Sunday, 9 October 2011

Seasonal? Tick! Local? Tick! Manson? BIG tick!

If you've read this blog before, you'll know we're big fans of the Sands End. In fact, you're probably sick of the Sands End we bang on about it so much. So this evening, ladies and gentleman, I'm pleased to be able to stick to a theme close to our hearts, whilst writing about something new!

Last week, we had the pleasure of visiting Manson, the sister restaurant to our beloved Sands End, to sample a seasonal menu by new Head Chef Alan Stewart, with wine pairings by sommelier Mickey Narea. Sarah had previously reviewed Manson here, but we'd heard great things about Alan (formerly of Wandsworth stronghold Chez Bruce, and latterly Launceston Place) and naturally couldn't wait to see what changes were underfoot at this local British brasserie.

Upon entering, I was immediately impressed by the d├ęcor (interestingly, as it hadn't changed since Sarah had visited and she hadn't been struck by it - perhaps it was the difference between day and evening). Manson manages to retain the warmth and authentic ambience of the Sands End, but with a slightly more upmarket feel: all beautiful woods, taupes, creams, interesting artwork and inviting chesnut-leather banquette seating. I was also impressed with their commitment to producing interesting twists on seasonal meat and vegetables, and to sourcing their ingredients locally. Not only do all the ingredients come from the British Isles, but a good deal of the vegetables even come from an allotment in Fulham Palace Gardens. As Mickey explains, Alan sometimes visits the allotment between servings - your vegetables could not be much more fresh and local than that!

Visiting in October, game is very much of the season, and so our four course meal consisted of venison, partridge and grouse, followed by Braeburn apple pie. What could have been a very heavy menu was made light and playful by Alan's inventive use of a plethora of seasonally British ingredients. Our first course of tartar of highland venison, pickled girolles, celeriac and cobnuts was surprisingly light, yet delightfully smooth and autumnal. For this dish, Narea surprised us by starting not with a white wine, as is traditional, but a light Pinot Noir (Little Yering Pinot Noir, Victoria, Australia) which complemented the dish perfectly.

Mickey surprised us again with an unorthodox move from red back to a richer and more complex white (Limousin Reserva, Marques de Riscal, Rueda, Spain) to accompany the delicious red leg partridge, quince, honey and oats that we were served next. Partridge is a personal favourite of mine, and this was cooked to perfection: the slightly earthy meat blending well with the sweetness of the quince, honey and the texture of the oats.

Feeling fairly full, but eager for the next course, we moved on to the roast grouse, with damsons and savoy cabbage. The richest of the courses, the sweetness of the damson plums gave a welcome sweet punctuation to the flavour of the meat and the savoy cabbage was also an excellent accompaniment - I'm glad we were spared potatoes as I don't think I could have managed them at this point!!! The next stop of Mickey Narea's companion wine tour took us to Italy, as we sampled a fairly earthy and rustic 2007 Biferno Reserva (Camillos de Lellis, Molise, Italy) which I enjoyed, but perhaps not as much as the previous two wines, although it undoubtedly complemented the dish well.

Not to worry - this was a portion for 4!

To round off a fairly heavy meal, what else but a suitable British dessert: Braeburn apple tart, served with a fantastic clove ice cream. This dish to me epitomised what the meal was about in a simple way: classically British, with a surprising twist. It was served with a French dessert wine (2009 Coteaux du Layon, Domaine du Pont de Livier, Loire, France) which I'm afraid I could barely touch, as I was completely fit to bursting and I feared it might send me to sleep! However, it did draw appreciative nods from those around the table with more wine knowledge than myself, so I'd hedge my bets it was a good'un.

Whilst the meal was very rich, it was still original, fun and surprising. Alan and Mickey have worked together for several years, and the shared passion and enthusiasm really shines through in some excellent, imaginative and thoughtful food and wine pairings. Manson got me pretty excited about British cuisine again, and the fact that everything was seasonal and local was the cherry on the cake. Fantastic food, fantastic ambience, and a dollop of truly Great Britain. A must-visit.

676 Fulham Road, London SW6 5SA
Head Chef: Alan Stewart

Manson on Urbanspoon

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