When I first saw images of the Grand Pacific’s opulent interior, my thoughts turned to graduation dinners — that one day within our student lives that we’re finally able to justify eating somewhere other than Spoons, and our chance to pretend to our families that university has transformed us into refined adults.
The first impressions when arriving at the restaurant did not disappoint. I was instantly greeted and led up the impressive oak staircase to the bar, where I was served a Rose and Lychee cocktail in a room where you could not help but be in awe. The cocktail alone is worth making the trip to the Grand Pacific.
However, on a student budget this is probably all you need to do in order to experience this historic venue. After being taken to the table and served our food, the bubble of grandeur and history began to burst a little.
The grade II listed building used to be home to the Manchester Reform club, a gentlemen’s club for Liberal politicians from 1871 to 1988, and sitting in the grandeur of dining room you really do get a feel for this history.
Winston Churchill and Lloyd George have both addressed the crowds of Manchester from the balconies of this building. The wonderful preservation means that if you want to get a taste of history on your evening out, then not many other places can compete.
On their website they describe themselves as paying “homage to the golden age of high society, where deep rhythmic baselines writhe through the air and sweet botanicals tantalise the senses” and claim that they are “the new home of exotic cuisine and sophisticated sipping”. The characteristic colonial design throughout certainly takes you back to a time of splendour and extravagance. Sadly, the food did not have the same effect.
The food was good and every plate was emptied, but it did not live up to the extravagance of the setting in which it was served. The Pan-Asian meals arrived very quickly, which was the first indication that we perhaps were not about to have the dining experience I had expected.
Asian spiced duck cottage pie, with pork crackling and soused onions, seemed exciting on paper, a fresh twist on a much loved dish. While the flavours worked, it was not a remarkable enough variation on the cottage pie to deserve any hype.
The crème brûlée with jasmine tea bread and rose-petal jelly also got my hopes up. However I did not feel the jasmine tea bread, decorated with jelly and flowers added anything to the meal other than decoration.
My dining partner had the tempura szechuan sea bass with crispy noodles, pineapple and cucumber, followed by the chocolate fondant. They formed the same opinion of the food as I did: it was good and not too pricey, but we could have left after cocktails and have had just as good an experience.
Jeremy Roberts, CEO of Living Ventures (who own the building), describes the heritage of the building “as a place to relax, eat and drink and just enjoy some of the pleasures of life simply oozes from the walls” and there is no doubt that this is true.
Simply sitting within the building’s walls was an experience unlike anywhere else in Manchester, but if you are expecting the food to match the grandeur then you may be disappointed. My advice? Start the night at the Grand Pacific to soak up the atmosphere and sip a cocktail or two before moving on, perhaps for a more purse-friendly option.
Tags: Cocktails, colonial, cottage pie, giving Ventures, Grand Pacific, historic building, Jeremy Roberts, lychee and rose cocktail, Manchester history, pan-asian, Reform Club, Restaurant, Restaurant Review, review, sea bass
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