At Manchester’s new Mana restaurant in Ancoats, dishes of math-rock complexity jostle for your attention with decor that’s as bold as the food. Florescent crucifixes swing overhead while devices that would look at home in an operating theatre sizzle below. Trays of micro herbs and low-slung bulbs create a Bond-villain-lair-meets-Eden-Project vibe – in a good way – and the cooking still stands out. Pipe-shaped wafers, indistinguishable from the pile of mossy sticks upon which they’re served, are among the first of 18 (or so) courses. Cornmeal ‘masa’ soup, fermented for many days, precedes charred brassica leaves lacquered in pungent shrimps’ head paste. There are sticky skewers of yakitori-style eel, and charred onions in a delicately fired bowl. Sourdough is served with cultured butter, handmade by a 90-year-old lady in a remote part of Sweden. Best of all (perhaps, although I enjoyed it all – even the tales about how this or that is made, and by whom) is dehydrated ‘reindeer’ moss, embossed with chocolate and served with a whisky eggnog dip. Akin to others making waves right now, Simon Martin launched Mana after working at ‘the best restaurant in the world’, Noma in Denmark. Martin, however, was there for longer than most – two years, at least  – and I get the impression that the innovative sourcing and plating that made Noma’s name have become (or always were) part of his psyche. Most impressive, however, is the fact that despite Martin’s obvious ambition, nothing feels particularly forced or weird. And that’s true of the wine list too. A lot of restaurants are serving natural wine right now – even Piccadilly’s curry and beer hall Bundobust have teamed up with local suppliers, Love and Labour to offer a short selection – but Mana’s wines are works of art in themselves. Several bottles have been foot-trodden and harvested from wild vines weaving their way across Europe; I particularly love the bone dry ‘Colet Navazos’ sparking white from just outside Barcelona and ‘Taganan’ (meaning ‘slope’) a hand-harvested wild white wine made by Envinate in Tenerife. More challenging is the fermented raspberry flavour of Aussie Jamsheed’s ‘Illaj Pinot Noir’ – but even that’s a thrill in it’s own way. The only downside is the speed of service. With a typical duration of 120 minutes, expect a whirlwind romance of a meal where both you and the kitchen are the stars of the show.

Mana, 42 Blossom Street, Manchester M4 6BF. Tel: 0161 392 7294, open Thu – Sun dinner & Sat & Sun lunch, £105 dinner, £50 lunch, matched wine from £40,

Thu 7 Mar
Ruth Allan
Published on:
Thu 7 Mar 2019