It's a sad fact of the restaurant trade that places come and go. Some of them depart almost entirely unmourned, whilst others cause a genuine ripple of sadness when their closure is announced. When the kitchens of The Mark Addy pub in Salford failed to reopen after the Christmas break, people were sorrowful, recognising that a Manchester institution was no more - most people who have lived here for a decent length of time will have fond memories of sharing a cheese and pate board or a gargantuan plate of fish and chips on the banks of the Irwell. Even worse, the closure of the Addy kitchen looked set to deprive us of one of our most interesting chefs in Robert Owen Brown, who flew the flag for seasonal local produce and head-to-toe eating long before it was fashionable, and performed the minor miracle of getting me to eat tripe, testicles, lungs and brains (thankfully not all in the same memorable dish). The monthly Gourmet Night was one always one of the highlights of my dining calendar; some of my favourite dishes are dotted seductively about this page just to remind us all what we've been missing.
Fortunately for us all, the flame-haired one is back. Manchester Gourmet Club is a new occasional dining experience that will travel to different locations around our fair city, combining the talents of King Robert of the Kitchen and Queen Kate of the Wine Cellar - aka Kate Goodman of West Didsbury's Reserve Wines, currently to be seen every week on BBC2's Food & Drink programme. Better still - for me - the first one is to be held at Didsbury Parsonage, within staggering distance of my house and a beautiful location in its own right, even when not filled with lovely grub and booze.
The first menu is pure Robert Owen Brown, and looks excellent value at £45 a head for six courses and all wine matches. The details are as follows:
Perles de L’Angelier, Sparkling Muscadet. (Loire, France)
Jerusalem Artichoke Soup
Fernando de Castilla, Manzanilla (Jerez, Spain)
Wild Rabbit Sweetbread, Pigeon, Truffle Chutney
Selbach Oster, Zeltlinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese. 2008. (Mosel, Germany)
Cockles, Mussels & Morecambe Bay Shrimps with Chive Cream
Coto de Gomariz Blanco. 2011 (Ribeiro, Spain)
Earl Grey Smoked Duck with Parsnip, Beetroot & Mead
Porter Mill Station, Pinotage. 2013 (Swartland, South Africa)
Roast Rhubarb with Butterscotch Cream
Chateau Cerons. 1998 (Cerons, Bordeaux)
Burt’s Blue & Leagram’s Organic ‘Ramshackle’ Cheese
Butler & Nephew, 20 Year Old Tawny Port (Douro, Portugal)
And if you can wait until 7.30 on Saturday 22nd February to eat and drink all of that, you are frankly a stronger person than I will ever be. Further details, including how to book, are available both on the Manchester Gourmet Club's website and on Rob's own site. Welcome back Rob - we've missed you.