When a restaurant can make a vegetarian or vegan menu look exciting, interesting and creative, I’m there. With the rise of a ‘flexitirian’ way of eating coupled with January being Veganuary for many, it’s great to see so many eateries offering more options that aren’t just risotto or a nut roast. So when I heard that Harvey Nichols Manchester was launching its first vegan menu using seasonal plant-based ingredients and had a peek at what was on offer, I couldn’t resist going with my blogger partner in crime Chyaz (and of course baby Thomas!).
I’ve been to the Second Floor Bar & Brasserie a couple of times before, both when Madeleine Shaw hosted her supper clubs here. Smart, elegant and full of class without being pretentious, as well as offering stunning views of the city, I’ve always enjoyed my experience at Harvey Nichols but this time I was intrigued to see how their own menu would play out. With a varied 3-course menu offering dishes ranging from £6-£12 plus a selection of vegan wines and a speciality vegan cider, our waiter explained how the chefs enjoy the challenge of creating exciting dishes and using their imagination to cater for different dietary requirements, including gluten-free options too.
With it being a chilly January day, the Curried Parsnip Soup with pickled apples, sultanas and coriander served with gluten-free bread sounded like the perfect way to start the meal. Beautifully presented, the silky smooth soup nailed the balance between being sweet and warming with punches of flavour and texture from the toppings which really brought this dish to another level. I was genuinely sad when I had the last spoonful.
Being a lover of tofu, Chyaz ordered the Tandoor tofu with vermicelli noodles in baby gem lettuce cups which again were presented in a very Instagrammable manner. A light but hearty dish, the generous chunks of tofu provided a good level of spice without being too overpowering, allowing the Indian flavours to shine through and work in harmony with the noodles and fresh lettuce leaves, another perfect balance for the tastebuds.
I loved the individual ‘tapas’ style element of my main course, comprising of a pumpkin hummus with a cheeky chilli kick, slices of marinated aubergines, olives and pickles, gluten-free toast and a warm chickpea salad bursting with flavour thanks being covered in herbs and spices. A generous amount meant I was just about able to finish it, leaving me satisfied and enjoying the lingering spice of the hummus.
For her main dish, Chyaz enjoyed the Roasted root vegetable salad with pickled walnuts and a mustard seed dressing. If that doesn’t scream winter I don’t know what does, using colourful seasonal veggies and bringing them together with that familiar marriage of herbs and spices; honestly, the chefs in the kitchen know how to use those to really take humble vegetables to a whole new height. And that’s why this vegan menu is so brilliant, taking simple ingredients but making them sexy.
Although we were both now pretty full up, we couldn’t turn down dessert. My Coconut rice pudding with mango & passionfruit salsa served with coconut chips was a tropical twist on a classic dessert; maybe not so much a winter pudding but the sweet sunny flavours certainly made me crave summertime and the need to be on a beach somewhere! Another aesthetically pleasing and flavoursome dish that I wish I could eat everyday.
Chyaz’s Pineapple raviolis appeared to be very thin slices of the fruit filled with the same incredible mango sorbet I had served alongside a sweet chilli sauce – a genius idea which I’ll definitely be stealing next time I cook or bake something with pineapple. Tangy, sweet, refreshing and light but absolutely bursting with flavours, this was another simple but stunning dish showcasing the chef’s talents.
It’s fair to say we were both really impressed with the quality, taste and amount of food we consumed in such a wonderful setting. Who says vegan food has to be boring and unadventurous, especially when eating out? Harvey Nichols Manchester proves that theory wrong.