MCR 42, Chorlton Street, Manchester – Review

Adam Lowe

Adam Lowe

Adam Lowe is an award-winning author, editor and publisher from Leeds, now based in Manchester. He runs Dog Horn Publishing and is Director and Writing Coordinator for Young Enigma, a writer development programme for LGBT young people.
Adam Lowe

MCR 42 is a great restaurant, albeit one with a few teething problems, and it’s a place I’d certainly try again.

Since the off-Canal Street restaurant opened in the heart of the Village, I’ve spoken to a few friends about the restaurant, and my experiences, while slightly mixed, were shared, but we agreed the overall package is something we wanted to get behind.

I’m also assured by those who’ve been recently that the service is much more on the ball (I went the week of the restaurant’s opening and the week of Pride, and they were definitely working against it, poor things).

The food is good, although some of the dishes are a tad pricey given what you can get for less nearby, but the quirks and eccentricities – plus the prime location – actually make this a great little addition to the scene.

MCR 42, sister to Tea 42 in the Northern Quarter, occupies the site of the former Mongolian Bar & Grill – a space which has been empty for a while (save for a brief opening in Pride 2014 as a makeshift bar). It peeks out just on the edge of Chorlton Street, and is a bold and perhaps brassy venture, given that it’s literally next door to the Richmond Tea Rooms and likewise serves up teas, coffees and cocktails.

Unlike the Richmond Tea Rooms, however, the menu is far more diverse – and, I’ll admit, a bit overwhelming. There’s plenty to choose from, but I feel like it might make sense to break the menu down into smaller menus.

Those who pop in for afternoon tea or a sharing platter might not want to wade through the steaks and salads, while those who come for dinner might prefer to order from a more focused and contained a la carte menu. This way, MCR 42 would be able to cater for a wide clientele, without leaving them gawping at a vast menu that swallows them.

However, the breadth of things on offer didn’t put me off, unlike some – I think diversity is MCR 42’s strength, and from the food we ordered, we can see that quality is high on their agenda.

After starting off with some divine cocktails (I mean, who doesn’t love cocktails? And having tried all the cocktails in all the bars in the Village, these are probably the best), we sat down for some serious grub. Be warned: there are some deliciously exciting things on this expansive menu, and you’ll do yourself an injury trying to eat all of them. (Note to self: A return visit is needed to order some of the other dishes. Tea-infused chicken? Wow!)

My colleague started with the pork and apple bon bons. These were great, frankly, and work as a starter or as wholesome nibblets to scoff over late Sunday afternoon cocktails while nursing a hangover (I’m guessing…). Pork with apple sauce has always been a favourite of mine, although I guess if I were on a diet (I am now but I wasn’t then), I’d opt for something lighter.

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Pork and apple bon bons! Delicious.

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Something lighter like, say, the scallops. These were also really special and after trying both (I’m not greedy, but to be accurate, it’s only right that I try both mine and my colleague’s dishes, right?), I was very, very thrilled. I couldn’t wait for the main courses to arrive, because I expected something pretty damn good.

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Succulent scallops cooked to perfection!

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While we were waiting, we ordered another round of cocktails, including a familiar pornstar martini and an intriguingly original (and tasty) chamomile cachar. You won’t get babies like these in your bargain-priced cocktail jugs from down the road – no, siree!

Because I was there to do a job, and by Goddess I was going to do it well, I threw any semblence of restraint to the wind and went for the most exquisitely OTT thing I could find to indulge my pre-Pride thirst for lasciviousness. It didn’t take long to settle on something brazenly appetising: the intriguing Wellington Burger.

This arrived promptly, although we had a few problems with my friend’s steak (more on that in a second). The burger was a wonderful concoction – beef burger patty, chicken liver parfait, a sticky bun, and general decadent gorgeousness. If I could, I’d have one of these every day. Om and nom together, indeed.

Now, the beef and reef (surf and turf) was another issue. Unfortunately, the restaurant hadn’t yet fitted its hot pass, so food was either going straight to tables from the kitchen, or sitting around cooling while the new wait staff got around to picking it up and bringing it to the table. They’d mostly managed okay, but when it came to the rump steak (which was blue, and therefore needed to be brought out immediately to avoid turning stone cold), the meat turned up at room temperature.

We asked for this to replaced, and it was, pretty quickly, and the new dish was much better. We did have problems waiting again for the chips (the waiter walked past us at least once with these, despite saying to us, moments earlier, ‘I’ll be back with your chips.’), but they came just a few minutes after the steak, so the panic was over.

Once my companion got to settle down for his dinner (and I assure you, Tyler is the toughest steak critic in the whole city), he admitted that the steak was pretty good. It wasn’t phenomenal which, given the price, it could have been. But it got a pass from him – and I’ve been to restaurants where Tyler has sent a steak back three times until it was right.

There are plenty of steak restaurants nearby that offer exceedingly good slabs of beef done to perfection, so maybe MCR 42 could drop their prices slightly or try something a little bit differently to push that pass up to a merit or distinction. Maybe it was the seasoning, or maybe it was the cut, but it just lacked a certain edge that can be found in nearby competitors (although, it’s arguably still the best steak you’re going to find in the Village). Yes, I’m being a pedant, but that’s the point, isn’t it?

The prawns and beer-battered calamari rings were great, and made a nice touch compared to the usual surf and turf.

Onto the finale, and the desserts were great. There are a bunch of homemade cakes on offer, and I opted for profiteroles. My colleague wanted Victoria sponge cake, and we were both very satisfied. They were rich, very well presented, and the perfect accompaniment to a coffee. They definitely stand up to the competition next door, which is presumably the aim. Congrats, MCR 42!

It’s also worth mentioning the staff. The manager was lovely and apologised for the steak, which was perfectly understandable – in all honesty, maybe we should have waited until after the Big Weekend, when the staff had settled in and the menu been perfected, before coming. But whatever – we were hungry.

The rest of the staff were eager (with one exception: the chips chap), but they sometimes seemed a little disoriented, what with the Big Weekend due to explode the next day. (Again, the word on the street is that the service is much, much better now.)

I genuinely had a lovely time at MCR 42, and that’s half the battle won, I feel. Finding a good restaurant with great food and a decent atmosphere is hard work, and if the staff can make you smile, that’s even better. They were a young and friendly bunch, and they made us feel at ease and relaxed, so that we barely noticed how long we’d spent in the restaurant (it was pushing two hours, which is pretty standard for a good meal).

Before we left, we were also excited to learn that local drag artist Cheddar Gorgeous has started working there as a rather glamorous hostess. That adds extra props in our book, because who doesn’t want to look at a living, breathing, striding work of art while stuffing their chops? She said hi while showcasing her brand new neon yellow wig – which was absolutely fierce.

All in all, we think MCR 42 is worth a second visit, and we urge you to try it yourself and let us know your experiences in the comments section below. I’m always thrilled to see anything new happening in the Village, just as I am to see the regular haunts doing well, and MCR 42 raises the bar when it comes to dining quite a bit.

#PROTIP: You can get a champagne afternoon tea for £18.95 at the moment, if you’re feeling a bit (f)lush.

MCR 42 is open 8am till midnight through the week and 8am till 3am on Fridays and Saturdays. You can find out more and book a table at tea42restaurants.com.

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