It's a warming weekday treat at just £10.50 including wine
IF you want to eat seasonal in the city centre at this time of year, you've two well-worn paths to follow. Christmas dinner (on menus everywhere right now) or something sizzling and smoky from the Christmas Markets.
We're not knocking either option, but here's an alternative that we'd choose every time: The new winter lunch menu at Masons.
It's good, fresh seasonal food, a little bit Christmassy, and at £10.50 for a main and a drink (wine, lager or soft) it's an inexpensive weekday treat.
Masons is in Manchester Hall, about a minute's walk from House of Fraser and Deansgate, so it's ideal for lunch between Christmas shopping. And it has a lovely, calm atmosphere that makes it feel like a haven from the bustle outside.
From the green-lit marble bar to the globe lights, to the inky blue walls, to the plush banquet seating, the setting is a balance of masculine and feminine, of classic and contemporary.
It appeals across the generations: your grandma would be as happy in here as your Instagram friends. The new lunch menu pulls off the same trick; dishes range from traditional to on-trend.
The focus of the winter menu is hearty, warming dishes designed to satiate our bigger appetites at this time of year. The flavours are at full-throttle too – strong cheeses, rich pates, tart berries, peppery greens, all set against a comforting background of warm breads, fresh pasta, mashed potato and home-made chips.
Here's what we had on our visit. Take a look at the full menu here.
All dishes are priced at £10.50 including 175ml glass of wine, bottle of lager, or soft drink. Add the Chocolate Yule Log dessert for £2.50.
Turkey, Cranberry and Stuffing Baguette
It's the most obviously festive option on the menu but it tastes nothing like your standard turkey-cranberry-sarnie. The difference here is that the cranberries are fresh and unsweetened, and they've used dark turkey meat rather than white. It's more flavoursome, more complex, more satisfying. It's brave to stray so far from what you might expect but it works.
Another dish that felt Christmassy yet won't seem out of place in January. It's a smorgasbord of luxurious nibbles that add up to a satisfying lunch. There's chicken liver pate, fresh fig, local cheeses, red onion jam, and fig pickle with warm breads and crackers. It went very well with a glass of their house white wine.
A big hitter of a dish: this was a small mountain range of brisket hash topped with two fried eggs and watercress. The hash was more brisket than potato so the umami rating is high. The soft texture, and the fried not poached eggs made it feel indulgent and comforting. The perfect choice for a cold day.
It's good to be reminded just how delightful a simple pasta dish can be when it's done well. This was a de-constructed pesto made of pine nuts, goats cheese, garlic and spinach – they worked together perfectly and had more impact by not being blended into one. The cherry tomatoes were lightly cooked – just enough to soften them without losing any flavour. Our personal favourite of the four.
Chocolate Yule Log
This dessert got it just right: light not heavy, indulgent but not too rich, and the combination of chocolatey sponge with fresh blackberries, redcurrants and blueberries was a winner.
Available Tuesday – Friday 12 – 5pm