the opposite direction. My trusty moles had been urging a visit to the Manor House, but one look at their website and that old familiar feeling kicked in. Take this: ‘ ‘Refusing to be styled in simply one genre, Manor House has a dining or drinking destination to suit every style. Edgy design, quality ingredients and traditional elegance collide to present a gastronomic journey to enthral and delight’’ and this: ‘‘Fantastic expectations, amazing revelations, but don’t get the fear.’’ Well dear readers, I got the fear but went anyway.
It’s a stunning building for sure. The story goes that entrepreneur/furniture designer Sara Presley was out running when she spotted the crumbling remains of the Grade II listed Georgian pile, formerly Fieldhead Children’s Home. It was originally a residence for James Nield Sykes, the owner of Acre Mills, a textile card manufacturer who commissioned his nephew to design the landmark Clock Tower as an alarm clock for his workers. Presley had a bit of spare cash and envisioned a boutique hotel and cutting-edge restaurant; a monumental building project, almost five million quid and four years later, Manor House was born.
We’re enjoying a warm late summer evening, and take a pre-prandial on the pleasant stone flagged patio, where there are folk drinking pints and bottles of rose. Above us, the soon-to-be-open balcony with, I’m guessing, views over the clock tower and car park.
Our ‘‘gastronomic journey’ begins in the fabulous Lantern Room, all bare red brick walls, parquet floor, huge, head-height padded green velvet banquette down one side and the most extraordinary flower-painted ceiling with a humongous glass disc chandelier hanging from a stained glass window. It’s pretty dazzling. Two menus appear; à la carte and an 11-course tasting menu at £72, with a £10 supplement for the Artisan Cheese board. We’re à la carting, and three ‘‘snacks’ fetch up; slivers of raw mackerel on ingenious squid-ink-black tapioca wafers, caramelised onion puffs – feather-light and showered with an indecent amount of truffle – totally hitting the spot – followed by an oyster swimming in a sharp Kimchi sea. Never has fermented cabbage tasted so good.
The menu reads like a Haiku. The food looks like one too. My starter is ‘‘carrot, lamb, fresh curds, mustard’’ which in no way does it justice. A single, soft carrot is sheathed in something so good it’s bad (lamb fat, turns out, oof) with a scatter of herbs and weeny curd blobs here and there. Roast scallop, pigs head, cauliflower, grape is all those things, beautifully realised, the fat, sweet scallop set off with a paper-thin sliver of roast cauliflower. Also on the list BBQ celeriac, roots and whey, which is probably more fun than it sounds, and ‘‘native’’ lobster with lovage (£5 supplement). The food is imperious. A perfectly cooked piece of duck, so tender and pink it turns our heads, with a generous chunk of foie gras fabulously offset with bitter, buttery chicory and cobnuts pulled together with a deep, sweet bilberry sauce. It’s the best duck dish I’ve had in some time. A hunk of pearly halibut has justice done to it, with slivers of artichoke, a puddle of the sweetest tomato reduction and sprigs of heady marjoram – this is consummate cooking, confident, creative and above all, packed with flavour.
I’ve never seen the point of a ‘‘pre-dessert’’ – what does it mean? A dessert is a dessert, why am I having a dessert before it? Tautology notwithstanding, I’m rather glad of the one that arrives ahead of mine – it’s an extraordinary thing, called “Lemon Meringue Pie” (their quotation marks) and it’s basically a cloud of lemon air floating above some kind of biscuit, anchored by shards of what could be white chocolate, more lemon then more chocolate. Whatever, it’s sublime. The dessert proper arrives and it’s a riot of Alpaco chocolate, oaky and floral, imagined several ways on a financier – or almond cake – with gold leaf, just in case it isn’t decadent enough.
There’s nothing understated about this place and it could easily be pretentious but any edge is taken off it by chatty, charming, well-informed staff. Bistro food is coming soon, served in ‘‘The Kitchen’’, so you don’t have to go down the fine dining road if it’s not your bag – though I would urge you to give it a go. The Manor House has set out its stall as the jewel in Lindley’s crown; no expense has been spared and it’s certainly not short on style – marvel at the marble, trompe l’oeil frescos, glittering crystal chandeliers and acres of velvet. But please dial down the hype. As Woody Allen quipped when he walked into the Hotel Cipriani in Venice: ‘‘I was hoping it might be a bit grander.’’ * The Manor House, 1 Lidget St, Huddersfield HD3 3JB. Tel 01484 504000. A la carte meal for two with two glasses of wine: £137.
Open 7 days a week for dinner, 6.30 – 9. Afternoon tea 12.30 – 4, Sunday lunch 12.30 – 2.