The first time I heard the name Marco Pierre White was while reading Gordon Ramsay’s Autobiography Humble Pie. Once I’d finished reading the book, I was immediately on YouTube watching Gordon’s first TV show Boiling Point and who should appear, none other than Marco.
There was something about Marco that fascinated me, and I had to find out more about him; so back to YouTube I went where I discovered Marco the TV series. Marco was a fly on the wall TV show following a young, confident and charismatic 28-year-old Marco Pierre White around his South West London Restaurant ‘Harvey’s’ where he had just been awarded his second Michelin star. If you look closely you will spot a young fresh-faced Gordon Ramsay! Marco was at the top of the UK fine dining scene with many proclaiming him as the world’s first celebrity chef; he was and still is to this day a culinary giant. The show features the song Rebel Rebel by the late great David Bowie. It just fits the show and Marco beautifully, and whenever I hear it, I automatically think of him and that show; who ever had the idea to add that song to the show is a genius!
Unfortunately, I would never get to visit Harvey’s, although I did want to try one of his many different restaurants and if possible, meet the man himself. Luckily for me this year, I have been able to do both things. Sometimes meeting a celebrity that you look up to and admire can end up being a large disappointment; but in the case of Marco that could not be any further from the truth. Just like the 28-year-old Marco on the TV show, he is still full of confidence, still very charismatic, and just a nice person to be around. Hopefully our paths will cross again in the future.
So ok, I might not be able to travel back in time and eat at Harvey’s in its hay-day, but I can pop into Manchester and visit Mr White’s English Chophouse on Canal Street; and that’s exactly what I did, a couple of Sundays ago.
Mr White’s is located in the basement of Velvet, a very stylish 4-star boutique hotel and bar, which itself is very handy if like me you are running early. It’s the perfect place for a pre-dinner aperitif. As soon as you enter the doors of Mr White’s you come face to face with a very large black and white photo of Marco. He’s stepping out of what looks like the walk-in fridge brandishing a large cleaver in his hand; his mouth slightly open, as if he was in mid-sentence when the photo was taken. Looking at the photo you can just imagine him in the walk-in when suddenly he hears a calamity of pan’s dropping to the floor, to which he flies out and gives some poor soul a verbal battering. Could it have been Gordon that caused the noise and was on the receiving end of Marco’s wrath?
Passing the large photo of Marco, you walk down the stairs to a large stylish open plan dining room, with a mixture of different textures from brick walls, tiled and wooden flooring, exposed pipes and wooden beams; and the whole room is lighted perfectly by an array of different types of lights and chandeliers. Dotted around the restaurant, you will see black and white iconic photos of Marco which were taken by Bob Carlos Clarke for the White Heat book published in 1990. One of the photos is of Jason Everett, one of the chefs at Harvey’s with the back of his clothes slashed to shreds as if Freddy Krueger had been chasing him around the kitchen in some sort of Kitchen Nightmare. The story behind the photo goes; that one summer the tiny kitchen at Harvey’s became blisteringly hot. That day Jason was complaining that he was too hot, so Marco, unimpressed, took a carving knife to Jason’s jacket and trousers and slashed the back of them while he was still wearing them. Marco then said to Jason “That should provide a bit of ventilation”, when Jason asked Marco if he could change his clothes; he replied “Yes, at the end of service”. Poor Jason had to work all night like that and funnily enough they are still friends to this day.
One of my favourite photos is a close-up of Marco looking straight into the camera lens with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth; which takes centre place above a large bunket which seats around 8-10 people. I’m sure if Marco visited the restaurant that’s where he would sit with his friends for something to eat.
At the bottom of the stairs we were greeted by Sandra the restaurant manager who showed us to our table and started us off with a couple of cocktails (a mocktail for me I was driving). The menu is a great size, not too big or over-facing, and had a good selection of items to choose from; offering something for all taste and needs. For starters there are 9 dishes to take your pick from, which included seared sea scallops, baby back ribs, and pumpkin veloute to name a few. For main course they offer 5 different prime cuts of steaks all 35 day aged: Ribeye, Sirlion, Fillet, T-Bone as well as a roast Chateaubriand for two to share. For lighter handheld fare, 3 Chophouse burger options; The French, The American and The Alex James burger. The menu is completed by other classics such as Marco’s baked macaroni cheese, The governor’s fried haddock and triple cooked chips and Wheeler’s fish pie. There are of course, a variety of side orders and accompaniments.
