Harvey Nichol's Second Floor restaurant, nominated as Manchester Food and Drink Festival Restaurant of the Year, could suffer with being stereotyped as snooty and inaccessible. However, Mancunian Matters discovered that every diner is both treated to wonderful service and a delicious menu.
Harvey Nichol’s Second Floor restaurant has the rather secretive feeling of being located behind the food section of the department store and the brasserie, with staff ushering diners through a small, curtained entrance into the restaurant.
Once through the curtain, the dozen or so tables are immaculately laid out but what is most eye-catching is the floor to ceiling panoramic windows to the left of the seating area. A handful of tables look out onto the expanse of Manchester city centre and the Manchester Eye.
We were lucky enough to be seated at the table situated in the corner of the windows, meaning a curved view of the twinkling city lights encompasses half the table. Undisputedly the best seats in the house. An atmospheric thunderstorm complete with lightning accompanied the latter half of the meal, as we looked out on a dark and brooding city, safely behind glass.
On arrival we were offered a glass of champagne by Karla, the waitress who made us feel very welcome to one of Manchester's most exclusive restaurants. There were cocktails and hundreds of bottles wine to choose from the award-winning wine list.
We selected the Harvey Nichol's house rosé as it was recommended as being one of the better rosés they had to offer. The light, crisp taste indeed went well with every course and Karla was often on hand to make sure glasses were never empty.
The menu, created by chef Stuart Thomson, is varied and interesting. Two courses cost £32 and three courses are £40. There is even the option to have six taster courses for £55 should you want to try many dishes. To start we ordered green pea soup and Scottish smoked salmon. A bowl with tortellini stuffed with ricotta and green peas arrived, with the soup poured from a separate jug which made sure it was still hot.
The soup was creamy without being too filling and the tortellini and cheese added interest and complemented each other well. The smoked salmon looked like a miniature city with the salmon rolled into various shapes, accompanied by triangles of melba toast in cream cheese. The salmon was the freshest we’ve ever tasted.
The main courses of grilled stone bass and lasagne were served quickly after the starter. These dishes were also impressive feats of presentation and balancing. The lasagne, the only minor criticism of the meal, was three circular sheets of lasagne balancing the squash filling underneath and was just not quite filling enough for a main meal at this price.
However, the grilled stone bass on a bed of bulgar wheat, served with carrots and aubergine puree was delicious, with the fish melting in the mouth. This also had minimalist presentation but the bulgar wheat accompaniment meant that it was more filling.
For desert the waitress advised us that the chocolate soufflé was made fresh and would take 20 minutes but would be worth the wait. We ordered this along with lemon meringue pie. The soufflé came with hot chocolate sauce and white chocolate sorbet and was heaven for a chocolate lover.
The lemon meringue pie, served with creamy shell shapes and shortbread ice cream, however, was the real triumph. Beautifully presented, creamy with just the right amount of lemon, and paired very well with the shortbread ice cream.
Harvey Nichol's Second Floor restaurant takes dining to an experience that extends beyond the food. It is almost impossible for there to be better seats anywhere in any restaurant in Manchester. It is pricey, but they ensure the standards are well in excess of what you would expect.
The food and service were wonderful, and touches like the champagne on arrival means diners feel they are truly in one of the most exclusive restaurants in town and would thoroughly deserve to win Manchester Food and Drink Festival Restaurant of the Year.