The first few weeks back at work after the Christmas break have given me the January blues. To rally everyone back into the festive spirit however, Manchester has decided to offer 50% off the bill at a lot of it’s restaurants for the entire month. Obviously it’s a cunning ploy to keep us all eating, drinking, spending, and generally pretending that there’s thing in life to look forward to aside from the freezing rain and dark gloomy nights.Taking advantage of such a bargain, this evening finds me heading over to ‘Tattu’, just off Spinningfields to partake of their wares. I’ve heard good things about this place, although the menu is pricey-so now really is the perfect time to try it.
‘Tattu’ is a modern take on Chinese food, offering traditional Asian flavours, but with teeny-tiny portions, all set amidst a very chic and captivating décor. As the name suggests, the style of the restaurant has also been influenced by permanent body ink. Photos of heavily tattooed, bearded models and naked inked beauties adorn some of the walls, and our host who greets us at the door has an impressive collection himself.
Once inside the restaurant, the ground floor is an array of dark polished wood, and low hung chandelier lighting, with tall stools, and luscious leather-upholstered seats. The bar itself is set far back and lit up brightly, with a private dining area just off this. A cabinet of curiosities behind the maître d’ stand holds traditional Chinese artefacts and, for some reason, a fleur-de-lis .
The main restaurant is upstairs on a semi suspended floor, so that diners can glance down through glass siding, into the bar area below. Giant Anchors covered in roses, and wound in thick twined rope hang from the upstairs ceiling into this void; their emblem a classically nautical tattoo brought to life in vivid 3D.
We ascend the stairs into a Chinese garden of sorts, where ornate fret screening offers exquisite detail in blacks, and muted reds. The ceiling is made up of more sailing rope falling in giant loops, and the wooden floor is the same rich dark hue as downstairs. One minute I feel I could be in Shanghai’s Yu garden, and the next sailing the high seas in an immense pirate ship.
The pièce de résistance is the cherry blossom tree growing out of rounded booth seating. At 4 metres tall, it’s a real tree whose delicate pink petals have been dried out and painstakingly reattached by hand. The lofty centrepiece hangs over the stylish black booth seating, retro Edison light bulbs dangling from it like fireflies.
We are guided to our table and sit with a full breath-taking view of the tree on one side, and a view of the bar below on the other-the gleaming gun mental anchors ever present in my peripheral vision.
Our waiter is a lovely gentleman rocking his own set of tattoos, braces and a stylish man-bun. He is all smiles as he hands us our menus, explaining the dishes and making recommendations. Being a stickler for good waiting service (I am seriously composing a dossier called ‘places not to eat due to abysmal service’ and depressingly, it’s quite the growing list…), I appreciate his careful manner, and I’m already impressed with this place.
To begin, we eat delicately steamed prawn Dim Sum and fresh baby squids in a light peppery batter. They are every bit as delicious as the ones I recently ate in Barcelona, but their sea taste salt-sweet with peppery Asian seasoning.
This is followed by pork belly squares, which melt in my mouth, and I dip the soft meat into rich dark sauces, alternating between chilli, tart Szechuan vinegar, and sweet amber Mirin.
Our mains arrive and what they lack in size they certainly make up for in flavour. Stone bass sits in a dashi broth, and tiny French trimmed, pan-seared lamb chops are smothered in a red pepper marinade. Plain steamed rice and vegetables are a wholesome accompaniment.
Our diligent waiter is always at our elbows to keep the delicious light wine flowing, and offering us an encouraging smile. We find out he is Polish and I volunteer to sing him a Polish song I know. I finish my ditty and he looks at me like I may have in fact just disrespected his mother…I blush, and panic that maybe this alleged lullaby is actually some heinous insult. Undeterred, he asks for a repeat, and my second performance (thankfully) triggers a distant memory, and he confirms it is indeed a children’s song about a little hedgehog-phew!
There’s still room for dessert and so we order the ‘Cherry Blossom’. It is delivered to us, and I’m awed by what is clearly a platter of pure indulgence. Not only is it beautifully presented, it has many different tastes, textures and colours. Edible flowers, sour cherries, sweet bursting fruits ,chocolate soil, a dehydrated twig, and candy floss all create a taste explosion in my mouth which is worthy of Masterchef. We eat the plate clean and fight over the last cherry-me losing graciously. It’s the star of this evenings performance and a perfect end to the meal.
We order more wine as we sit satiated, soaking in the ambience of the evening. It’s been heaving since we arrived, and several tables have turned over with new diners since our arrival. Waiting staff glide effortlessly and silently between the tables, pouring drinks and offering attentive eyes as we pay up and take our leave of this oriental delight.
It’s been a wonderful evening, and I’m glad I got the opportunity to try the food here, something I couldn’t normally afford to splash out on. In fact, it has all but made me forget it’s back to the office tomorrow, and that alone is truly worth every penny spent.
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