Linen Restaurant, Manchester taster night & falling in love with toffee popping apples

Toffee Apple Creme Brûlée at Linen Restaurant

We were invited to a taster evening last week at Linen restaurant at the Manchester 235 casino as Head Chef Jaromir Hlavsa – Jarda to his friends 😉 – & the team were launching their new autumn / winter menu. Step right up Mr M & I, plus several other happy Manchester food lovers.

Drinks Enthusiast rustled up for our group some sharp & sweet basil & lemon Gin cocktails, always good to break the ice. The restaurant is enclosed in its own glass walled area, elegant yet quite relaxed with good acoustics. There was a big group in a few tables away but the fabulous brick arched ceilings seemed to absorb sound.

Each course was described by Chef Jarda, who remained patient & friendly even with all the constant interruptions & questions! His commitment to locally sourced ingredients shone through, as did his passion for the food prepared and served.

The rustic pork and pistachio terrine was a winner on our table, even the gherkins are pickled in-house and were a delicate tangy balance for the terrine. I wasn’t so struck on the house smoked salmon and beetroot salad, but it was possibly due to it being swamped in flavour by the previous terrine, not a problem when it’s ordered as a regular starter.

Top – Pork & pistachio terrine; Bottom – House-smoked salmon & beetroot salad

Meat lovers will love the menu at Linen, lots of hearty dishes with rich reductions and strong flavours. I loved the starter of sautéed pigeon breast on beetroot hummus, mentally resolving to try out the beetroot recipe which Jarda talked us through.

The Cumbrian lamb loin chops with forestiere potatoes, garlic & truffle jus is a great dish which for perfection needed a touch more truffle or something sharp to cut through the dish, though the potatoes & whole garlic cloves were spot on.

Left – Sauteed pigeon breast; Right – Cumbrian lamb loin chops

Next up was the roasted wild boar steak with venison chorizo – luscious and reminded me of Eastern Europe dining out, the nibbles of chorizo added a tasty twist (will try to cook this myself).  Maybe slightly less reduction on the jus as boar is such a dense meat… or ‘jus’t a bit more of it 😉

Nor did the fish dishes disappoint, the seared fillet of bream a tender delight on softly buttered salsify & saffron sauce.

Left – Seared fillet of bream; Right Roasted wild boar

It reads like we ate a mountain of food but don’t forget each of the pictured dishes was shared between 3! Actually I’m just making excuses for the fact that we even had SPACE for more, but thank heavens we did as the kitchen absolutely shines at dessert, seriously it’s worth nipping in just for a pudding. My most favourite restaurant pud has long been the sticky toffee pudding at The Lime Tree, but I think it’s finally been toppled by the quite unbelievable deliciousness of Linen’s Toffee Apple Crème Brûlée with miniature apples dipped in popping candy with cinnamon shortbread. The crème brûlée was a dream, not eggy or synthetic or gloopy or solid like so many can be but soft and creamy consistency with a lightly crunchy top, the shortbread fab and the popping apple worth pushing a small child out of the way for. Not that there were any there, but if there had been, I would have 😉

Pretty damned good, all in all, with friendly and attentive service in a stylish atmosphere, maybe not what you’d expect in a casino but prepare to be pleasantly surprised. And make sure you leave space for afters!

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