There are few things I love more than a good slap-up meal, and that’s exactly what I got at The Allotment over Christmas! I first visited last January (more here), since when they have won Best Vegetarian Offering and Chef of the Year for Matthew Nutter at the Manchester Food and Drink Awards. And after my second visit I can reaffirm that the accolades are truly deserved, as we were once again given a top notch dining experience, from atmosphere and service to the masterpieces on the plates.
They were offering a seven course Christmas menu for £40 per person, or a ten course extravaganza for £55. Mama HH very generously treated us to the latter, and we will be eternally grateful because it was just amazing. I will say right away that the lighting is not conducive to great photography, so apologies for the gloomy pictures – but at least they’ll give you some idea of the treats we devoured.
The amuse bouche was described to us as golden beetroot with pickled beetroot: a delicate, deep-fried slice with a soft puree. This tasted like pickled onion Monster Munch, which is to say that it was delicious.
The soup of the day was mushroom and celeriac with caper aioli. I was a little worried about this as I hate the taste of celeriac, but it was pleasantly balanced by the earthy mushrooms and the insanely flavoursome, savoury aioli.
The smoked root starter promised baked celeriac (not again!), smoked onion, pickled cabbage and merlot vinegar. It was a tasty little pate, served with gram flour bread which was almost scone-like. The smokiness of this pate was wonderful, and this was a real highlight of the meal.
Ah, the cauliflower course! Why don’t more restaurants offer this? The sesame-fried cauliflower was incredible – really crisp on the outside, tender on the inside, and the sesame seeds in the batter were a wonderful touch. It was served with pistachio and lemongrass custard, pickled chilli candy beetroot, and a kale crisp, which I guess is the big twisty thing? Everything tasted so good.
Next up was this rosemary and buckwheat scone with roasted garlic and butterbean cream and fig jam. Truthfully, I thought there was too much jam on this and I couldn’t even taste the garlic, which is a shame as that cream sounds amazing. It was still lovely, but tipping the scales more towards the garlic would change everything for me!
I was already pretty full by the time we got to the main course! (Let the record show that Dr HH was not.) There was confit aubergine, which was incredibly soft, and a delicious gravy. There was also some mash, cavolo nero, and oyster mushrooms. Dr HH declared this his favourite course, and I agree that it was delicious – but for me, the best was yet to come!
Pre-dessert is such a great idea, and this one was wonderful: raspberry sorbet on top of chopped caramelised hazelnuts. The sorbet was really refreshing, and the hazelnuts almost elevated it to actual dessert standard!
But here is the dessert itself. Regular readers will not be surprised to learn that this was my favourite course. There was an orange sorbet that wasn’t bitter at all (it can be a fine line with orange, in my experience). There were two little cylinders of chocolate truffle, and I’m going to say something unexpected here: one would have been enough for me. On top of all that was some honeycomb and a little nougatty cube. This dessert was very rich and decadent, and I loved the festive chocolate orange flavour. Sublime!
And here’s the cheeseboard, which we were really looking forward to. We got a little pot of apple chutney, a stack of crackers (which was replenished as needed), and two cheeses: one of them turmeric, the other coconut. I thought the coconut one was delicious, though Dr HH favoured turmeric. They were really similar textures, which was a little disappointing – I’ve seen the excellent variety they produce on Instagram, and I was hoping we’d get a couple of really different things.
The tenth course was a peppermint espresso martini, but I don’t drink coffee and Dr HH doesn’t drink booze, so we skipped that in favour of good old tea and coffee instead – the chai blend was very good indeed, but I was too full to manage the whole pot, which was a shame. I will register my disappointment that I wasn’t offered a dessert wine instead – that was included with the cheeseboard on the seven course menu, but not the ten course, which didn’t make too much sense to me. This is only the smallest of grievances though, and I certainly didn’t need any more food or drink as I journeyed home clutching my belly.
So there you have it – what a magnificent feast! I know it’s hard to justify spending this much money on a meal, but if you have the resources to treat yourself once a year (or more often, of course), you have to go to The Allotment. And although I’ve learned that ten courses are too many for me, I regret absolutely nothing about this meal!