Wine magazine (UK) December 2002 issue:
Choice bar & restaurant, Castle Quay, Manchester M15 4NT.
0161 833 3400, www.choicemcr.co.uk
Restaurant 4/5 Wine list 4.5/5
Its short and sweet name gets the juices flowing: so is the selection worthy at Choice bar & restaurant? This smart and clear-cut establishment has been open for a year but is perhaps overlooked, tucked away under Castle Quay by the canal in Manchester’s redeveloped Castlefield area. The restaurant elegantly oozes exposed old brick, cream and dark wood; the bar is similar with wines on display in a glass cabinet.
Having frequented the place once before, I’d noted the excellent wine list. This time we were told it had been “stream-lined,” but nevertheless the choice is still wide reaching with all wines available by the glass, although it can work out rather pricey thus. There are five house wines, ten whites and ten reds – covering France and Australia primarily with offerings from Spain, Italy, New Zealand, Chile, South Africa, Argentina, California and Lebanon – plus reasonable options on sparkling, sweeties and Ports etc.
For starters I ordered green-lipped mussels (£3.95) served on fresh tasting sun-dried tomato bread with olives, roquette and decent olive oil dressing. The mussels were savoury and meaty but cold; I’d have preferred them warm. We decided to drink different wines by the glass with each dish. With the above I matched Bethany Riesling 2001 from Barossa (£16 bottle, £5.50 250ml, £4.50 175ml): its ripe lime, oil and mineral notes with zingy acidity worked quite well. My companion chose 2000 Pouilly Fumé Domaine des Berthiers (£20, £7.50, £6.50) to go with a salad of smoked trout and quails eggs drizzled with a splendid piccalilli sauce (£3.95), whose pungent but ripe gooseberry fruit and dry mineral length charmed the fleshy and not too salty or smoky fish; the only criticism was “a little overdone.” The starters were speedily delivered on huge plate-cum-bowls, beautifully presented as were all the courses.
For main I had lovely succulent slices of duck breast (although the skin could’ve been crispier) in a tangy blackberry sauce (£12.95). These were stacked on top of very buttery spinach and crunchy red onion. The Tyrrell’s 2001 Pinot Noir (£19, £7, £6) was OK, showing aromatic cherry fruit and a bit lean in its youth, but not as good as the Oregon Pinot on the previous visit. Across the table a glass of Château Musar 96 (£26, £8.50, £7.50) seduced with gorgeous rustic sweet berry fruit, full body yet soft tannins. This coped admirably with a generous pile of juicy pork chops on herby potatoes and creamy sauce (£11.95), although the latter was made dairy-free as a special dietary request.
The attention span of the (only two) staff had lessened by this stage, as it took a while to get the plates cleared and dessert menus in hand. We settled for one sweet as the low-on-dairy options had gone: Manchester tartlet (£3.95) coupled with Bonterra Muscat from California (£1.75 per 50ml) seemed appropriate. The pastry was a bit tough but the custard, jam, coconut and banana filling stayed with me.