Grafene - King Street, Manchester

Grafene – Modern British Dining On King Street, Manchester

There’s a new addition to Manchester’s fine-dining scene.

‘Grafene’ on King Street is named after revolutionary 2D material ‘graphene’, albeit spelt incorrectly.

Run by Paul and Kathryn Roden, owners of highly regarded Losehill House Hotel & Spa in the Peak District. And headed up by their executive chef over there, Darren Goodwin.

Although I’ve never been to Losehill House I know several people who love it. And Darren definitely produces some of the best-looking food on Twitter/Instagram.

I was recently invited to a press lunch at Grafene for a sneak peek of the place. It just so happened to be the hottest day of the year too.

I checked the address as I sweated my way up King Street, #55 they said. So this must be it right??

55 King Street

Well, no.

It’s actually round the corner. On an odd little square between King Street and Chapel Walks. That despite walking past 100s of times I didn’t even know existed.

Outside GrafeneOutside Grafene

Inside follows the recent trend of the industrial, unfinished ceiling, brick walls and plush booths.

I’m told the site used to be home to Brasserie Blanc. I imagine it’s changed quite a bit since Raymond left, about £1million worth of changes apparantly.

Inside GrafeneInside GrafeneBooth

I really like the colour scheme. Mostly classy charcoal grey with occasional bursts of colour.

Inside Grafene

We start in the large, open bar area.

Bar Gin Tea

Where along with a great range of spirits and cocktails there are a few decent local beers.

Cloudwater Beer

Enticing looking bar snacks are handed out.

All very enjoyable, the ‘Venison Sausage Roll’ is particularly good.

Snacks Snacks

As we move through to our table I pass the fancy private dining area.

Private Dining Table Private Dining Table


Executive chef Darren has developed the initial menu together with head chef Damien Cunliffe, formerly of acclaimed Didsbury restaurant Volta. They’ve concentrated on British produce but taken inspiration from further afield.

We got off to a good start with excellent bread and lovely salty butter.


Followed by a number of starters.

My favourite was ‘Lamb Breast, Saffron Yoghurt & Pomegranate’. My kind of dish on paper.

And it was good, the crispy lamb breast was beautiful. I’d have liked more of a saffron hit in the yoghurt though and more of the aubergine puree would have been nice too.

Lamb Breast, Saffron Yoghurt & Pomegranate

Lamb Breast, Saffron Yoghurt & Pomegranate
Lamb Breast, Saffron Yoghurt & Pomegranate

The ‘Smoked Ham Terrine’ was also quite subtle in flavour. But was accompanied by three elements that packed a real punch. Cider jelly, pickled cauliflower and piccalilli.

They all worked brilliantly with the rich meat. The only problem was there just wasn’t enough of any of them.

Smoked Ham Hock Terrine
Smoked Ham Hock Terrine

The final starter ‘Pea Mousse & Goats Curd’ was pleasant enough, if a little less interesting.

It was light and refreshing. A good summer dish but I just felt it could have done with a bit more sweet pea flavour coming through.

Pea Mousse & Goats Curd
Pea Mousse & Goats Curd

My main course, however, was absolutely fantastic.

The ‘Fillet of Brill, Cauliflower Risotto & Samphire’ is a highly accomplished dish.

As good a piece of fish as I’ve had this year. On a faux risotto of finely chopped cauliflower with a crab bisque and charred grapes.

I’m never sure about grapes on savoury dishes but they definitely worked here.

Fillet of Brill, Cauliflower Risotto & Samphire
Fillet of Brill, Cauliflower Risotto & Samphire

Roast Potatoes

My favourite dish was a pre-dessert.

‘Sorrel Posset, Creme Fraiche Sorbet & Sumac Meringue’, a sort of crossover from savoury to sweet.

There’s a lot going on here. Sorrel itself is a dominant flavour. It’s joined by sumac in the meringue, sweet crunchy granola and cooling creme fraiche sorbet. Yet they all somehow come together to create a harmonious and really interesting dish.

Sorrel Posset, Creme Fraiche Sorbet & Sumac Meringue

Sorrel Posset, Creme Fraiche Sorbet & Sumac Meringue
Sorrel Posset, Creme Fraiche Sorbet & Sumac Meringue

The final course was another good dessert.

At first glance, it looked like a deconstructed cheesecake. So my heart sank a bit (deconstructing things is not cool, ok!).

It’s not deconstructed too much, though. And it tasted fantastic. Smooth, rich and creamy lime cheese. With fresh strawberries, strawberry sorbet and a macadamia crumble.

Lime & Strawberry Cheesecake

Lime & Strawberry Cheesecake
Lime & Strawberry Cheesecake

Lunch was enjoyed with a couple of excellent wines.

Including a gorgeous white pinot noir, a first for me. Just perfect for the hottest day of the year.


Overall I really enjoyed Grafene. There were a few of the dishes I felt could be tweaked. But this was a preview event before they even opened, so to be expected. I notice on the final menu a couple of the dishes have indeed been changed slightly, while some of them have been dropped completely.

The dessert menu is created by Cristina Molteni of The Ritz in Paris, no wonder I liked them so much! While sous chefs Phil Smith and Sean Forshaw are from the three AA Rosettes Alderley Edge Hotel restaurant in Cheshire and Ramsbottom’s Hearth of the Ram respectively.

With that sort of pedigree working under Darren and Damien I can only see Grafene getting better and better. I’m looking forward to returning to find out.

There’s a 7 course tasting menu which seems great value at under £50. So I’m looking forward to returning to find out.

Date of visit: 19.07.2016

Disclaimer: This was an invite-only preview event.

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