Nestled behind Manchester’s iconic Albert Square, home to the beautiful Town Hall and Central Library, is a restaurant I was intrigued to try out after seeing so much coverage on social media. Occupying the space that used to be one of our favourite places to eat in its previous form as Avalanche, 1761 has taken over the reigns and aims to promote a more local, Mancunian flair.
This is evident as soon as you approach the doors, with the Manchester bee logo forming the handles, a welcoming nod to this wonderful city. As soon as you walk into 1761 it feels homely and friendly yet swanky and quirky; a great mixture to provide a setting for a lunch with family or friends in the day or a posh date night in the evening. We got babysitters for Tom so James and I could enjoy a post-Valentine’s Day treat as an opportunity to review the experience.
British food with a twist
Looking at the menu it’s clear to see that it matches its ethos as being “fiercely independent” and “positively passionate about all things British”, with corned beef, scotch eggs, fish and chips and sticky toffee pudding all making an appearance. I’m a fan of any kitchen with a focus on locally sourced and seasonal ingredients, as well as imaginative veggie options and plenty of choice for gluten-free eaters, and this ticked those boxes straight away.
I started with the Roast Cauliflower with quinoa, harissa and tahini, a wonderful combination of flavours and textures for such a delicate and aesthetically pleasing plate of food. The cauliflower was nicely charred and married well with the nutty quinoa, while the harissa lended a punch of spice which balanced out with the creamy, mild tahini.
James had his eye on the Salt Cod Scotch Egg before we even go there so of course he opted for this. He described it as being like an a la carte version of a fish pie but in a scotch egg form and elegant yet substantial. He demolished it in minutes which is always a good sign!
Onto the mains, I was excited by the sound of the Bubble & Squeak Risotto (I asked for a fried egg rather than the crispy egg it comes with, to make it gluten-free friendly) with some charred tenderstem broccoli on the side. When the risotto arrived it looked quite a small portion but the presentation was deceptive; it was rich, creamy and satisfying. The chunks of carrots were an unusual but delicious addition to the perfectly cooked rice, while the egg topped off the dish to form a tasty, filling meal along with the greens on the side.
James’ Corned Beef Hash with crispy bacon and egg was recommended by our waiter and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Hearty and meaty but still retaining a delicateness, the chefs seem to know how to put an elegant twist on these traditionally stodgy classics. Served with beef dripping chips to dip into the runny egg (yolk porn alert), this is a dish for a good appetite!
Although we were both full at this point, it would be rude to skip dessert. The Roast Peach with lemon thyme, granola and vanilla ice cream was ideal for me as it was light enough to round off the meal without feeling too stuffed. The crunch of the granola added texture to the perfectly baked peaches and smooth, creamy ice cream, while the lemon thyme added an extra element of taste to bring more life to this pretty dish.
James was sold by the Manchester Tart – mainly because on the menu it said vimto, banana, coconut ice cream – it had to be tested! Although the pastry was a little on the crunchy side, the layers of vimto jam and banana cream worked a dream, while the coconut ice cream was a clever and interesting touch to bring everything together. I’m certainly going to be taking inspiration from this combination of flavours!
Going back in time to Lily’s Bar
“A place where you can lose yourself for hours”. When you head downstairs, it’s like being transported into not only another place, but another era. Greeted by luxurious decor, quirky objects (very Alice in Wonderland) and cosy sofas, it’s hard not to miss the mesmerising fish tank adorning a whole wall – a fabulous talking point and very relaxing to sit next to.
Offering carefully crafted cocktails, each embodying a moment in time and inspired by a story from the past, I chose the Sparkling Cyanide – Prosecco, elderflower, rhubarb, rose, lemon and butterfly pea flower. This was me in a glass, and I loved pouring together the different elements for the drink to change colour into a deep purple. James’ Ada & I was made up of gin, Martini Rubino, Fernet Branca, lemon and blackberries which resulted in a strong, dry and tart but tasty drink. We both said it was the sort of place you’d expect everyone to be smoking cigars!
Worth a visit
Another thing I need to mention is how friendly, welcoming and knowledgeable the staff are at 1761 and Lily’s Bar. Christine is an absolute gem and our waiter Danny looked after us throughout the night, talking us through the menu, keeping us topped up and made sure we had a great time. With an extensive an exciting menu, simple but delicious food and the exquisite bar downstairs makes this a complete and memorable experience. I can’t wait to go back again – probably on a weekend in the day with Tom, he’ll love the fish tank!