Up on an eighth floor rooftop with a leaden Manchester skyline all around I’m talking ‘terroir’ with Chris Laidler. He gives me Montagny; I raise him Mercurey. We both agree solidly on Macon in the search for affordable Burgundy wine regions. He confirms Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (average retail price price £25,000) won’t be on the 250-strong wine list planned for Climat, described by my esteemed and wine savvy oppo Kelly as “the most exciting opening on our horizon.” And who am I to disagree?
Still a cluttered ‘work in progress’ at the top of Bridgewater House when I popped up a couple of weeks ago, Chris’s £500,000 wine-friendly dream project, with equally stellar food, is expected to open mid-November. Across Blackfriars Street from where the Treehouse Hotel will sprout next year with a Mary-Ellen McTague helmed restaurant, which will provide a major shot in the arm for the Cathedral end of Deansgate.
The old Renaissance Hotel that Treehouse will transform remains an eyesore, but the rest of the panorama is urban invigorating. Personal preference: I much prefer restaurant views from this height – Le Mont/Rabbit In The Moon, Manchester House – to 20 Stories.
Chris’s plan is to have 40 per cent of Climat’s list sourced from Burgundy – reds (Pinot Noir and Gamay), whites (Chardonnay, Aligoté) and some surprisingly sophisticated sparklers. Unlike at Chris’s Michelin-rated Covino in Chester, there will be an actual wine list on the website and maybe in print. Rather than scanning the range of enticing, price-tagged bottles ranked in country order on a ledge up near the ceiling.
To check out the whole project’s credentials we made the pilgrimage to that cosy but cool wine bar on Northgate, the city’s foodie main drag. Think Porta (now extended into what was Joseph Benjamin), The Cheese Shop, Francis Thomas greengrocer’s, Jaunty Goat Coffee.
Covino’s chef Luke Richardson (in the main picture) has moved up to be exec chef across both sites and while Chris enthuses about wine, his forte is food sourcing. Maybe a recent foraging foray into beech sap tapping has yielded a scant bounty, but there’s quality guaranteed from his regular commercial suppliers – Cornwall’s Flying Fish, Growing @Field 28 from up the road in Daresbury and one of my personal faves, Swaledale Butchers in Skipton.
I didn’t ask, but presumed our hogget had come from there. Everything we tried from the reassuringly compact menu was a delight, but this t-bone of teenage lamb was sublime, paired with crisped komatsuna, that mustardy Japanese green and barbecued cucumbers (£16.50). It bookended a meal that began with the fleshiest of Ortiz sardines, spinkled with dried wild oregano flowers and doused in olive oil (£10) and a (very) special of pink cod crudo (£14.50) served with creme fraiche and tiny flavour bomb elderberries. “Hard labour to gather. but worth it,” lamented Luke, standing in front of house. A debutant fellow server, up from London, told me had been recruited for Manchester and was very excited.
There was a pollock’s head dish on the specials board but we chose to order their other take on that undervalued fish. Two taut fillets on a bed of kuri squash were given some punch by a chimichurri sauce (£15.50). For 50p more a roast whole quail was more satisfying, if a little challenging to dismember to its bloodied core.
My cold rice pudding with sticky damson jam was challenging in that it was such substntial dollop. The works though was the Valrhona chocolate ganache with plums, the tiny morsel I was allowed to taste from across the table. Each cost £7.50 on a bill that mounted up but felt value. After two glasses of properly dry German Riesling we spent £43 on a bottle of Olga Raffault Chinon Les Barnabes, my kind of go-to late summer red, earthy and smoky. Vinous temptations were all around, a foretaste of things to come in Manchester.
So what to expect from Climat?
Well, a 100 cover restaurant is a big leap upwards (literally) from Covino, which started life as a 300 sq ft wine bar/shop in 2016. It soon expanded, moving site in 2018 to set up on Northgate Street adding small plates to its menu. They were matched by over 130 bottles from around the world ranging from the classics to the funky naturals. Holder of a wine degree, Chris may lean towards classic Burgundies but his 250-strong Manchester list should also reflect mutating wine trends.
As we surveyed the cityscape from the ‘bioclimatic pergola’ (it’s a feature of the terrace, whose plants will service resident bees in four hives on the actual roof) Chris told me: “It’s great to get our foot in the door in Manchester. It represents a big step up for us. The site has so much to offer and we’re going to add something special to a great city. The space will be unique to others with its panoramic views and we can’t wait to share our progress during the build leading up to opening in autumn. Ultimately we want our guests to have a great dining experience and come and share our passion for really good food and drink.”
The addition of Climat caps the final stage of Bruntwood Works’ multi-million-pound renovation of its Blackfriars site. The 1920s-built edifice has been transformed to accommodate workspaces of varying sizes, an auditorium, podcasting studio, ground floor lounge area and coffee shop.
Ye the Climat site really stands out, primarily being constructed of metal and glass, with limestone floor that yearns to suggest a North Burgundian ‘climat’. Like me, Chris is a Chablis lover and bemoans how global warming is diluting the flintiness of this most mineral of whites. Yes, you can tell I’m really gearing up for this particular Manchester arrival.
Climat, Blackfriars House St Marys, Parsonage, Manchester M3 2JA.