, ,

What an Exhibition! Basque, Brazilian and Scandi fodder plus a beer offering to raise the dead

While we await the eventual unveiling of a Manchester Town Hall fit for 21st century purpose we can welcome Exhibition bar/food hall, a more modest repurposing of a nearby building on Museum Street that is part of the rich heritage of the city centre. Just look at the glorious Art Nouveau facade of St George’s House, the dragon slayer celebrated by a terracotta version of Donatello’s sculpture. 

Once home to the YMCA, it was previously the site of the Peterloo Massacre and the city’s first Natural History Museum, whose most bizarre incumbent was Hannah Beswick, the ‘Manchester Mummy’, This wealthy 18th century woman with a pathological fear of premature burial asked for her body after death to be embalmed and kept above ground to be periodically checked for signs of life.

The signs of life at Exhibition are far more encouraging with the announcement of a wholly appealing trinity of independent food kitchens across its 6,000sqft space alongside two bars and dedicated exhibition spaces for local artists, all set to open this November. Its creators already run the coffee shop/wine bar Haunt in the building.

With all due respect, the arriving Osma, Caroline Martins and Baratxuri are in a different league. More enticing than the line-up at Society, down the road next to the Bridgewater Hall, or at the newly opened New Century Hall. A beer offering headed up by Manchester Union Lager suggests the 400 capacity venue also has the nearby Albert’s Schloss in its sights.

So what to expect foodwise from Exhibition?

Admission: I’ve never made it to the Scandi-influenced, Michelin Guide rated Osma in Prestwich despite glowing reports all round. Baratxuri, though has been on my regular radar ever since this Basque fire cookery fave sprang from big brother Levanter in Ramsbottom in 2015. It has since pushed its boundaries with city residencies at Escape to Freight Island and more recently at Kampus. The infectious, innovative skills of Brazilian Caroline Martins have been a more recent addition to Manchester’s foodscape. As the Great British Menu chef’s Sao Paulo Project pop-up nears its close at Blossom Street Social, Exhibition looks to offer a further showcase for some of the city’s most exotic ingredients.

OSMA during the day will serve open sandwiches with fillings such as cured Scottish salmon, golden beetroots, spinach and mustard, or rump of beef with onion jam, rocket and parmesan, all alongside fresh salads and hearty soups. In the evening, there will be new small plates such as Avruga caviar pots with toasted brioche, a sashimi plate served with caper and shallot sauce, whole lobster (above) with herb butter or a dish of roasted and pickled beetroots with raspberry and rose.

BARATXURI will offer sharing plates such as Capricho Oro’ Txuleton, a 1kg bone-in rib steak, from the Asado oven alongside fire-roasted short rib with crushed garlic chickpeas and pomegranate molasses salsa plus raciones of boquerones and Jamon Iberico de Bellota and an extensive range of pintxos at lunchtime. 

THE SAO PAULO BISTRO promises a more relaxed spin on her Brazilian-British fusion with local suppliers at the heart of the new menu. Caroline will work closely with Platt Fields Market Garden, Dormouse Chocolates, Northern Cure, The Flat Baker and much more. Menu highlights include hand-dived scallops with creamy cassava sauce, Sao Paulo steak sandwich made with Lancashire ribeye and Garstang blue sauce, and a showstopper chocolate dessert using liquid nitrogen. My tip: don’t miss her Carlingford oyster with passion fruit sorbet.

The drinks offering also looks a winner. General manager Gethin Jones has masterminded spectacular cocktail offerings at the likes of Cottonopolis, Edinburgh Castle and Ducie Street Warehouse, while a a dedicated rotational line for Manchester breweries such as Sureshot, Cloudwater and Pomona sends out all the right signals. Topping that, the main bar will be the first in the city to offer Manchester Union straight from in-venue tanks. There’ll be wine on draught, too, with high quality Verdejo promised and by the bottle and glass an emphasis on low intervention wine.

After dark, Exhibition will transform into a late night bar with DJs, live singers and instrumentalists taking centre stage. Expect an eclectic mix of genres and a roster of local and international DJs, every Wednesday-Sunday. Seven dedicated areas will see a new local artist exhibiting their work every season.