The River Bar and Restaurant

Restaurant in Manchester

Modern European Riverside Restaurant

David Harfield discovers that beautiful things come in simple packages at Manchester’s The River Bar and Restaurant.

The enigmatically titled autobiography of ex-Smiths front man Morrissey, ‘Autobiography’, has polarised readers before it’s even been released, as the gloomy monarch of rock royalty has asked that Penguin publish it under their ‘Classic’ section. Cue a semantic furore over what can technically be classed as a ‘classic’ and old Mozzer has whipped up the best PR storm since he insisted that an entire festival had to go vegan before he agreed to perform as its headliner.  As I peruse the menu in The River Bar and Restaurant that is situated in Morrissey’s hometown of Manchester, I ponder on whether it really matters how a product is presented to the recipient, or whether the content should just speak for itself.

The bleak weather was begging for a Smiths soundtrack (“The rain falling hard on the humdrum town”), yet as my girlfriend and I take in the view of the fluorescent Mancunian night time landscape afforded to us by the ceiling-high windows in the tastefully decorated restaurant, restorative martini and fig and hibiscus cocktail in hands, we feel anything but mundane and thus the jaunty, eupeptic jazz that fills our ears is much more congruous with the surroundings.

The aforementioned menu is written in a sparse fashion, listing the name of the dish and a few key ingredients, in stark contrast to some restaurants’ menus that seem to pack a short novella into the description of each dish.  However, the charming manager and sommelier are on hand to provide a more illustrious description of each dish with appropriate wine pairings.

Now, had I been ordering in true Morrissey fashion, I would eschew any carnivorous dishes, sniffing the oft-quoted aphorism, “Meat is murder,” as I insisted on a platter of tofu wedges laid on a bed of handpicked kale.  Nonetheless, after assuring each other that all of the animals will only have been killed in self-defence, my girlfriend and I reconcile with our consciences enough to order the scallops, chicken consommé, duck and the lamb (soz, Moz…).

A nest of crispy leeks and smoked chicken breast chunks becomes a quiescent lake of thin broth after our waiter pours the consommé over the dish, the meat engulfed in the toothsome liquid as tiny flecks of carrots brunoise float around the edges of the plate.  A pair of plump scallops is adorned with succulent bacon lardoons that offer a meaty obverse to the molluscs’ piscatorial tenderness; a flash of butternut squash jus provides the sweetened tang that such a culinary combination requires to be truly satisfying and a wafer-thin battered onion ring is a wonderfully indulgent cherry on the top of a particularly accomplished dish.

Readying my bigmouth to strike again, I attack my main course of venison with alacrity, the loin’s crisped exterior encasing the soft and spongy meat that’s doused in a thick, sweet moscovite sauce and layered on top of a wonderfully biting chicory marmalade.  Battered balls of potato dauphinoise are secreted under the meat and are deliciously moreish, yet the dish’s pièce de résistance is the small dollops of whipped maple carrot that I gladly mop up with the venison slices.

Over on the other side of the table, thick cuts of duck breast are artfully piled on top of a duck croustillant and coated in a beautiful reduction that also covers the scattering of Medjool dates and soused beetroot.  A special mention has to go the wine pairing for the duck, the subtle blackcurrant undertones of the Fleurie is a perfect match for fruit-heavy flavours of the dish.

Worrying that I may end up with a girlfriend in a (food) coma, I request a pause before our desserts; when we’re up to it, the lemon balm mousse arrives as a vision of domed delight balanced on sticks of poached rhubarb and the praline fondant is accompanied by splodges of delicious blackberry jelly, both expertly complemented by the matched dessert wines.

And so to answer the conundrum of whether a piece of art, be it a book or a delicately prepared meal, is affected by the literary packaging that describes it; when the quality is this impressive, really, What Difference Does It Make?

David Harfield is a freelance food and travel writer

The River Bar and Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Reviewer's Rating
Cuisine British
Need to book Advisable
Clientele Couples, businesspeople & families
Restaurant good for Couples, Families with children, Bar scene, Doing business
Dress Code Smart Casual
Dining Options Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Additional Ambience Information

The members of staff are particularly helpful when recommending their favourite items from the menu, so don’t be afraid to ask their opinions when ordering!

Additional Price Comments

Starters & Salads from £7.50; Pasta and Risotto from £7 as a Starter or £12 as main course. Mains from £22. From the Grill from £18. Desserts from £6.

Last updated on 22-10-2013

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