Restaurant review: The River Restaurant, The Lowry Hotel, Manchester

Adam Lowe

The River Restaurant is The Lowry Hotel’s two-AA-rosette eaterie. It’s been completely updated with a multi-million pound redesign, giving the space soft but warm hues, a more private layout and bespoke furnishings, while retaining the riverside views and terrace.

The River’s a dynamic menu is loveingly crafted by Executive Head Chef Dave Ashton, and it features some exquisite gasrtonomic flourishes to reinvigorate classic British dishes.

Alongside the a la carte menu, The River Restaurant will also continue to offer its popular three-course Sunday lunch and daily afternoon tea with its choice of 80-plus tea blends.

The venue

The new seating arrangements and nicely sectioned off areas in the bar are stylish and discreet. This carries over into the restaurant, where Japanese-inspired wooden partitions break up the area, providing the feeling of privacy but without boxing you in.

As someone who has visited The River both before and after its refurb, I definitely prefer the new design. It feels really well done. The colour scheme is simply divine.

The food

The food at The River riffs on classic dishes with an element of the theatrical. Every plate comes out with one of the chef’s unique twists. Far from gimmicky, however, the food really tastes great, combining flavours in really interesting and fulfilling ways.

First up, we tried the squab pigeon with a decadent crispy pastilla, creamy celeriac, crunchy kale and a velvety goat’s curd.

This was really fantastic. Each ingredient offered a distinct experience which contrasted well with each of the others.

There was a rich effusion of flavour, but it was okay because of the portion sizes. It felt like we were embarking on a taste exploration – so we threw our preconceptions aside and got stuck in.

The neat starter really did beat all expectations. It was a tasty Cornish crab, whose salinity matched the creamy savoury mousse underneath. This was matched with a cooling but nicely spicy horseradish sorbet, a hint of sweet corn and the refreshing sea herbs.

One thing we learned at this stage was that the menu descriptions are a guide only. There’s likely to be something that you weren’t quite expecting on the plate – in a good way. The descriptions don’t really do justice to what arrives on the table.

For the first main, we tried the Frankie Bird’s Chicken Breast. It was a total smash of rich indulgence and comfort foods made posh.

Take the crispy truffle tortellini, which were gorgeous little morsels in their own right. The chicken itself had a sumptuous skin on the underside as a wonderful treat when you cut through – again, something we didn’t expect, since the skin was hidden underneath the chicken breast. But we’re glad it was because it added a salty, crispy indulgence that worked really well.

The braised leeks were packed full of flavour, and paired well with the creamy parmesan puree, which was like the silkiest, cheesiest mashed potato ever. I highly recommend that.

The absolute winner, though, was the succulent glazed chicken oyster on the side. It was a dark, delicate delight.

If you like bombastic flavours, then the venison loin is for you. Ours was a richly done, pink slice of meat served with creamy-tangy Lancashire Blue, a hint of salsify, sweet pear, and a slightly bitter dark chocolate sauce.

Extremely indulgent, the portion size justified the creative use of flavours. This was probably our favourite main course of the evening.

Our sides were equally unique. First, the stem broccoli was served with a luxurious miso butter and cashews. It was certainly out of the ordinary, and I really enjoyed it. The simplicity compared to the main courses was really welcome, but there was no skimping on flavour.

We also tried the Provencal roasted vegetables with green olive tapenade. The olives offered a salty edge to the aubergine, tomatoes and courgette, and really brought this together.

Our first dessert was Bee Centre Honey. This was a fragrant heather honey cake served with creamy smooth honeycomb panna cotta, a little smidge of fennel for its unique aromas, and a velvety honey iced parfait with bee pollen.

This was a grade A dessert, and didn’t feel too unhealthy either!

Hazelnut praline profiterole was our second dessert of the evening. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too sweet. The pastry itself wasn’t overly sugary, relying on the sweetness of the toppings and filling to make it satisfying.

The salted coffee caramel and malted milk ice-cream really rounded it off into a wholesome package. This was really enjoyable.

The verdict

The River Restaurant is the perfect place to go if you want to make dining an event. The food looks and tastes fabulous.

If you’re not one for embelishment and experimentation, then stick to the afternoon teas instead. This is the same restaurant that offered a Christmas Wellington stuffed with pigs in blankets in December, after all. They don’t do things by halves.

That said, if you want a meal that’s visually stunning and takes a playful attitude to flavour combinations, then this is for you. You really won’t be disappointed if you like challenging your tastebuds and want an all-round dining experience.

More information

The Lowry Hotel has 165 bedrooms and six suites, as well as a spa, restaurant and bar, and a variety of meeting and event spaces.

For more information, visit thelowryhotel.com/dining/the-river-restaurant.

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