A couple of Saturdays ago, I ventured into Manchester to meet five of my girlfriends whom I met at university whilst studying for my Masters degree at MMU Business School. I hadn't seen them since our last exam in April so I was really looking forward to catching up. There was lots to celebrate... Not only have we recently finished our 2 year degree and are patiently awaiting our results due in a couple of weeks (eek!), we had a 30th birthday, an engagement and a couple of promotions at work to toast. Party time all around! For those of you who know me, you're probably sick of hearing me go on about this ruddy Masters degree but I don't care, it's my proudest achievement to date!
Aisha kindly made all the arrangements. It's not easy getting us girls together when we are all so busy!
First of all we met up in The Alchemist for cocktails. Luckily Laura was already sat in the bar waiting. As I was stood threatening my iPhone she was watching me through the window as I was trying to work out from Google Maps where the bar was. It turns out the place was directly behind me and my friend rang me telling me to turn around. The penny dropped after I saw her waving.. doh! No sense of direction, not even with sat nav in my hand!
I digress, the cocktails in The Alchemist were lovely, pretty and unusual. I plumped for my old favourite, a Cosmopolitan, whilst Fran had a White Cosmo. This involves a orchid frozen in a spherical ice cube floating in Green Mark Russian vodka, Briottet elderflower, Cointreau, citrus, white grape juice and lemon bitters. I had a taste and it was delicious! All of the cocktails looked and tasted gorgeous.
By the time we'd had a good chinwag, our table was ready at Artisan so we headed over to the restaurant. It was only a short walk away. That was when we 'got involved'. Needless to say the Maitre D's choice of words had us all giggling, bless him!
As you'd expect from a Living Ventures establishment, the restaurant itself is quirky, upmarket and trendy. It is set in a 12,000 square foot, semi-industrial space on the first floor of The Avenue North in Spinningfields. The restaurant itself wants you to think 'artist's loft studio meets concrete warehouse, stripped back and raw'.
As we walked in there was a huge bar to the right with the enormous restaurant laid before us. The open kitchen was bustling to the left of us and as we walked to our seats there were even herbs growing underneath glass tables and glass cases full of interesting exhibits on display. It was reasonably busy when we got there and by the time we were ready to leave this enormous eatery was heaving. For someone who is not a frequent Manchester goer these days, it is obviously a very popular spot to have a bite to eat and a drink.
Because it was lunchtime a few of us went for pizzas. Aisha who had eaten here previously recommended these because they were so thin and crisy, I couldn't resist!
Prosciutto ham, mozzarella, mushrooms and Grana Padano pizza
This was my choice. As a huge lover of prosciutto and mushrooms at the moment this was perfect combination. The pizza was unbelievably good with a real tang from the tomato base. Also a very liberal sprinkling of toppings.
Classic American hot with salami, tomato, mozzarella and chilli flakes pizza
This was Laura's choice, a classic and a really hot one. She loved it!
Mozzarella, tomato and fresh basil
Alison plumped for a simple but effective pizza with very fresh ingredients. A traditional taste of Italy which she thoroughly enjoyed.
NY deli pastrami, bacon, smoked applewood, French’s mustard and olive pizza
Aisha's choice. This pizza looked really interesting and if I were to come again I'd probably choose this myself next time. Who needs New York when you have Spinningfields.
Hannah H (yes 2 Hannahs, it is a great name after all hehe!) went for a cheese and meat deli board where you can mix and match ingredients depending on what takes your fancy. Served with fresh breads and pickles.
Feta, orange, sugar spiced nuts and pomegranate with sweet chilli and lemon dressing salad
Fran was being good and opted for a salad. This wasn't your average salad though, it was packed full of interesting flavours and ingredients to liven things up! I have to say, pomegranate seeds on salads are the best invention ever!
There was a resounding applause from our group about Artisan. Everyone loved the food and I have to say the quality and flavour was much better than I was expected for a place so big. The service was also really good too and the staff were very knowledgeable about the menu.
I would also like to mention that Artisan was very accommodating for Hannah H's surprise birthday cookie which Alison managed to smuggle in before we arrived. The waitress brought it out to the table with the candles lit and a set of plates for us to share it. A rather tasty Millie's cookie to be exact! Happy Birthday Hannah!
Overall I had a fantastic time. Artisan is a great word to describe the food here. In fact, both the food and the company were amazing. I would definitely go back to both The Alchemist and Artisan. Very memorable, relaxed places to spend a Saturday afternoon with the girlies. I can't wait for our next outing!