We’re both big fans of MasterChef, although over the years we’ve learnt not to watch it on an empty stomach (the same goes for Bake Off). We were thrilled when Simon Wood won the series in 2015 and even more so when he announced he was launching a restaurant in Manchester. He opened Wood in 2017 and picked a contemporary location at First Street for the restaurant. We had been waiting for a special occasion to try the full tasting menu, but we were lured in by their January ‘2018’ offer of two course and a glass of prosecco for £20.18. And it was every bit as delicious as expected.
The setting of the venue is perfect. I’m a huge fan of the First Street development, HOME is one of my favourite places in the city and there’s some great spots to eat and drink, like Indian Tiffin Room, The Laundrette and The Gas Works Brew Bar. Wood fits in perfectly and looks very inviting, with an open plan design that draws you in.The open kitchen is the focal point and I was pleased to see Simon there as we entered, greeting us as we went past with a welcoming smile. Our table was right next to the kitchen so we were in prime viewing position to watch Simon and the other chefs at work. It was almost like a live version of MasterChef and I resisted the temptation to channel my inner Gregg Wallace.
I had a sneak peek at the taster menu, which sounded delicious, before checking out the pre-theatre options available to us on the ‘2018’ menu. I could have had any of the fish options but decided to go veggie, starting with cauliflower soup with curry oil and Bombay mix. The soup was so tasty and the spicy garnish added some heat. The Bombay mix was the most delicious alternative to croutons or bread and it’s made me want to add it to every soup I make myself from now on!
For my main course I chose shallot tarte-tatin with Cornish yarg cheese and thyme cress. Now this was truly scrumptious and I could eat the whole thing all over again. The presentation of both courses was contemporary without being overly fussy, tying in with the feel of the restaurant as a whole. The portions were generous for a pre-theatre menu – so much so that we didn’t manage dessert but I’m sure it would have been equally impressive.
We had a quick chat with Simon at the end of the meal. He was clearly busy but never flustered and his welcoming presence is what set Wood apart from other places in Manchester. I’d love to see this place do well and I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying the generous food and atmosphere. I can’t wait to return (hopefully soon!) for the full experience of the tasting menu.
The theatre menu is available at lunch from Tuesday to Saturday and for dinner Tuesday to Saturday, but check the timings first as these differ each day. The price is £22.50 for two courses and £27.50 for three courses.