THE thinking behind Nico Central was to offer the people of Manchester greater choice by creating a restaurant different to others in the area, while keeping prices to a minimum. The result was a large and airy restaurant decorated in art deco style by Chris Ackerman.
It opened on 21 November last year in premises previously occupied by the bar and grill room at the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza in Mount Street. The 120-seat restaurant is owned by the Restaurant Partnership, chaired by Roy Ackerman, and takes the total of Nico Central venues to three, the other two being located in Great Portland Street, London, and in Brussels.
In charge of the kitchen is Clive Fretwell, who left his 13-year tenure as head chef at Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir au Quat'Saisons in Oxfordshire when approached by Nico Ladenis to run the new Manchester operation.
Fretwell devised the menu and has stamped his own style, which he describes as modern European, on the restaurant. "It's 100% my style and my food," he says. "I aimed for something that would appeal to everyone from business people to trendies."
He is supported by a brigade of eight, soon to be 12, all chosen by Fretwell himself and all of whom he has worked with previously.
The 14-strong front of house team is led by Kate O'Brian, previously at Juniper Hall in Altrincham. They expect about 80 covers per service with an average spend per head of £32 including wine.
The set menu is priced at £19 for two courses and £23 for three, and offers a choice of seven starters, nine main courses and six puddings.
Popular dishes among customers so far have included a starter of pressed leek terrine and marinated salmon fillet with bell pepper vinaigrette, and a main course of roast corn-fed chicken with devil sauce and chorizo oil.
Accompanying vegetables are available at an additional charge of £1.50 per portion, and customers can choose from French beans, spinach, jardiniäre of vegetables, chips and pommes purée. Puddings include a caramel soufflé and a brochette of fruits with coconut rice.
The à la carte menu begins with a choice of date and fruit ciabatta bread with tapenade, or garlic and extra virgin olive oil and rosemary focaccia, both priced at £1.40. There are four starters, ranging in price from £6 for pan-fried duck confit with rocket salad to £8 for a pithivier of foie gras with Madeira sauce.
There is a choice of two main courses, the more popular of which to date has been halibut steak with sweet potato cake and yellow pepper salsa, £13. Puddings, charged at £5, are the same as those featured on the set menu.
The main wine list offers choices from the New World as well as a selection from France, Italy, Spain and Germany.
There are nearly 70 wines to choose from, one a rosé and the rest split equally between red and white. Five of these are available by the glass, priced from £4 to £5.50, 10 come in half-bottles from £8 to £22, and the remainder are priced between £11.50 and £38 per bottle. n
Nico Central (Manchester), Mount Street, Manchester M60 2DS. Tel: 0161-236 6488.