Although I wanted to try everything on the menu, it didn’t take me long to choose what to have. I love scallops so if I ever see them on a menu 9 times out of 10 that’s what I’ll be ordering and on this occasion it was no exception. I went with the seared sea scallops with black pudding, crispy pancetta and a cauliflower purée, while Jamie my brother-in-law went with the baked camembert which came with roasted vine tomatoes and warm sourdough. For the main event we both choose steak, Jamie went with the fillet whilst I went with the sirloin.
Now of course I know that the fillet is the ‘Rolls Royce’ of cuts, and for certain dishes I would choose it over anything else, but when it comes to a simple grilled steak, I like to go with a cut that has a good fat marbling throughout. In my opinion, it gives you that extra flavour; sirloin or ribeye delivers that every time, making them super juicy and the only option for me. Accompanying the steak, we had the choice of 4 different sauces: snails and garlic butter, peppercorn and brandy sauce, béarnaise sauce with fresh tarragon or grilled wild mushrooms in garlic butter and the choice of triple cooked chips or French fries. We both decided to go with the chips over the fries; and peppercorn sauce, great minds think alike, so they say!
Out came the starters in all their glory, the scallops sweet, tender cooked to perfection and you can’t go wrong when they are served with black pudding and pancetta. Normally that combination calls for a pea & mint purée, but the cauliflower purée was next level and worked so well; so well that I’ll be stealing that idea thank you very much! Baked camembert, a classic old school starter that doesn’t involve much cooking, basically you just stick it in the oven till it’s ready. I’ve ordered this myself in the past in other restaurants and you can tell the difference between a good quality camembert and one of a lesser standard. You could tell that this particular camembert was of a high standard, it was everything you come to expect from a good French cheese; fragrant and gooey and when dipping the sourdough into it, it was like dipping into a lava of cheesy goodness. It was far to say that we both enjoyed our starters and we were ready for the main event.
Steak and chips! I ask you has there ever been a better pairing of 2 ingredients? In essence a simple dish, but given the respect that it deserves, you will end up with a delightful plate of food. That is exactly what was placed in front of us. Both steaks looked amazing, and when cut into, revealed that blushing pink colour that makes you smile. The steaks were cooked to the correct temperature, really juicy and tender; just what you want from a steak. So often when you order a steak in a restaurant, it comes either undercooked or overcooked, but it’s safe to say that the chefs at Mr Whites know a thing or two about how to cook the perfect steak. Although the steak was amazing it wasn’t the only star on the plate.
Let’s just take a minute to talk about the humble chip, these were not your ordinary chips but were much more like roast potatoes cut in chip shapes. A super crispy outer shell, which when you bite into gives you that crunch that you are looking for from a good chip followed by a light and fluffy centre. I can honestly tell you hand on heart that these chips were the best chips I’ve had the pleasure of eating. And when I thought the chips could not get any better, I dipped one into the pepper corn sauce and that just took them to stratospheric levels.
Two very clean plates were replaced by two dessert menus to which I found myself playing a game that I always do in restaurants called “Can I eat all the options on this menu?” After staring at the menu for what seemed forever, I resigned to the fact that I’ll only be able to manage to eat one dessert so I decided to go with the The Boxtree Mess. Jamie on the other hand went with the vanilla cheesecake. It’s a good job I only went for the one dessert, because the box tree mess was rather massive and although very tasty and sweet, was way too big in my opinion. Nevertheless it was a very good choice and one I was pleased with. Now I didn’t get to try Jamie’s cheesecake and if truth be told I’m not a big lover of them as I tend to find them a bit sickly. According to Jamie it was very smooth, light and tasty and the blueberry compote complimented it perfectly. The biscuit base was nice and oaty which added an extra detail to the dish.
All the food and drink gone, stomach full to the brim and slowly slipping into a food coma it was time to up and leave, but not before thanking the staff and passing on our compliments to the chef. Back up the stairs we went passing the larger Marco photo and out the doors into a dark, cold Manchester night.
I’d like to say a big thank you to Sandra the restaurant manager and Steven the general manager for taking such good care of us and a big thank you to the rest of the team.
If you live in Manchester and you are yet to visit Mr White’s Chophouse it’s definitely one to add to your list.
Now time for the rating….
Service = 5
Atmosphere = 5
Food presentation = 5
Food quality = 5
Waiting time = 5
Value = 5
Total 30 out of 30
0161 236 9003
2 Canal Street
Manchester, M1 3HE
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