I first visited Alston Bar and Beef as part of the Corn Exchange Christmas Showcase back in 2018. At the time we were given a tour of the dining area but then settled in the downstairs speakeasy part. The interior of the restaurant looked amazing then so I was looking forward to dining here when they invited me recently. This was particularly so since giving up beef and lamb due to sustainability reasons, and thus I was interested in seeing how a place which prides itself on steaks lives up in other areas.
Alston Bar and Beef interior
The restaurant can be hard to find as it’s located on the left side of the Corn Exchange. The entrance leads straight to a staircase going down. The restaurant is past the bar, where various in-house gins are produced.
As we won’t be having a steak tonight, we opted for white wine and settled on the Sauvignon Blanc. This one is the Ochagavia from Chile which has citrus notes combined with tropical fruits.
A 175ml glass costs £5.60, a carafe £11.60 and a bottle is £23. The wine is very easy to drink and will complement our menu choices.
My guest and I perused the set menu which is available to order from every Monday – Thursday 12 noon – 6pm or Fridays and Saturdays 12 noon – 4pm. 2 courses for £15 and 3 courses for £18.
We ordered the Torched Mackeral and the Shaved Root Vegetable Salad. The former was served with cucumber gazpacho and tomato ceviche. I found the cucumber gazpacho a bit flavourless. I know fish has a delicate flavour, but I felt the gazpacho did nothing to emphasise this. The tomato ceviche didn’t add much either. Perhaps both suffered from growing issues and lacked sweetness as a result. The torched mackerel was, however, beautifully cooked.
The Shaved Root Vegetable Salad was served with ricotta cheese, roasted pumpkin seeds and orange dressing. This rated higher in my books as the root vegetables brought a nice freshness which contrasted nicely with the ricotta. The beetroot was sweet too! I personally found the orange dressing a nice accompaniment but my guest found it slightly overpowering.
Next on the list was the Steamed Haddock Fillet which is served with asparagus and watercress puree, wild garlic risotto and radish sprouts. The haddock was still moist and the risotto cooked perfectly. The wild garlic is a lovely flavour which I’ve not had much of. The star of the show is really the asparagus and watercress puree! Definitely recommend.
We also ordered the Broad Bean and Pea Risotto which is served with grilled asparagus, vegan parmesan crisps and watercress sauce. Again, the risotto was cooked very well and the grilled asparagus was perfect. I thought the haddock dish would be preferred choice, but actually it was this one and primarily down to the vegan parmesan crisps. They were little slivers of intense umami flavour and the crispy texture meant I never got bored of eating this dish.
We also ordered the Spring Green and Apple Slaw and the Wedge Salad which came with pancetta and blue cheese.
The former had a brilliant acidity which was a great contast to the main dishes we were having. It’s veyr refreshing.
The Wedge Salad was good and fared better than the horrendous wedge salad I ordered at Byron. The pancetta and blue cheese were good, but we could have had just a bit more blue cheese.
I wasn’t going to go for dessert, but our waitress really sold the Meringue Cake to us. The cake utilises Gordon Street Coffee, a brand which hails from Glasgow, Alston Bar and Beef’s home. Served with chantilly cream and fresh raspberries, the cake is really light and a perfect end to a good meal. It’s a shame I don’t really like the taste of coffee, though.
I ordered the Rhubarb Summer Pudding as the other option was an ice cream spaghetti. I asked our waitress about the latter and I wasn’t sure if it was just textured ice cream or just shaped as such. In any case, it didn’t sound interesting enough. The pudding was served with vanilla ice cream. This was equally light but I think it lacked the depth of the meringue cake. This was ok but nothing to sing about.
Overall rating and comments
8/10, -1 for the cucumber gazpacho in the toasted mackerel, just not that interesting, -1 for dull dessert options, I felt the Meringue Cake was the only choice really and as I disliked coffee, I wasn’t left with much. At £18 for three courses, I thought this was an ok price, although I’d probably stick with two at £15 and have my dessert elsewhere. They may have beef in their name but they definitely do some good non-beef dishes. Our waitress was very attentive too.
Would visit again?
Not extremely high on my list as the setting feels more upmarket than my preferred dining choices. If you like a classy place, do check this out, though. Did I mention they have a wide selection of in-house gins?
Address: Cathedral St, Manchester M4 3TR