Bull & Bear is Tom Kerridge’s Northern outpost in the brand new Stock Exchange Hotel, which sits proudly in the financial district in Manchester City Centre. Co-owners Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs are responsible for funding the project, and the restoration has taken a lengthy seven years to complete before it opened its doors in November 2019.
I had been inside for 10 minutes and I had already said: “what the fuck” under my breath around 20 times, making that two very sharp inhalations of breath per minute – which is no way to embark on a relaxing dinner.
As I strode into the restaurant I stood there momentarily slack-jawed as I tried to get my head around what they have done in the dining room. An architecturally stunning space, but why have 12 giant television screens, is this a restaurant or a PC World? Confounding this bad decision is the material they choose to screen; which is a variety of world sport from NBA Basketball, to Premier League Football. Such an elegant space that isn’t noticed by half of the room as they are too busy gawping at the sport.
Perhaps the TV’s are there to detract you from the sculpture in the middle of the room, which is a haunting headless figure performing a victory salute. Truly one of the most bizarre pieces of art ever to be given pride of place in a restaurant.
Cocktails were ordered as swift libation was needed. This was a promising pre-cursor as my barrel-aged Boulevardier was decent. Other samplings included some rather good none alcoholic offerings as well as a peanut butter Old Fashioned. Perhaps we should have stayed at the bar?
Taking our seat in the restaurant and we had to endure the usual spiel of; ‘have you been here before’, and ‘let me explain the menu’ (cue my next sharp inhalation of breath) ‘It’s a sharing menu, dishes come in the middle and are served when they are ready.’ It is a very curious decision to have chosen this style of service, as the dishes on the menu are completely at odds with the small plate revolution that they are seemingly trying to embrace. Dishes on this ‘sharing menu’ included a pumpkin soup, a beef burger, a whole rotisserie quail and a steak pie. All dishes which are very well suited to a single diner rather than a group.
Kerridge’s food is the one element I could not fault. After eating at the Hand & Flowers in Marlow several years ago I have been a fan ever since. He’s such a nice guy and a wonderful ambassador for the industry. His voice is perhaps a touch too quiet amongst all of the noise in this concept.
Highlights included the rotisserie beetroot which was accompanied with a deliciously salty feta. Crispy pigs head with a celeriac remoulade – good, but better if you omitted the spiced date sauce which was overpoweringly sweet. The chicken kiev was wonderfully nostalgic, and just the kind of comfort you want on a cold January evening. The B&B chips were ace, and even better when you dunked them in the gherkin ketchup.
The service must also receive praise here, as our sommelier was a delight, and was able to swiftly resolve an issue with our wine. When pressed on the abundance of TV’s he said he doesn’t even notice them anymore – I wish I could say the same. Further excuses were made by saying; ‘it’s a hotel restaurant’ and as such is a guest expectation. I’m quite sure Jason Atherton has never considered transforming Berners Tavern at the London Edition Hotel into a sports lounge.
In summary; a vanity project for some ex pro-footballers, who have roped in one of England’s most eminent chefs to provide the menu but apparently not much else. B&B tries to score but hits the post for me.
Dinner for 3 with a cocktail each and a bottle of wine and service £280. thebullandbearmcr.com